Egypt and Sudan are two of the eight countries commonly considered to make up North Africa. Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria are also often included. The history of the world is made up of the conquests, conquest attempts, conquests, conquests, conquests, conquests, and conquests of various peoples, cultures, and civilizations over a long period of time. In this special part of the world, we explore the 12 most incredible and fascinating historical destinations.
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Best Places to Visit in North Africa
Learn more about the best places to visit in North Africa by reading on. Find out where you should go on your next trip so you don’t miss out on any opportunities.
1. The Old Towns of Djenné, Mali
Central Mali’s Djenné Old Towns was an important stop for caravans transporting goods like slaves, salt, and gold to the Moroccan medinas across the Sahara. The adobe structures are built with mud bricks that have been dried in the sun and are then constructed around massive log scaffolding and protruding palm fronds.
According to UNESCO, the Djenné-Djeno neighborhood, which dates back to roughly 200 BC, makes up one of the most beautiful cities in Africa thanks to its Old Towns. The Great Mosque of Cairo, Egypt. The Great Mosque of Cairo, Egypt, is the architectural marvel and historical claim to fame of the Islamic world.
2. Morocco, Ait Benhaddou
Ait Benhaddou, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, was once a ksar, or magnificent fortified city along the old caravan route from Sudan to Marrakech. Built from baked earth, its high defensive walls, watch towers, and clusters of castellated houses were built from the 17th century onwards.
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The city that towers above the surrounding landscape once housed mosques, religious sanctuaries, marketplaces, and Jewish and Islamic cemeteries, all of which are now abandoned. Ait Benhaddou has been used as a filming location for numerous movies and TV shows, including Game of Thrones, Gladiator, and The Living Daylights, so the setting may look familiar.
3. Libya, Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna to the east of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast is one of the best preserved of all Roman cities. It was founded by the Berbers, later occupied by the Carthaginians, and finally conquered by the Romans after the Punic Wars.
At the end of the second century AD, when native Septimus Severus became emperor, the city’s wealth grew. He lavished wealth and buildings on Leptis Magna, including the forum, basilica, theatre, and amphitheater that stand today and the arch of Septimus Severus. Lions were shipped to Rome to perform in the Colosseum.
4. Desert of Siwa, Egypt
The oasis of Siwa, with its date palms and olive groves, can be found deep within the Egyptian desert. Siwa is so cut off from the rest of the world that it has developed its own culture over the millennia, complete with a Berber-derived language and widespread same-sex marriage, all while rejecting Islam for hundreds of years.
Beginning in the 10th millennium B.C., Siwa saw Egyptian colonization and the construction of an oracle of Amun temple, both of which were visited by Alexander the Great. The ancient fortress of Siwa, the Shalil, has a lot of ruins. During WWII, it served as a headquarters for the British Special Forces.
5. Moroccan Essaouira
Since the Carthaginian era, French, Portuguese, and Moroccan forces have fought over and defended Essaouira, a port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The Castelo Real de Mogador was a Portuguese fortress in Essaouira that was only there for a short time before the Moroccans drove the Portuguese out in the 16th century.
In the 1760s, Sultan Mohammed III of Morocco commissioned European engineers, among them a cryptic Englishman named Ahmed el Inglezi, to construct the modern walled city. British, Dutch, and Spanish diplomats who came to negotiate trading concessions in the 19th century used the souks and ornate buildings that rose above the city’s ramparts and citadels.
6. Egypt, Karnak
The Karnak temple complex in Luxor is undoubtedly the most impressive ancient Egyptian landmark. More than 30 pharaohs from 18 dynasties contributed to the development of Karnak over the course of more than a millennium, from the early Middle Kingdom to the Ptolemaic era and the Roman conquest of Egypt.
The remains of temples and pylons, huge columns and frescoes inscribed with hieroglyphs, and obelisks and statues of gods and Pharaohs still remain, including the famous precinct dedicated to Amun-Re.
7. The Cave of the Swimmers, Libya
Hundreds of miles into the Libyan Desert, on the Gilf Kebir plateau, is where you’ll find the Cave of the Swimmers. This region wasn’t mapped out until 1926. You might have heard of it through The English Patient.
A group of petroglyphs, or cave paintings, depicting people and animals swimming, date back to the Neolithic period and were discovered in 1933. The petroglyphs in the Cave of the Swimmers may be the most impressive of the thousands found in the Sahara in recent decades. They suggest the deeply inhospitable desert was once temperate and watered, a place where animals could be kept and plants cultivated.
8. El Djem, Tunisia
The small town of El Djem in Tunisia was once the Roman city of Thysdrus, most of which now lies buried by the desert sands. What still stands is the great amphitheater, once the site of gladiatorial contests and chariot races.
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It was the largest of its type in the Roman Empire, smaller only than the amphitheater at Capua and the Colosseum at Rome. Historians believe that around 35,000 spectators could be seated inside.
9. The Mosques of Cairo, Egypt
Most visitors head to Cairo for the museums dedicated to the era of the Pharaohs and miss out on the superb Islamic architecture surrounding them. Cairo is sometimes known as the ‘City of a Thousand Minarets’, so packed is it with mosques, kasbahs, and madrassas. Two sites in particular are worth checking out.
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is the oldest and largest in the city, built by the Governor of Egypt, Ibn Tulun in the 870s. The minaret has an extraordinary outer staircase modeled on that of the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq. The other site, the Al-Azhar Mosque, was founded in 970 and has functioned as a seat of learning ever since, with the great library of Cairo within.
10. Oran, Algeria
On the Mediterranean coast of Algeria, Oran has been a place fought over by French, Spanish, Moors, and Turks for hundreds of years. Founded by the Moors of Andalusia in the 10th century, the port passed back and forth between Spanish and Ottoman hands before it was taken by the French in the invasion of Algeria in 1831.
More recently, in the Algerian War or Independence of the 1950s, it was the site of massacres of French settlers. The legacy of the various invaders and colonists is a townscape where bombastic French baroque buildings of the Second Empire stand side-by-side with the old Medina quarter, whilst the Spanish port of Santa Cruz overlooks the whole city from the slopes above.
Organizing a trip to North Africa is a thrilling and enriching adventure. It can be difficult to settle on a single excursion when there is so much to do in one location. If you’re looking for a rush, I recommend either the Moroccan ski resorts or the Egyptian reefs.
Sahara Desert tours are recommended for those who love stunning landscapes, while Egypt’s ancient monuments are a must-see for history buffs. Try to make it to at least one of these well-known stops in North Africa on your travels.