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Fort Prinzenstein in Keta
Fort Prinzenstein in Keta

Under attack: Heritage sites, climate change

Usually when folks talk about climate change they hardly mention tourism.


Tourism, however, is very much a grounded function, an environmental phenomenon, if you may. Therefore, what happens in the global ecosystem affects the industry and its physical structures. 

A recent study which examined heritage sites around the world has warned that several of these tourism attractions are threatened by extreme weather events. Some countries are better placed to deal with the impact of climate change on their cultural heritage.

Egypt, for example, sits on a low-lying region, and is therefore at severe risk of flooding in the coming decades, yet is well-equipped to deal with some of the challenges.

There are places like the self-declared republic of Somaliland which has some ancient cave drawings but needs more help in protecting them. From findings it is urgent that nations intervene to save these attractions. Let us familiarise ourselves with some within Africa.

Suakin, Sudan: Strategically located on the Red Sea coast, Suakin was once an extremely important port on the Red Sea. Its story began 3,000 years ago, when Egyptian pharaohs turned the port into a gateway for trade and exploration.

Suakin later became a hub for Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca, and played a significant role in the Red Sea's slave trade. It also became part of the Ottoman Empire, though it lost its prominence as a port once Port Sudan was developed further north at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Today, much of Suakin is in decay but it still contains fine examples of houses and mosques. UNESCO is currently working on research to quantify the speed at which the loss is being caused by the rise in the sea level and coastal erosion.  

Lamu Old Town, Kenya: This town is renowned for its distinctive architecture. The Old Town in Lamu is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Unlike other towns and villages along the East African coast, many of which have been abandoned, Lamu has been continuously inhabited for more than 700 years.

It has also become a significant centre for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. Today, Lamu has been "severely impacted by shoreline retreat", meaning it has lost the natural protection once offered by sand and vegetation.

This is partly about the change in sea levels which is destroying the mangrove forests that protect the island from flooding.

Coastal sites, Comoros Island: The Comoros, a volcanic archipelago off the East African coast, has several well-preserved sites, including a medina and a palace dating back hundreds of years.

But it is one of the places most threatened by sea level rise in Africa. The medina of Mutsamudu is a 14th Century maritime town on the island of Anjouan

In a plausible scenario of moderate-to-high global carbon emissions, "significant parts of the African coastal zone will be inundated by 2100", according to the study.
"By 2050, Guinea, The Gambia, 

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