As soon as one hears the word castle, the first images that come to mind are those of grand European fortresses and epic battles between knights and dragons. And yet, Europe isn't the only place with kings and queens. These 15 structures are scattered all across Africa, and help paint a picture of the continent's diverse and intricate history.
Gondar, a town set more than 2,200 metres above sea level, was once the capital of Ethiopia between 1632 and 1655, its most notable resident being King Fassil. A haven of culture and learning, the city has guarded a number of remains from its regal past, among them Fasilida's Pool, Debre Birhan Selassie Church, castle ruins, and the remnants of the city's old walls. The monuments' architecture was inspired by Portugese designs, among other European influences. At the time of this glitzy era, the town had less than 44 churches. All of this magnificent ensemble was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
A ksar is a traditional Saharan dwelling place that has a number of houses enclosed in its fortified walls with four corner towers once used to spot enemies. The structure of Ait Benhaddou is one of the country's most famous as it is situated at the heart of a magnificent oasis. Located in the province of Ouarzazate, it's a distinct example of southern Moroccan architecture.
Cape Coast Castle, Ghana
The history the Cape Coast "Castle" is directly linked to the horrifying legacy of the slave trade. It was one of 40 forts in Ghana where slaves were held before being sent to America. Situated on the coast nearly 200 kilometres from the Ghanian capital, Accra, it's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. President Obama himself after visiting the site said that "it reminds us of the capacity of human beings to commit great evil", and tours of the site are conducted detailing the atrocities committed there.
Castle of Good Hope, South Africa
The Capetown Castle, also known as the Castle of Good Hope, is one of the most symbolic buildings in South Africa. Inaugurated in 1679, the castle is the oldest building in South Africa and was the centre of civil life, politics, and military operations from 1666 until its declaration as a national monument in the '30s. The star-shaped architecture dominates the Castle of Good Hope, and it contains military items and artwork from the 1600s to the 1800s.
Tata Somba, Benin and Togo
Collectively named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tata Somba are unique two-story houses found in Northwestern Benin and along the border with Togo. The complex construction initially evolved out of the need for protection enemies and wild animals, but these mini castle-houses are also rich in symbolism, emblematic of the unique life and culture of the Somba people.