Situated in the Kunene Region of north western Namibia is one of the largest and most important concentrations of rock art in Africa, Twyfelfontein. Twyfelfontein, which was proclaimed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2007, is not a town or a village but rather a rocky site that contains approximately 2000 rock carvings that draw tens of thousands of local and international visitors every year, making Twyfelfontein one of the top tourist attractions in Namibia. The nearest small town to Twyfelfontein is Khorixas, which lies about 80 km to the east.
The name Twyfelfontein which directly translated means Doubtful Fountain was given to the area in the mid 1900's by a farmer who had settled on the land. The farmer was unsure whether or not the spring (/Ui//aes) which was situated there would be sufficient to support his family and farming needs. The land was then allocated as communal land for the exclusive use of Damara farmers in 1971 under the segregation laws of apartheid and the region which now roughly encompasses the area called Kunene Province was renamed Damaraland.
Although the rock art and engravings were known to the local habitants long before the rest of the world heard about them, it was only in 1920 that their existence was made public by Reinhard Maack. The locals however had always avoided the area because they believed the place was a sacred area which was inhabited by spirits of the deceased.
A completely eco-friendly visitor's centre has been erected at Twyfelfontein. The structure was built and designed to blend into the red sandstone of the local environment, contains no cement and uses predominantly recycled and local materials. If it ever needed to be moved or removed for any reason, the structure could be completely dismantled without leaving any impression on the landscape. There are also a series of stone pathways that have been laid, leading to the viewing platforms that allow visitors an excellent view of the major engravings. The Centre has various displays, from the history of the site, to the local fauna and flora as well as the meanings of the various engravings.
Twyfelfontein lies in a valley which is surrounded by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain, which is covered by a hard patina. The early San hunters who roamed the land during the stone ages, chiselled through this protective covering to produce their art work and in time it reformed over the engravings protecting them from weathering. Both the hunters and animals of the region were attracted to this area because of the small perennial spring, which was the only one of its kind in the area.
Some of the most famous and most impressive rock engravings include those known as, the lion with the kink in its tail, the giant giraffe, the fable animal, the works at the place of ceremonies and the symbolic engravings in the vicinity of the terraces. There are also 13 sites that contain rock paintings amongst the numerous rock engravings at Twyfelfontein.