Category Africa

Photo Friday: Sega Dancers on the Beach in Mauritius

MAURITIUS-Sega-dancers-on-the-beach

I took this photo of Sega dancers on the beach at a small island off Grande Baie in the Northeast of Mauritius. It was a special event for international journalists as part of the annual Kreol Festival of music and dance in December.

Sega Dancing forms a strong part of Mauritian national identity and when you visit Mauritius you must try and see a performance, although the hotel offerings tend to be rather touristy.  Families love to relax and picnic by the beach on the weekends and you will often see people dancing Sega together. If you are lucky to see some of this dancing it will offer a much more authentic experience.

In her book on Mauritius entitled Culture Shock!: Mauritius, Roseline NgCheong-Lum describes the Mauritian Sega in the following terms:

“It is both song and dance...

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Kasbah de Toubkal is an Authentic Berber Lodge in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains

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The Kasbah de Toubkal is a beautifully restored stone and thatched-roof village compound that offers guests an insider’s experience of Berber life in the heart of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

I love hotels that help you engage with the locals while still enjoying a touch of luxe. National Geographic Traveler writer Daisann McLane captured the sentiment perfectly when she wrote a piece about her favorite South American hotels. “A hotel is a threshold to an unfamiliar culture…Good hotels have a strong sense of place.” The Kasbah de Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco is a perfect example. And to emphasize this fact, it isn’t even called a hotel but rather ‘a Berber hospitality center.”

Re-imagined by British adventure guide Mike McHugo and his friend and fellow guide from Morocco, Hajj Maurice, who grew up in these mountains, the Kasbah de Toubkal was a crumbling fortified village at the top of the Imlil Valley, which at the time had no electricity...

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Photo Friday: Fishing boats at La Grande Baie in Mauritius

Fishing boats at dusk in La Grande Baie in Mauritius

I took this Photo Friday at dusk one day at La Grande Baie in the north-east of Mauritius. A calm had settled on the waterscape and all the fishermen and kids had left the boats. I love the saturated colors and the reflections in the waters.

What to do at La Grande BaieLa Grand Baie is the country’s burgeoning St. Tropez whose bay is filled with catamarans and big game fishing cruisers alongside traditional fishing dinghies. Seafood restaurants frame a wide sandy beach and upscale boutiques offer the latest fashions. Nearby beaches at Pereybere, Mont Choisy or Trou aux Biches offer even better swimming.

Take a day-sail on a large catamaran out to Flat Island where you can snorkel around fringing coral reefs to see clown and parrot fish darting around anemones and brain coral. You’ll enjoy a barbecue on board the boat and often catch sight of humpback whales breaching on the way back into Grand Baie.

Where is Mauritius and what is it like

It seems to be in the middle of nowhere in ...

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Photo Friday: Sunset in the Palmeraie outside of Marrakesh

Sunset over the Palmeraie outside of Marrakesh in Morocco

I took this photo at sunset in the Palmeraie outside of Marrakesh in Morocco.

With 130,000 hectares of greenery and over 180,000 palm trees, the Palmeraie is an oasis on the edge of the desert just outside of Marrakesh in Morocco. It was originally a thriving market garden area but today much of the region is dotted with luxury resorts and golf courses. You can still, however, experience the grandeur of its palm groves during sunsets like these.

One delightful place to stay is Jnane Tamsna, which is a privately owned estate set in nine lush landscaped gardens. Created by Ivory Coast born lawyer turned designer Meryanne Loum-Martin and her ethnobotanist American husband Gary Martin, this chic compound offers a minimalist approach to Moroccan design. Traditional furnishings and carpets are mixed with artwork from Mali and Senegal in a series of serene contemporary spaces while the locavore meals from homegrown organic produce are often served in the lush gardens...

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Photo Friday: Fez Medina Panorama

Fez Medina Panorama

I took this photograph of the ancient Fez medina from a vantage point overlooking Morocco’s old Imperial capital.

Often called the Mecca of the West, Fez is Morocco’s cultural and spiritual center and its UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled medina is the world’s largest car-free urban area.

The American writer and longtime Moroccan resident Paul Bowles called it “an enchanted labyrinth sheltered from time.”

Once the end of the gold trading route that stretched all the way to Timbuktu, Fez has the oldest continuously functioning university in the world, the University of Al-Karaouine, founded by women in AD859.

Today people live and work in its 9000 laneways much the same way as they have for a thousand or so years. Craft guilds still produce butter-soft leather, copper ware, cactus-silk cloth and much more. Donkeys remain the main form of transport.

If you’d like some insider tips on getting beneath the tourist trail in Fez and connecting with the locals, see my post Insider’s...

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Insider’s Guide to Fez

The leather dyeing vats in the Fez medina

The leather dyeing vats in the Fez medina

Fez is the cultural and spiritual heart of Morocco, its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Medina the world’s largest car-free urban area. The American writer and longtime Moroccan resident Paul Bowles called it “an enchanted labyrinth sheltered from time”. Today people live and work in its 9000 lanes in much the same way as they have for a thousand or so years. Donkeys remain the main form of transport. For a visitor this ancient city can seem inscrutable so it is important to find ways to connect with the locals in order to gain an insider’s view of this fascinating place.

On my first visit to Fez I had felt very much the tourist with an official guide leading me along a hackneyed path of historical highlights (such as the tomb of its founder, Moulay Iddriss II, the great, great, grandson of the prophet Mohammed) and shopping meccas where I’d bargained for leather, carpets and jewelry in government-approved shops.

Yet I was fascinated by this place of secrets, of veiled women and hooded men navigating narrow passageways that weave between high windowless walls. It was so radically different to Marrakesh, six hours drive to the south, which has become a sort of Sub-Saharan Costa Brava, with mega resorts and nightclubs fed by a constant stream of budget flights filled with sun-starved Europeans. Fez, on the other hand, followed a fervent daily rhythm in a time capsule, like a lost tribe in the middle of a maze, unaware that the rest of the world had moved into the 21st century.

It was time to take a different tack on my next visit.

Lucki...

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Photo Friday: Bull elephant in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater

Elephant in Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater

 

I photographed this ancient bull elephant in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.  He looked like he’d had more than his fare share of battles over the years.

Located west of Arusha, the Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it has yielded an exceptional long sequence of crucial evidence related to human evolution and human-environment dynamics and its stunning landscape combined with its spectacular concentration of wildlife is one of the greatest natural wonders of the planet. It is home to more than 25,000 animals, including the world’s highest density of lions. Maybe this old elephant has had a few run ins with those lions.

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Ngorongoro Crater

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Ngorongoro Crater -3.161752, 35.587670

 

 

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