While one might think of Europe as the go-to place to see castles, there are also a great number of castles in Africa to explore. From the Castle of Good Hope in South Africa, to the Fasilides Castle in Ethiopia, these 15 castles are sure to intrigue the architecture and history buff in everyone.
1. Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa
This famous castle was erected by the Dutch East India Company in 1666 and is the oldest colonial structure in South Africa. During the Second Boer War, prisoners were kept within the confines in refitted jail cells. The cells were never removed, and the poor conditions can still be seen today. The Castle of Good Hope is currently home to the Castle Military Museum.
2. Saladin Citadel, Cairo, Egypt
Construction on the walls of the Saladin Citadel began as far back as 1176. It was built to fortify Cairo from invasions during the Crusades. Over the centuries various features were added, such as the minarets designed in the Ottoman style of the 19th century. The Citadel is currently a historic site and houses several museums.
3. Yohannes Castle, Gondar, Ethiopia
Located in Gondar, which once served as the capital of the Ethiopian Empire, Yohannes Castle was built in the 17th century for Emperor Yohannes I. It is said to be as great as the palace of King Solomon.
4. Fort Amsterdam, Kormantin, Ghana
Built by the English between 1638 and 1645, Fort Amsterdam silently overlooks the coast, beaches, and palm trees. It was once captured by the Dutch West India Company, renamed Fort Amsterdam, and subsequently made part of the famous Dutch Gold Coast chain of castles.
5. Fort Jesus, Mombasa, Kenya
Designed by a Milanese architect and built in the 1590s by the Portuguese, this impressive fort was declared a World Heritage Site in 2011. When viewed from the air, it looks like the figure of a man lying on his back with arms outstretched. Originally commissioned by King Philip I of Portugal, the fort has been won and lost by different countries a total of nine times, most notably the British, Portuguese, and Spanish.
6. Elmina Castle, Elmina, Ghana
Built 10 years prior to Columbus’s journey to the New World in 1492, Elmina was the first of the Dutch Gold Coast castles. This magnificent structure, along with others in the region, was infamously used to hold millions of African slaves destined for the Americas. Elmina Castle is the oldest European structure in sub-Saharan Africa.
7. Fasilides Castle, Fasil Ghebbi, Ethiopia
This castle is the crown jewel of the original fortress city of Fasil Ghebbi. Several different styles of architecture can be seen in its design including Portuguese, Nubian, and Arabian — reflecting the diverse cultures that were represented in the ancient Kingdom of Ethiopia.
8. Fortress of São Miguel, Luanda, Angola
Built in 1576 by Paulo Dias de Novais, the Fortress of São Miguel rests on a large hilltop in Luanda, Angola. Like several other forts in the region, it was a holding point for slaves on their way to the New World (specifically Brazil), and became an administrative center of the Portuguese colony. If you venture inside the fort, you can see the intricate tile work and grand statues of Diogo Cão and Vasco da Gama.
9. Citadel of Qaitbay, Alexandria, Egypt
Located in the Mediterranean town of Alexandria, the Citadel of Qaitbay was built in the 15th century and covers the ruins of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. To this day, the Citadel is still considered a major defensive point in Egypt. Over the centuries, Qaitbay has served as the theater for several wars and revolts.
10. Taleh Castle, Taleh, Somalia
This historic fort, also known as Taleex, is one of the newer places on our list. Part of a larger complex, the site was constructed in the beginning of the 20th century by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan. The area was also part of the former Dervish State that was attacked by the British and partially destroyed.
11. Great Zimbabwe
Once housing the capital of the Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe (11th to 13th centuries), the ruins of Great Zimbabwe constitute the largest stone structure in sub-Saharan Africa. Amazingly, these giant walls were all built without mortar. Similar sites are scattered across this region of Africa, but Great Zimbabwe is the largest and remains the most impressive to this day, truly deserving of its nomenclature.
12. Fort Santa Cruz, Oran, Algeria
Fort Santa Cruz is one of three forts in Oran, Algeria’s second largest port city. The Ottomans were the first to build at this site, but the present fort is of Spanish construction, built between 1577 and 1604. It enjoys a commanding position overlooking the town.
13. Fort of São Sebastião, Ilha de Mozambique
Said to be the oldest complete fort still standing in sub-Saharan Africa, this structure is still a looming presence on the northern end of the island of Mozambique. Begun by the Portuguese in 1558, the massive stone structure still stands as a reminder of the long years of colonization in Mozambique.
14. Duwisib Castle, Namibia
This castle was built in 1908 by “Baron” Captain Hans Heinrich von Wolf, who wished to settle with his wife in what was then called South West Africa. Materials were imported all the way from Germany, and the castle was meant to resemble the existing German forts in Namibia. However, WWI intervened and the “Baron” was killed at the Battle of the Somme. After his death his wife never desired to return to Namibia, and the castle was left to the desert.
15. Kilwa Fort, Tanzania
Located on an island off the coast of Tanzania, Kilwa Kisiwani was the medieval centre of the Kilwa sultanate. In 1505, the Portuguese conquered the island but gave up their stake in 1512. It was the French who built the fort in the 1840s. Note: A permit is required to visit these ruins.
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