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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.
At Ben Youssef Medersa, a 16th-century Koranic boarding school turned museum, visitors can see colorful mosaic zellij tiles and intricate stucco carvings inscribed with Muslim invocations. —Jennye Garibaldi Place Ben Youssef, 212/(0) 24-441-893. Photo by Thomas Dressler/Age Fotostock. This appeared in the July/August 2011 issue.
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.
Guests can view game from the bathtub of their futuristic orange tents at Sir Richard Branson’s latest African hospitality venture. The retreat opens in August, along the path of the Great Wildebeest Migration. From $590. (877) 577-8777. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: courtesy of Virgin Limited Edition
The tiny coastal village of Oualidia’s low-key vibe makes it a popular retreat from Marrakech as well as the go-to spot for surfers—novice or otherwise. La Sultana, set against the flamingo-dotted Oualidia lagoon, has 11 rooms and suites that showcase Moroccan craftsmanship with marble floors, terra-cotta tile work, and sandstone ceilings. Last year the hotel added an ornate tree house that overlooks the lagoon. Spend the day lounging on the hotel’s private stretch of beach or at the pool. The lagoon’s famous oysters are a staple on the seafood-centric restaurant menu. From $355. This appeared in the March/April 2014 issue. Photo courtesy of Boutique Souk. La Sultana can be booked through Boutique Souk.
Safari outfitter andBeyond reopened 10 stone-and-glass villas in 2011 after a complete redesign. The night skies here are so pure, the area has earned status as an International Dark Sky Reserve. An astronomer leads stargazing sessions at the on-site observatory. The world’s most ancient desert lies just outside the lodge, with famous dunes that can be explored by four-wheeler or on foot. Springbok, kudu, and 26 varieties of homemade sorbets and ice creams are featured on the dinner menu. From $834. 27/(0) 11-809-4314. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: andBeyond
Rolling through five countries in 14 days, the opulent Pride of Africa whisks passengers from the tip of South Africa to Tanzania’s largest city. The trip includes two nights at a five-star game lodge, a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, and lectures by an onboard historian. From $10,600. 27/(0) 12-315-8242. Photo courtesy of Rovos Rail. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
This 12-room lodge is built into a rocky outcropping with expansive views of an acacia-dotted plain. Some of the region’s best game viewing happens a short drive from the lodge. Sightings of leopards and klipspringers (a species of antelope) are guaranteed. The pool, set among the rocks a mile above the plain, offers perhaps the most scenic swim in Africa. The lodge’s rugs and handwoven bedspreads come from neighboring Kenya. Adding to the creative, folk-inspired ambience are bar stools that were once tractor seats and mesh lampshades crafted from repurposed fish traps. From $450. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: nomad-tanzania.com
You leave Royal Mansour with an entirely new appreciation for craftsmanship. Local artisans are responsible for the gorgeous zellige ceramic tiles, intricate carved wood, and molded plasterwork found throughout the 8.6-acre property. Commissioned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Royal Mansour was designed to feel like a medina within the city’s own medina. Fifty-three private riads, each three stories high, feel like mini-palaces, with on-call butlers and rooms arranged around open-air courtyards. Despite the lavish interiors, I couldn’t pull myself off the private roof terrace, which came with a plunge pool, fireplace, and dining area beneath a Bedouin tent. The price tag is outrageous, but you are truly treated like royalty. From $2,250.
Zanzibar, an archipelago off the Tanzania coast, has long attracted travelers to its capital city, Stone Town. Visitors come to cap off a safari, dance to taarab music, and snorkel among dragon moray eels—all in the historic birthplace of the Swahili language. The cotton kanga (pictured above), worn as a wrap dress, skirt, or shawl, is the principal item of clothing for East African women. Named for the dappled feathers of the guinea fowl, the kanga is not complete without a Swahili maxim printed along its border. One favorite: Kupata na kukosa kwangu, wewe kunakuhusu nini, or “Whether I succeed or fail, it’s not your business.” Available at the Darajani Bazaar off Darajani Street. Photo courtesy of Alvaro Leiva/Age Fotostock. This appeared in the May/June 2011 issue.
There are many things to love about staying at La Tangerina, but the panoramic views from the roof terrace are at the top of my list. In this photo, the Strait of Gibraltar is visible under a cloudy sky. Standing at this viewpoint, if you turn a little to the right, you'll see the busy Port of Tangier and endless beaches. Turn a bit further to the right, and you'll enjoy a spectacular multilayer vista, with the White City's historic Kasbah in the forefront, followed by an array of more modern buildings, with the Rif Mountains as a distant backdrop. The hotel is perfectly located at the highest point on the Kasbah and has been beautifully restored and decorated. We enjoyed large breakfasts and a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the medina.
Muizenberg is a fresh air escape. Straight down Metrorail's Southern Suburbs line, you'll go through the suburbs, wetlands, and eventually arrive at your destination - the False Bay side of the Cape, right in the heart of Surfer's Corner. This area, once a bit derelict, has changed since significant renovations and community investments have been made to keep it safe and clean. There are a few shops to rent boards and wetsuits from, if surfing is your thing. People watching is one of my favorite activities from the Knead cafe on the beachfront - all ages and races flock to this beach and you'll see why they call South Africa a "rainbow nation". If you've got time for another detour, I recommend the Muizenberg to St. James walk, just to the right once you leave the station. It's a promenade between the train tracks and the ocean that make for a really nice walk to the nearby town Kalk Bay.
Baobab trees, which grow up to 100 feet tall and 30 feet wide, carry a prehistoric grandeur worthy of their title as Madagascar’s national tree. Of the six ancient baobab species native to the African island, only the largest, the Adansonia grandidieri, lines the Avenue of the Baobabs on Madagascar’s west coast. Along this quarter-mile stretch of unpaved road, the trees awaken during the dry season. From June through August, at sunset you can watch as the baobabs’ brown buds open to reveal white flowers bursting with stamen. Within 24 hours, bats—drawn to the flowers’ musky scent—collect sweet nectar, then the blossoms fall to the ground. In September, when prime birding season begins, those with binoculars can catch a glimpse of yellow-plumed Sakalava weavers constructing hivelike nests in the trees’ lofty branches. Or, wander over to one of the baobabs just off the avenue and climb the peg ladders built by locals for your own bird’s-eye view. Geographic Expeditions offers customized tours of Madagascar that include sunrise or sunset visits to the Avenue of the Baobabs. From $700 per person per day. (888) 570-7108. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Pascal Maitre
Botswana’s most famous crafts are baskets woven from fan palm fibers. They are dyed with natural pigments: blue from fever-berry leaves, dark brown from magic guarri shrubs, and yellow from the roots of red star apple trees. Some baskets take a month to make. Nearly all lodges sell baskets, but you can also purchase them online.
A recent refurbishment has brought larger tents, Moroccan rugs, and four-poster campaign beds to this woodland property near the Makgadikgadi salt pans. A visit to the nearby meerkat conservation project is a must. From $430. 27/(0) 11-447- 1605. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: courtesy of Uncharted Africa Safari Co.
It took four years to build this hotel at the base of the Atlas Mountains. French designer Jacques Garcia included black-and-white zellij tile work and other intricate Moorish details. Each of the hotel’s five guest riads (typical Moroccan houses) comes with a private garden and heated pool. At the spa, guests can choose from hydrotherapies and traditional remedies such as a facial mask that uses rhassoul clay from the mountains. The hotel’s stables house 16 Arabian purebreds, which visitors can meet on a stable tour when the steeds aren’t roaming the property. From $392. 212/(0) 52-445-9600. Photo courtesy of Hôtel Selman. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
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...
Eagle View’s nine tented suites opened a year ago on a ridge that overlooks a broad swath of savannah in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. The camp pays a guaranteed income to each of the approximately 500 families who own the conservancy. Masai guides lead guests on night drives or walks and use animal-friendly spotlights to illuminate nocturnal creatures. Suites overlook a salt lick that attracts one of the highest densities of lions in Africa. On occasion, guests may find a lion’s kill in the morning. From $380. 254/(0) 73-333- 3909. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: courtesy of Basecamp’s Eagle View
Located on a quiet side street, in the upscale neighborhood of Guéliz, is a garden called Marjorelle. The garden is named after its creator, Jacques Majorelle, a French born artist who settled in Marrakesh in 1919 to continue his career as a painter. Majorelle died in 1962 and the gardens remained unkept, until 1980, when the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought the property and restored it. Entry to the Garden is through a typical Moroccan wood door and like a riad, you have no idea what’s on the inside until you cross the threshold. When you first enter the garden, you step into a very small, intimate courtyard with a fountain. I felt like I had escaped into a secret garden, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city. Beyond the courtyard is a lush garden, filled with an eclectic mix of plants surrounding the occasional pool. The garden that Jacques built lives on as his creative masterpiece. In fact, the special shade of bold cobalt blue, which he used extensively in the garden and its buildings, is named after him - Majorelle Blue. While the centerpiece of the garden is his former residence, a two storey house painted in Marjorelle Blue, I fell in love with all the windows and their intricately carved frames, painted in stark white. Although the relatively modern look and feel of Marjorelle Garden is in stark contrast to the gardens and buildings that you see in the rest of Marrakesh, it’s worth a visit.
The innovative design of this six-villa camp set along the Luangwa River relies on crosswinds for cooling. Yoga classes, private pools, and leather furnishings are examples of Chinzombo’s resortlike amenities. From $575. 26/(0) 216-246- 025. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: courtesy of Norman Carr Safaris
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.
This nearly 1,000-year-old mansion has been furnished with pieces made by local craftspeople. Owner Ina Krug works with a team of experts to arrange everything from a camel safari to a customized shopping trip through the souks. Each room has its own fragrance, such as saffron or pomegranate. The rooftop terrace, with views of the Atlas Mountains and the Koutoubia Mosque, is ideal for watching sunsets. From $200. 212/(0) 613-225- 874. This appeared in the March/April 2013 issue. Photo courtesy of The Great Getaway Medina.
Shelves at 33 Rue are stocked each month with new finds largely from local maâlems (master craftsmen). The owners have an eye for pieces that put a modern twist on tradition, such as these unusual bread baskets from Bladi Design. This appeared in the October 2013 issue. Photo courtesy of 33 Rue Majorelle
Robin Pope Safaris recently debuted this property of eight bush chalets. Each has a sunken tub big enough for two. Green roofs are planted with indigenous grasses and aloe plants to keep rooms cool. Following the reintroduction of lions last year, Majete Wildlife Reserve is the only reserve in Malawi that can lay claim to the Big Five: lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, rhino, and leopard. The dramatic Kapichira Falls is a short drive from Mkulumadzi. Fearless travelers can spot crocs during boat tours of the Shire River. From $350. 265/(0) 17-94-491. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: courtesy of Mkulumadzi Lodge
The distance between Ouarzazate and Marrakech is only 200km (125 miles) but the drive on the N9 through the High Atlas Mountains can take as long as four hours. The winding road, full of switch backs and featuring such scenery as to make one's jaw drop in disbelief is not recommended for those who suffer chronic motion sickness. Like myself. So, when we woke up, the long drive ahead of us and an eagerness to see my beloved Marrakech again, I medicated and prepared myself mentally for four hours of white-knuckle-torture. By the time we arrived at this vantage point in the Tichka Pass, I was suffering more from a backache and pain in my hands than from nausea. Dramamine is truly a wonder drug! And thank god for it, there isn't a drive I have done anywhere in the world that was as rewarding as the road from Ouarzazate to Marrakech. Car rental is possible and the Lonely Planet forums have great information on doing this yourself but I recommend having a very good, local driver. Be prepared with very warm clothing for getting out and taking pictures at the highest parts of the pass, the temperature drop is astonishing and the winds will knock you over. The view you're rewarded with is, of course, worth it! There are also wonderful small villages scattered all along the N9 - to stop in and eat, shop and rest your body before completing the drive.
This island’s chimpanzee population has long attracted zoologists. Now, visitors can play Jane Goodall at Rubondo Island Camp’s eight cottages. An extensive library and talks by chimp researchers enhance the experience. From $620. 27/(0) 21-418- 0468. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: courtesy of Rubondo Island Camp
Situated not far from Meknes, between Fes and Rabat, the Roman ruins of Volubilis stand as a testament to a culture that changed the world forever. In the fertile area that the ruined city is located, it's difficult to remember you're in Morocco. There's a lushness that's not visible everywhere else in the country. Long blades of green grass sway in the gentle breeze, the sun makes the white stone seem bleached and an olive grove along the road you hike from car park to temple, seems to transport you to faraway Italy. Volubilis is a UNESCO World Heritage site and as such is being reconstructed and preserved for future generations. For good reason. The site has an outstanding collection of mosaic floors that rival any collection I've seen anywhere in the world outside Rome itself and they're still being restored which shows the collection will be even more impressive in future years. The Appian Way also runs through the ruins and it's surreal to walk along the paving stones of a road that was begun in 312 BC. It's worth any extra money you might incur to hire one of the guides that wait near the entrance to the complex. They're worth their weight in gold if history interests you. Visit when the sun is not directly overhead for the best photographs and bring extra layers of clothing because the gentle breeze can quickly turn into a strong wind as the ruins are at a higher elevation that the surrounding land.
The day had been spent speeding (and tumbling in my case) down enormous sand dunes on questionable snowboards, a pastime that filled one's head with sand and spirit with unending exhilaration. We had swum in hot springs and very cold springs, taken our meals of locally grown cucumbers, tomatoes and cheese on a blanket in the shade of a palm tree, and held on for our dear lives as our Toyota Land Cruiser raced mercilessly across the dunes. As the sun set over the dunes, however, we all began to feel the calm of night. Two of my friends sit below the dunes enjoying a moment to themselves, shared only with Mother Nature.
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