The term safari came from the Arabic word ‘safar’, meaning journey. And ever since the word was adapted to refer to excursions to the wilds of Africa, people have ventured to the continent to discover the fauna and flora, but also the history of these lands on cultural excursions.
Africa consists of 54 countries with more than 1.2 billion people calling the continent home. Considering that these individuals come from over 3,000 distinct tribes, a cultural excursion to these shores will be rich and varied.
Regarded as the birthplace of the human race, Africa has a plethora of options when it comes to a journey of the cultural kind. The continent offers so much more than famous sites like the pyramids in Egypt and a memorable journey to other corners where diverse histories reign, is a must.
Nearly a 130 UNESCO world heritage sites are in Africa, with 84 classified as sites of cultural importance. These range from ancient ruins and places of worship to archaeological digs.
It is worthwhile taking note of some important points when departing on a cultural excursion to Africa, so as not to offend one’s hosts.
• When greeting, always extend a handshake of friendship as this will make a good first impression.
• If motioning for a person to come closer, do it with the palm facing down and the fingers in a pulling move towards the palm.
• Don’t use the index finger when pointing at someone or something, rather indicate the direction with a motion of the chin or eyes.
• Use the right hand when touching food or for eating as the left hand is considered to be used for unhygienic tasks.
The UNESCO world heritage site of the Cradle of Humankind on the outskirts of Johannesburg contains some of the earliest fossils related to human existence. A bit further afield, is the Sterkfontein Caves where the fossil of “Mrs Ples” was found in 1947, a fossil more than two million years old.
The “Valley of the Kings” has been in existence from around 1539 BC. More than 63 tombs, with an estimated 20 still containing the remains of kings and monarchs, have been carved out in the valley. A visit to the Luxor Temple on the banks of the Nile River should also be included.
The Aksum city ruins near the country’s northern border date back to the 13th century AD. They include an ancient castle with obelisks reaching heights of up to 54 metres, as well as a handful of royal tombs.
A stone’s throw from Masvingo, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the erstwhile capital of the country, is worth exploring. Visitors can marvel at the extraordinary dry-stone walls of the Great Enclosure, the Valley Complex and the Hill Complex. The Khami Ruins near Bulawayo is a UNESCO world heritage site where tartan and chevron designs can be seen on the walls.