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After spending a few days camping in a nearby park and exploring the animal reserve the Maasai Mara Tribesman took us on a hike where we gathered fruit and herbs that they later used to cook us a home cooked meal. Half way through the hike we discovered a cliff that reminded us of the "pride rock" in Lion King where we watched the sunset shine across the Kenya landscape.
Just because the Sultan Hasan Mosque is 600 years old doesn't mean they can't use modern technology to keep it clean.
While riding out to the pyramids this character posed perfect for a shot with a pyramid under his chin. His branding was extensive as he has had many owners.
Rise at dawn and watch the colors light up the world's largest dunes like fire. The depth of oranges, greens and golds is astounding. Sossuslvei is located in the southern part of the Namib Desert. The dune pictured here is the largest known as Big Daddy. (I'm not making that up, its really called Big Daddy). I climbed to the top, past the footprints of critters that had run about in the night, scattering before the tourists arrive. When I reached the tip, I slid all the way down, one foot in the front of the other, like skiing. Giggling all the way, over 300m meters to the bottom where the Dead Vlei awaited. The Dead Vlei (so gothic!) is a dry lake bed with a petrified forest of beautiful trees creating surrealist shapes. As the heat rose I knew it was well worth it to be there early! And breakfast was calling me...
It's possible to spend a week in the Mt. Kilimanjaro region without ever seeing the mountain's iconic peak. You'd think the highest point in Africa would be tough to miss, but regular cloud cover means that your best chances of getting a glimpse are in the early morning and evenings. Seeing Kilimanjaro's Uhuru Peak was a goal. I gave myself three days, stationed at the promisingly-named Mt. Kilimanjaro View Lodge (located on the side of the mountain), and vowed to set my alarm for 5 AM each morning. But it was on my very first evening, during a walk around the lodge's base, that the clouds unexpectedly opened up to reveal a glimpse of the daunting Uhuru Peak. It turned out to be the mountain's only appearance: after a few hours of staring in awe, the clouds rolled back in, and the peak stayed patiently hidden for the rest of my stay.
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." -Nelson Mandela, June 1999 Opened in 2001, The Apartheid Museum is a powerful and extensive museum documenting the rise and fall of apartheid. Constructed on a 16 acre plot of land, the museum's architecture and design are unique. As you enter through the gates, you'll notice a separate entrance for whites and blacks. It's quite an interesting way to start your voyage through the history of apartheid. The back gardens are designed by Patrick Watson and it is complete with a sculpture by William Kentridge. For anyone wanting to understand the what apartheid in South Africa was about, a visit here is a necessity.
In the midst of the chaotic roads, the busy locals and the humming of the calls to prayer, lies a little piece of heaven. Of blue heaven, that is - majorelle is a French word meaning bright cobalt blue. This really isn't the type of place you would normally expect to find in Marrakesh, the most overwhelming city I have ever visited. The Jardin de Majorelle was designed by French artist Jean Majorelle, back in the 1920s, where Morocco was a protectorate of France. What is perhaps the most notable feature of the garden, outside its luxuriant plant selection and its typically photogenic Moroccan architecture, is the owner, Yves Saint-Laurent. Upon his death in 2009, his ashes were scattered in the garden, and a memorial was created to honor his memory. Marrakesh left me with mixed feelings - but if there's one thing that could make me flip to the 'Marrakesh is awesome!' team, it would definitely be these gardens. Definitely not to be skipped. Quick tip: if you have time to tea, the garden's tea house is particularly lovely and offers many fancy options that are well worth their steep price by Moroccan standards. Enjoy!
Although English is widely spoken throughout South Africa, so is Afrikaans and it has certainly made its way into everyday language. Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch, but the influence of other languages and accents transformed it into a distinct tongue over the centuries. As so often happens, words for food are usually the most important in language and this is certainly the case in Afrikaans. One of my favorite dessert items in the Dutch dialect is something known as koeksister. Koeksisters are a syrup-coated doughnut in a twisted or braided shape. Like most doughy delights around the world, the pastry is deep-fried and then a sugary syrup is added to make a delicious if not sticky sweet. When you visit you will see these everywhere, so instead of being confused by the term now you know to add these to your culinary must-do list.
Under the Moroccan sun, there is a majestic botanical garden like no other in the world. The Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech is a cool respite from the intense pace, noise and heat of the souks, medina and Djemaa el-Fna. In the 1920s, French artist Jacques Majorelle designed the meticulously arranged garden and built a villa and studio. The building is captivating--an art deco design with intricate Moorish details and painted cobalt blue, a color that dots the geometric patterns of Moroccan tiles. The electric blue became a trademark color, Majorelle Blue. Jardin Majorelle was opened to the public in 1947, and later bought and restored by the late Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. For a serene morning stroll, I recommend taking a caleche--a horse and buggy--and getting there when the doors open at 8:00 a.m. (It costs 50 dirhams or so.) Spend an hour leisurely walking amongst the cacti, palm trees and exotic plants. The garden oasis hosts many singing birds as well. Loll in the shade by the reflecting pools, fountains and pergolas. Afterwards, refresh at the cafe with mint tea. Map: http://www.jardinmajorelle.com/jardin/#
The Maboneng Precinct is undergoing a transformation with old warehouses and apartment complexes being converted into artist studios. We stumbled across this fun and thought provoking street art on our way to Arts on Main, a hub for Jo'burg's creative community to develop and share ideas. People scribbled their mere mortal wishes on the wall and local skateboarders were using the halfpipe (not pictured) and ramp to show off their skillz. Jo'burg is full of street art and this was one cool example.
The heart of modern Cairo, Tahrir Square, is typical of the more modern, commercial centre of Cairo; it houses numerous important old and modern structures in addition to it being a public transport hub, all of which have turned the square into one of the most important and busiestareas in the city. However, Tahrir Square witnessed a series of past events and changes of regimes throughout the history of the country.
A three-day safari in Kruger National Park is a must for anyone visiting South Africa. Entering the gates is like Jurassic Park and you feel transported back in time to the creation of Earth where the wild animals, especially the elephants, are dinosaurs filled with ancient knowledge of the land's beginning. Although you may not see anything like the infamous "Battle at Kruger" YouTube video, you will certainly witness some interesting animal behavior like hippos bathing, monkeys mating, giraffes snacking or even two elephants flirting in the brush.
The sands of the Sahara change color the same time the sun decides the mood of the desert. At sunset, it's golden, at sunrise a waking brown. My camel caravan walked parallel with another one, giving perspective to the scenery that felt like an endless canvas.
I had the pleasure of ending my time in Tanzania with a trip to Chumbe Island, just off the coast of Zanzibar. This tower, called the Lighthouse, is the biggest structure. But there are several wonderful open-air bungalows that you can book for a relaxing stay. The snorkeling is amazing among the island's pristine reefs.
Though the age requirements vary between the Grumeti properties (Sasakwa and Faru Faru take all ages, for example, while some of the tented camp are ages 10-and-up), there is plenty at all the properties to entertain the younger set. Tailored activities include archery, arts and crafts, and star gazing sessions, and baking classes with the chef, while the Mini Rangers Course teaches skills like bush survival techniques, butterfly capture and release, identifying animal tracks, and more. Photo by guenter from munich, https://flic.kr/p/b2Jkna
All the labyrinthine streets of the medina lead to Djemaa el Fna. Before sunset, sit on a terrace, sip hot mint tea, and take in the panoramic view of the teeming central square. As the sun lowers in the sky, the ancient mud walls turn pink to orange and smoke wafts as hundreds of cooks start barbecuing. The food stalls are organized in rows; the local fare is sumptuous; and the prices are fixed, which is a nice break after haggling in the souks or square for everything from henna to a photo with a monkey or snake charmer. Seating is picnic table-style so don't be shy, grab a seat and talk with your neighbor. It's a great chance to meet fellow travelers and locals alike. After a feast of tagine, cous cous and olives, wash it down with fresh orange juice. Wander the square and be entranced by fire jugglers, musicians, dancers, fortune-tellers and storytellers. As you walk back to your riad through the medina, listen for the evening call to prayer rising from the Koutoubia Mosque. Marrakech is one of the most magical cities in the world.
An amazingly curated museum, the Wits Art Museum, fondly referred to as WAM, hosts a stunning collection of contemporary and traditional African art. It's located in a bright and airy space and feels relatively undiscovered. My favorite piece was Sam Nhlengethwa's "It left him cold", a tribute to the death of Steve Biko. Definitely put this on your list.
Fresh spearmint leaves, dried tea leaves, sugar and boiling water are prepared in a silver pot and ceremoniously poured into delicate, ornate glasses. The pouring is done the traditional way, from a height of twelve or so inches. The tea is fragrant and sweet. In the heart of the Medina, behind the ancient riad walls, tea time is regal and refreshing.
Everything glitters in this breathtaking shop: antique Berber silver, amber jewelry, inlaid mother-of-pearl furniture, and ceramic bowls full of gleaming beads and stones. 3 Fhal Chidmi, Rue Mouassine, 212/(0) 24-442-2578. Photo by Nally Bellati. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Phinda is a 55,000 acre private game reserve run by &Beyond, the leading safari/wilderness outfitter in Africa. Phinda features several lodges, each of them exquisite and luxurious in their own right. I spent two nights at Rock Lodge, a cluster of just six private villas tucked in to the mountainside overlooking miles of wild bush. The best part? Soaking it up, literally, from the comfort of your very own personal plunge pool.
City Sightseeing in Johannesburg is doing some wonderful things, by helping to bring the tourists both local and foreign to parts of Johannesburg that they may not have necessarily done on their own. The Soweto tour is a new tour line that departs from Gold Reef City and if you don't hop off, will take approximately 2 hours to complete. The friendly and extremely knowledgeable tour guides ensure that your trip is both fun and educational. Highlights of the tour include, visiting Vilikazi Street where both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have homes, as well as stops at some local restaurants to test out some local fare.
Some dispute that okra originates from West Africa but there’s no denying that the word okra is of Western African origin. Okra soup and banku is a traditional recipe from western Africa and is most popular in Ghana. Banku is made from partially-fermented ground maize and grated Cassava. We met the Okra Lady in Mallam Atta market (also known as Malata market). If you want a true local market experience, you’ll find it here. In the three hours we were there we didn’t see any other tourist and you won’t find African masks or other tourist handcrafts at this market.
La Mamounia Hotel is a magnificent display of Moroccan luxury and grandeur. The ornate tiles, luscious gardens, and plush furnishings ooze romance. From the massive outdoor pool to the world-class spa, this oasis in Marrakech is so fabulous it almost feels like fiction. It's real-life guests have ranged from Winston Churchill to the Rolling Stones, and yes, it would be wonderful to join the list of pampered people who have stayed at this North African palace, but the nightly rates are formidable. On my solo journey through Marrakech, I discovered a great way to experience the lavish amenities without spending my savings: I sat by pool, ordered a cold glass of white wine, and was provided with three hours of complimentary internet connection. Sitting amid climbing bougainvilleas and listening to the giggles of carefree kids, I touched base with friends and relatives back home. Some day I intend to wheel my suitcase into La Mamounia and settle in for a good, long stay - but I can at least say I've tasted a bit of what Churchill called, "the most lovely spot in the whole world."
The grounds of the Adrere Amellal where, for one precious day and night, I was the only guest in the entire 40-room lodge (five visitors from France arrived on day two...) The impossible silence each night, coupled with the multiple and even more impossibly fantastic shooting stars through the night sky, made it all feel like it was just a dream.
Amplify your safari experience at Londolozi Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand. Hear a cheetah sharpening its claws on a sausage tree or listen to a cape buffalo swallowing as it drinks from a water hole. Londolozi’s enhanced sound equipment at Pioneer Camp will open a new dimension to animal behavior, with expert guides on hand to decipher the action. This customization is available on request.
The Foundry doesn't seem to disappoint on any level. Their food selection goes great with the vast array of craft beer on hand. In this case the Three Little Pigs platter (Grilled sausages with mustards, pickles, sauerkraut, and bread pretzel), paired very well with a Pale Ale from the Butcher Block brewery.
Kruger National Park is one of South Africa's best known game preserves. It houses thousands of species that once freely ruled the land. It was designed to help encourage survival of these animals and they rome free, and live off the land. You can either take tours, or bring in your own vehicle. However, be warned these are creatures in their own habitat, you do not want exit your vehicle at any time. They are rest stations to be found in the park that are safe.
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