Following the collaborative article exploring different places around Asia and Australia, we now present you travel suggestions within Africa and The Middle East.
Some of the countries might not sound like the most popular or obvious destinations for a trip, but that is exactly what this post is all about – open our eyes to new countries that might not have the best marketing machines behind them, but sure have a lot to offer to its visitors at different levels.
Don’t forget to click our colleagues’ links to find more about them and the places they write about!
Some believe that the heart of the world beats in Africa… I believe that Ethiopia holds this heart.
Whatever travel experience you are searching for, Ethiopia can provide you with the beauty, culture & history that will drive your senses wild.While being an adventurer’s paradise, Ethiopia’s many corners will inspire and evoke a passion inside like no other country on earth. A journey offering divine scenery, religious ruins, extraordinary wildlife & many fascinating communities that live as they did 10’s of thousands of years ago. With 13 Months of Sunshine, there is NEVER a dull time of year to visit Ethiopia! As an explorer here, you will make a journey through time as I have done. Transported by historical ruins, glorious untouched landscapes and enriching tribal communities.
If you have ever thought about coming to Ethiopia, NOW is your time.
By Cynthia from New Flower Ethiopia
Few people know what a beautiful, welcoming, biologically diverse – and fun! – country Uganda is. Suffice to say, that people who visit never want to leave. I’m one of them! I came for a two-year volunteer placement working in conservation and here I am in my fifth year.
Said by many to be ‘the best of Africa,’ Uganda has it all. The Great Rift Valley, birthplace of humankind, cuts through Uganda, called ‘the Pearl of Africa’ by Winston Churchill. Safari game drives across African Savannah in search of elephants, hippo, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and lions; more bird species per kilometre than anywhere else in Africa; huge Nile Perch in the waters of the Nile and Lake Victoria – Uganda is an incredibly fertile and diverse country. The Source of the Nile at Jinja has the best adrenaline activities in East Africa: Grade 5 white water rafting, canoeing and horseback riding are some of the many adventures you can have here in Uganda. There are some life-changing community projects too: from elephant trenches to dancing to bee-keeping to forest walks, I never run of things to do and plan.
Kampala nightlife is legendary too – Ugandans LOVE to party! With wall-to-wall sunshine almost every day of the year, you can climb mountains, track gorillas and chimps, sail across Lake Victoria, climb the peaks of Africa’s fifth biggest mountain or use Uganda as a base for exploring the rest of East Africa. Last week-end I attended the Kwita Izina ‘gorilla naming ceremony’ in Rwanda, for example.
2012 marked the 50th anniversary of Uganda’s independence from British rule. I celebrated this with a blog “50 reasons why I love Uganda” – I could easily have found another 50 more!
By Charlotte from Diary of a Muzungu
We’re now in year three of non-stop family world travel and still, or maybe because of it, miss home. We have fallen in love with the people and the lands all over this lovely globe, and still, Israel, our tiny, complicated, precious little country, is home. She boasts God-kissed mountains, arid deserts, breath-taking waterfalls, and world-famous beaches; more patents, scientists, published books, and inventions per capita than any other nation in the world; world-renown and internationally critical historical, archeological, and religious sites. You will find in Israel the deepest point on the globe, quiet treks through extreme topographies, and busting markets, dance clubs, and street life. Whatever you desire, you will find.
Israelis are strong-willed, stubborn, out-spoken, warm-hearted, and intense people. Israelis are always-ready to tell you how to raise your child, open his home up to perfect strangers, and laugh at the sometimes harder shades of life. With mandatory military service (3 years for boys; a year and eight months for girls) shaping its people’s character, Israelis and Israel is a constant foil of soft and hard, bitter and sweet, surreal and mundane. We’re known as ‘sabras’ or cactus fruit, hard on the outside and sweet on the inside. Israeli thrives on open-minded young and old ready to meet tourists and travelers. As a true melting pot of her, she understands the beauty hidden in world cultures and embraces them with open arms.
By Gabi from The Nomadic Family
I moved to South Africa nearly three years ago. At the time I knew very little about South Africa and even less about Johannesburg, the city I moved to. I never dreamed I would fall so head-over-heels in love with both the country and the city. Joburg is the New York City of Africa, with a pulsating energy, style, and anything-goes kind of attitude that I’ve never experienced anywhere else in the world. Joburg is uniquely South African, but it’s also European, Asian, American, and pan-African all rolled into one.
I never get tired of exploring Johannesburg — walking and driving the streets, getting to know the myriad cultural communities, and simply sitting in coffee shops watching the world go by, enjoying one of the best climates in the world. My favorite Joburg activities include climbing to the top of tall buildings and photographing the skyline, eating street food in the massive food market in the Indian suburb of Fordsburg, and walking on the Melville Koppies, the primordial nature reserve behind my house.
By Heather from 2Summers
When people think of the Seychelles, the first thought that comes to mind is beautiful beaches. The Seychelles, though, has more to offer.
The inner islands are unique in that they are the only granitic islands in the middle of the ocean. This is because they never broke off from the mainland; they are the remnants of the original land mass now called Gondwanaland. I always say that India, Australia and Africa broke off from us!
If you’re coming over for a couple of weeks, I suggest you stay on Mahe, the main island and visit the other islands of Praslin and La Digue as a day trip. The main beach on Mahe is Beauvallon, although it’s only crowded (by Seychelles standards!) on Sundays where locals come to picnic and spend the day at the beach. It’s close to Victoria, our tiny capital city with a population of 25’000, where you can browse the market, visit the Hindu temple and enjoy a cup of coffee all within 2 hours. From Victoria you can bus it all over the island. You need strong nerves, though; our bus drivers fancy themselves as Formula One drivers. If you enjoy hiking, pick up a trail map at the Botanical Gardens in town and head off into the rainforest. Hiking in the National Park on Mahe is only for the fit; the steep trails and the high humidity contribute to making the hikes strenuous. However, there’s always a beach nearby to cool off afterwards.
You can visit both Praslin and La Digue by boat. Praslin has some gorgeous swimming beaches and is the only place in the world that the famous Coco de Mer nut grows. Rent a car when you step off the boat at the jetty; the public transport is not very regular and you don’t want to spend half the day waiting for buses. La Digue can be explored by bicycle. Again, rent one at the jetty.
And if you’re still not tired… contrary to what the guide books say… we do have a nightlife on Mahe; just ask any local where the trendiest place is right now.
By Louise from Island Wench
4 Reasons to Visit a Country You’ve Never Heard of and Can’t Pronounce:
How do you pronounce Djibouti? Jaboody. Drop the D and stress the ‘oo.’
Other than on the butt of Ellen DeGeneres’ sweatpants, where is Djibouti? In the Horn of Africa. Why would anyone head for such a (supposedly) volatile region?
- Bragging Rights: People will be impressed with your courage, bravery, your thrill of adventure. Whether or not you tell them the truth is up to you. Because the truth is that Djibouti is stable, peaceful, developed, beautiful.
- Swim with Whale Sharks: Whale sharks come to the Gulf of Tadjourah every year. Whale sharks are brown with white spots, the largest shark in the ocean, toothless, massive and gentle. Tourists can rent boats and swim alongside whale sharks at Arta Plage.
- Halwad: Halwad is a traditional candy which tastes like the inside of a pumpkin flavored jellybean. Each time I visit halwad shops, the shopkeepers prepare a bag of free candy. Strictly speaking, halwad is not a good reason to visit Djibouti. But the welcome of the shopkeepers is a good reason. Guests are honored, treated to cool sodas, feasts of boiled goat, and showered with things like free candy.
- Color: Men wear macwiis, or sarongs, in red, gold, blue, and purple. Women dress in flowing silk dresses covered in glittering sequins, and orange, pink, and yellow headscarves. Houses are painted hot pink and aqua marine. The desert that at first looks unrelentingly brown, is actually shades of beige, tan, gray, black, pink, and orange.
The traveler to Djibouti won’t be disappointed. They will encounter massive sea creatures, hospitable locals, an array of rich color, and will return home with unique bragging rights.
Hey, I’ve been to that country on the butt of Ellen DeGeneres’ sweatpants!
By Rachel from Djibouti Jones
United Arab Emirates
Burj Khalifa in Dubai is currently holding the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world. Standing at 2,700++ ft, it usually gives me vertigo when I look at this structure from the bottom. Google even captured it on street view, a first even for Google. The building is mainly for residential and offices. It also houses the first Armani Hotel in the world. On the 124th floor, a view deck called At The Top Observatory has been attracting a lot tourists since it opened, giving unparalleled views of Dubai’s skyline. I recommend going there at night, when the fountain down below starts the show because it’s just amazing! The building is surrounded by a lot of bars, clubs, restaurants, the musical fountains and of course, The Dubai Mall – the largest shopping mall based on total area.
Yes, everything is in superlatives here in Dubai. They never settle for something which is not extraordinary, and if that won’t make you want to see this wonderful city for yourself, then I don’t know what will.
By Noemi at Pinay Flying High
At first glance, dusty and landlocked Mali may seem like one of West Africa’s less worthy destinations. Yet few countries have as many ethnic groups, historical attractions, and variety of environments. While there is desert in the far north, most of the country lies within a Sahelian band that has distinct seasons, including a verdant rainy season that runs from June to October. Africa’s third largest river snakes through the country, leading from the capital city Bamako to the ancient trading city of Timbuktu and eventually, to the neighboring country of Niger.
Visit the cliffside dwellings of the Dogon, watch the sunset on the Niger, and stand in front of the world’s largest mud mosque at Djenne. But don’t forget to soak up the cultural mix of Bamako, where all ethnic groups from the country are represented along with immigrants from neighboring countries. With a nightlife that lasts to the break of dawn and one of the region’s most developed music scenes, there is always something to do in this city of 2 million.
Mali has recently hosted dual crises, a political coup in the south and an armed struggle and occupation in the north. Following a joint French and Malian intervention, and a transitional government in the south, things have been getting back to normal. However, you should check with your embassy for the latest travel advisories before you make plans to come to Mali.
Think of Morocco and you think of souks piled high with trinkets, camels swaying across the desert or the minarets and mosques of the medinas. However, in Morocco, there’s much more to discover.
Morocco is creative. Crafts are practised here in the same way they have been for centuries. But in addition to the colourful tiles, the smooth ceramics, the animal skin lamps and the wrought iron work, new designers and creators are flocking to Morocco to seek inspiration, materials and markets. This is especially true in Marrakech, where Marrak’chic is a whole new trend.
Morocco is culinary. Once you’ve had your fill of steaming tajines hiding under their conical hats, head to the markets where the locals shop. You’ll find vegetables you’ve never seen and nearby there will be stands where you can bring fresh meat and fish to be grilled. Bring the guys a tomato, a cucumber and an onion and they’ll knock you together a salade marocaine in no time. It’s BYO Moroccan-style!
Morocco is sporty. The Atlantic Coast has world-class watersports locations. The trekking in the Atlas Mountains is amazing, especially in spring when the almonds are in blossom. But did you know you can also ski in Morocco?
If all of that sounds too taxing, you’ll need a cup of mint tea. The Moroccans have tea drinking down to an art and you’ll see dozens of varieties stacked on barrows in the souks, alongside verbena, sage, thyme and rosemary – all used for various culinary and medicinal purposes. There’s a reason why so many old Moroccan men have so few teeth though – if you want to keep yours, ask your waiter to tone down the sugar!
By Lynn from Maroc-o-phile
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