UNESCO World Heritage sites refers to places or features (such as a forests, lakes, Islands, Mountains, desert,monument, building, complex or city) that are listed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization as of special cultural or physical significance.This list recognizes places that are of outstanding universal value to humanity. The list include properties that form part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee has chosen. Each year the committee meets, names or delist sites that are no longer meet the criteria. These sites are carefully chosen and have to meet a certain criteria to be inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The committee has also the mandate to conserve the sites that it considers endangered. The sites also gain an advantage by being able to obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund.As of June 17-27, 2013, 981 sites are listed ;759 cultural, 193 natural and 29 mixed properties.Although each site remains part of the legal territory of the state where the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of International community to preserve each site.
Kenya is among 37 African countries that has World Heritage Sites. As of 2013 ,Kenya had 6 UNESCO World heritage sites. This includes Mount Kenya National Park and Natural forest, Fort Jesus, Old Town Lamu, Kenya Lake system in the Great RiftValley, the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forest and last but not least The Turkana National Park.It must be said it is a great honour for Kenya to play host to these six sites famous internationally for their ecological and cultural treasures.
THE MOUNT KENYA NATIONAL PARK AND NATURAL FOREST
Mount Kenya is a series of raged peaks crowned with snow. It is world renowned as the second highest peak in Africa rising 5199m above sea level. It is also famous for being the only spit in the World where snow is found on the Equator.It is considered by the local Agikuyu people to be where their God ‘Ngai’ lived.This site was first inscribed into the list in 1997.The mountain slope are cloaked in forest, bamboo, scrub and moorland that form the surrounding National Park. The Park is home to thousand of Flora and fauna. The Park is also a Biosphere Reserve and is surrounded by Mount Kenya National Reserve that has an area of approximately 2,095 square kilometers. The Park is a major tourist attraction.In June, 2013 the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ngare Ndare Forest were included in UNESCO World Heritage sites as extensions of Mount Kenya.
FORT JESUS, MOMBASA.
It is perhaps the most famous monument found in the Kenyan coast. It is found in the small island of Mombasa. It was built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th century to protect the port of Mombasa. This property covers an area of 2.3hectare and was inscribed into the list in 2011 on the criterion that it is a site that highlights the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among the people of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin and on the interchange of values and interaction with the environment. For those who want to get a full history of this place, Fort Jesus is opened from 8am to 4 pm from Monday to Friday.
OLD TOWN LAMU.
Located on the Lamu island, this town has a long, unique and colorful history and it is considered the oldest and best preserved example of Swahili culture and settlement. This town has been continously inhabited for over 7000 years hence its long history. Old Town Lamu is world renowned for the annual Maulidi cultural festival which showcases the towns conservative and close knit society and it’s status as a significant centre for education in Islamic and Swahili culture. It was inscribed into the list in 2001 as being a unique testimony to a cultural tradition and is considered the cradle of Swahili civilization. Population of Lamu is ethnically diverse and is largely Muslim as historically it was on the main Arabian trading routes.
THE SACRED MIJIKENDA KAYA FOREST.
The Mijikenda are the nine ethnic group found along the coast of Kenya and each of the Mijikenda group had a sacred forest called the Kaya; a place of prayer conducted by selected elders of the specific group. It was inscribed into the list in 2008 based on it being a testimony of the Mijikendas religious beliefs and practices and a focal point for it’s cultural tradition and for it’s direct link to a living tradition. The Kaya forest consist of 11 separate Forest site spread over some 200km along the coast containing the remains of numerous fortified villages. The forest around the Kaya have been nurtured by the Mijikenda community to protect the sacred graves and exist due to the cultural beliefs of the Mijikenda. The Kaya forests are considered to be botanically diverse with a high conservation value.
THE KENYA LAKE SYSTEM IN THE GREAT RIFTVALLEY.
This is a natural property of outstanding beauty, that consist of 3 inter-linked relatively shallow lakes; Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita. This system covers a total area of 32,034 hectares. This was inscribed into the list in 2011 for their great contribution to the community that live around them and the presence of great biodiversity of the lakes.These lakes are home to 13 globally threatened bird species and have the highest bird diversity in the world.The lakes are all found on the floor of the Great RiftValley where major Teutonic events have shaped the landscape.
LAKE TURKANA NATIONAL PARK.
This Park consists of Sibiloi National Park,the South Island and the Central Island National Park.This National Park covers a total area of 161,485 hectares. Lake Turkana is the most saline Lake in East Africa and also the largest desert Lake in the world. It was among the first features in Kenya to be inscribed among UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1997 and was extended in 2001.It has a long history of mankind civilization and it is the breeding habitat of the Nile crocodile.
All in all this is just a brief introduction to the UNESCO World Heritage sites in kenya,stay tuned for more on them including their history, the tourist hotspots in them,what to do while there and where to stay while visiting these heritage sites that is the tourist aspect of them.
Signed Sharon K