Tarangire and Ngorongoro, (Tanzania)

“The largest unbroken volcano crater in the world”, “The Garden of Eden”

Tarangire, Tanzania, July 2017

If coming from incredible Zanzibar was already a top experience in life, coming for the first time to a safari this completes a fascinating trip to Tanzania. Not only a safari, but two. Two of the most spectacular safaris you can do in the world. However with great disappointment, we had to let it go the top safari in the plane, the Serengeti. This was unfortunately requiring for a longer stay and at least a 3 day safari. We did only count with 2 full days therefore that we had to make a decision. While Ngorongoro was out of question the MUST-DO, the second was more an option in what we wanted to see most. Tarangire would be our best bet. Why? Well, with Ngorongoro we knew we will see most of the animals and landscapes of truly Africa, but not so much elephant-wise, while for Tarangire, it is the park with the most elephants and the incredible huge baobab trees so, so characteristic of “real Africa”. Making this decision was quick. After all, the other option would have been Lake Manyara, also an spectacular national park by the huge lake. Costs were the same, including one or the other, that was not a problem not constrain.

For you to know, we are talking about an expensive business here. The entire trip to Tanzania is splashing money by the hundreds of $. You are squeezed from every side. Lucky for us, we found one of these flight error fare all the way to Zanzibar, so what we saved in the flights used it for getting the internal flights, the safaris and part of the hotels, otherwise this could have turned into a very expensive holiday considering we were not that many days altogether.

So switching our base in Zanzibar for that in Arusha was easy. It’s just an hour’s flight. To this point it all sounds easy, but it was not. We had to play with the flight times in order to maximize the time in Arusha for being able to arrive, spending the first night there and then have the following 2 full days free for both safari, returning to Arusha in the evening so having to stay overnight as the last flights leave for Zanzibar quite early in the afternoon, and then finally making the way back into Zanzibar the following morning. In our case, we needed the earlier flight possible to then enjoy Stone Town which we left for this very last day, before the early morning following day’s flight returning to Muscat and into London. (more…)

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Zanzibar, (Tanzania)

“Persian Zang-bār: Black Coast”, “The Pearl of Africa”

Zanzibar - Nungwi Kendwa, Tanzania, July 2017

Reaching our final destination (for now) after a flight tour through Europe and Oman, we finally touch down in Zanzibar. Our very first time in Tanzania, and actually, the first time in the “real Africa” as we’ve only been to Morocco, Tunis and Egypt. That has been a long way and too many hours to reach, however, it was actually in a very convenient and relaxed way first in Luxembourg City, then to Nancy for a day, continuing to Muscat via Munich where we had plenty of time to enjoy such a beautiful city, and now a very well deserved rest by some of the most paradisaical beaches in the world in a sumptuous resort. This would be, nevertheless, a grand arrival to such an impressive country where we will also explore some of the best safaris in the world: Tarangire and Ngorongoro; the city of Arusha, and although from the distance, the mighty Kilimanjaro.

Zanzibar is way more than an island, a small continent! You have everything in here, from the mountains to the sea, and the incredible forests and pure white sand beaches. And all within easy reach and short distances, with an impressive collection of architecture blending the colonial and traditional styles in its small and vibrant capital city, Stone Town.

We spent 3 days upon arrival in the island, where we were towards the north along the main beaches on the west, resting and enjoying the weather, the beaches and pools in the resort, and sightseeing in the afternoons around the surrounding nearby area and villages; and then a last day before our return flight for fully exploring Stone Town. Time-wise, it was perfect for us, although of course I would have welcomed to stay longer in such an impressive resort doing nothing else than chilling out; but our plans were for also experience for the first time in our lives a safari and getting closer to the “real Africa”. (more…)

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Tangier, (Morocco)

“Berber: Tin Iggi”, “Roman: Tingis”, “Arabic:‎ Tanja”, “The door of Africa”

Tangier, Morocco, May 2016

The second part of this weekend trip to northern Morocco and after visiting the UNESCO city of Tetouan, we returned to the base where we landed (and from where we would depart the following day back to London), Tangier. Although one of the most modern cities we’ve been in Morocco, nothing to compare with the beautiful historical 4 Imperial Cities of Marrakesh, Rabat, Meknes and Fez, it is still an incredible nice city to visit, especially if this is your base for exploring the nearby famous tourist magnets of Tetouan, Chefchaouen, the beach resorts or one of two of the small Spanish posts in Moroccan’s soil, Ceuta.

While the city heavily relies on tourism in search of beach and sun which is one of the most important figures of its economy, it is way more than just sandy beaches. It does have a rich history through the millennia due to its very desired key location at the tip between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, and its colonial history goes back to just some dozen of years when both the Spanish and French occupation ended in 1956. While Arabic is the main language, Spanish and French are widely spoken and understood. Signs can still be seen in dual language, mostly for its proximity and relation with Spain.

The old Medina is one of the smallest in Morocco and it is still on the process of restoration and modernisation after many decaying years. It is also pretty much everything the city has to offer in the sense of sights hence why you do not need much time in this city. The beaches, however, if that is what you are looking for, are quite deserted and recently revamped. The Sables D’or Beach is beside the harbor and just few minute’s walk from the southern edge of the Medina. (more…)

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Tetouan, (Morocco)

“Berber: Tittawin, meaning The Eyes, The Water Springs”

Tetouan, Morocco, May 2016

Another short weekend in Morocco after we found another impossible to miss deal with British Airways+Iberia. Not only the air fare was great, but was also having such interconnecting flights via Madrid all with the Oneworld Alliance, meaning more Tier Points and Avios that we can for sure use to keep booking reward flights as we generally do through the year. As you can imagine, not every flight we are doing every weekend is paid by cash; but having a good planning and organisation means getting free flights or paying a tiny fraction of the full price for great destinations.

After the impressive experience 3 weeks ago when visiting Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Volubilis and Fez; this time our trip was way simpler and easier. While landing in Tangier, we left immediately towards the beautiful and so historic city of Tetouan, main reason for this trip. Once more, another city included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing because of its impressive ancient Medina, palaces and mosques covering so many centuries of history and architecture, and that great level of preservation and restoration, plus the “new city” next to the Medina, in traditional southern Spain architecture. A remark in here, this region of Morocco in the north was part of the Spanish colony, not the French who had the southern half of the country.

Often bypassed by tourist en-route to other destinations such as Tangier, Ceuta or Chefchaouen, it is perfect for spending half a day. There is no need to calculate any longer because of its small overall size with the sights very near each other and resumed to just the Medina and immediately around it at the “new city”. Our time was also very limited, hence why we returned to Tangier later in the afternoon on this same day where our hotel was. (more…)

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Volubilis, (Morocco)

“Capital of the Kingdom of Mauritania”, “Southwestern-most post of the Roman Empire”

Volubilis, Morocco, May 2016

One last and quick stopover in this very busy trip so far for visiting the impressive Roman ruins of Volubilis, few kilometres north of the city of Meknes. This fascinating ancient city, the capital of the Kingdom of Mauritania back in the days and on the very western edge of the Roman Empire was the perfect way to finish this trip around this region of Morocco where we’ve visited Casablanca, Rabat, Fez and Meknes; and should you have the chance if you are visiting nearby Fez and Meknes, do not hesitate in including Volubilis in your plans, you will nor regret.

The archaeological park is been listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance and level of preservation of many of its fine constructions, specially the mosaics of the wealthy villas. In the other hand, do not expect grand constructions as theatres, coliseum and the likes. The city was abandoned for many centuries, and devastated by an earthquake in the 18th century, while right afterwards, many of its fallen structures were used as quarry to build the Imperial City of Meknes.

Nevertheless, what you currently have there to see is already fascinating, even though it is just a portion of what still remains covered awaiting for future excavations. And since it is a short drive from Meknes, makes it perfect to combine both cities on a day. Visiting this site generally takes 2.5 hours considering the drive there both ways, and around 1.5 hours on the site. It is physically impossible to spend more time as there is nothing else. Once you walk through all that’s it. (more…)

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Meknes, (Morocco)

“Berber: Imeknasen”, “City of hundred Minarets”, “One of four Imperial Cities”

Meknes, Morocco, May 2016

Next along this busy tour, right after visiting the city of Fez; and I say briefly since there is so much to see and do that less than a full day was definitely not enough, but we did not really have the time as we wanted to pack as much as we could in this trip; we made the move to Meknes. Another of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco, and the last one for us to visit after having been to Marrakesh 3 years ago, and Rabat and Fez in this trip. And what can I say! I cannot find any other words than another beautiful city, packed with history on every corner, yet again inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Coming from Fez was straightforward. Not only both cities are very near each other, they are extremely well connected by frequent buses and trains. For us getting the train was the easiest option, as we’ve been doing everywhere in this trip to Morocco between the other cities we’ve visited, and furthermore knowing that the hotels we’ve selected in this trip were all really near the train stations.

Once there we knew this would be a quite rushy visit, even though we stayed for the night. Lucky for us the day light was extremely long. With summer time and so much south, it was great to count with that extra hours that came very handy. In any case, the city can easily be visited in less than a day. After all, what we really wanted at this point is covering as many of the important sights through the Medina and main squares, not the ones off-the-path. And after two large Medinas back in Fez and long walk, here in Meknes the Medina is very small in comparison, with only 20 minutes from the south to the north gates (if not stopping along the way).

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Fez, (Morocco)

“Mecca of the West”, “Athens of Africa”, “One of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco”

Fez, Morocco, May 2016

Continuing our busy trip after leaving Rabat the night before, today we spared for actually visiting 2 cities: Fez and Meknes. The remaining 2 of the 4 Imperial Cities of Morocco after Rabat, and Marrakesh that we visited 3 years back, and both UNESCO World Heritage listed with their astonishing Medina. With it, we complete what was once of our wishes to visit in Morocco, and definitely can openly say how beautiful and wonderful this country is and how much more it has to offer on every corner.

Fez has in fact two Medina! One of them believed to be the largest pedestrian urban zone in the world. Said that as you can imagine, expect plenty of sights all over. It is not only the Medina, but the many ancient riads, palaces and madrasas. And home to the oldest continuously functioning university in the world. With so much packed history, it is no wonder why it become added to the listing of UNESCO. Too much for sparing just a little over half a day since we had to leave to Meknes in the late afternoon to continue with our very busy tour. Luckily (for us), Fez is an easy city to fly into from London and many European cities, with many airlines serving the city, hence there is no doubt we will return and enjoy the city once more with a much better timing.

The city preserves pretty much intact majority of the buildings since its foundation in 789, many of them enlarged and further embellished through the pass of the centuries, to the point of having the best preserved old city in the whole of the Arab world.

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Rabat, (Morocco)

“One of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco”, “Ribatu l-Fath: Stronghold of Victory”

Rabat, Morocco, May 2016

Following a nice visit to Casablanca the day before, we came to the next city on this short tour around few cities in the area, following the once known “Imperial Cities” of Morocco: Rabat, Marrakesh, Meknes and Fez, all of which, UNESCO World Heritage sites. Having visited Marrakesh 3 years back, the remaining three cities were part of this tour since all of them are located very near each other and extremely well connected with each other. With an incredible busy agenda and such a short time overall, we planned to came to Rabat the night before in order to have the most of today before leaving later in the evening towards Fez, the farthest destination on this tour.

Rabat was made the capital city of Morocco upon the French invasion in 1912, moving it from Fez, and still after the colonial rule ended, it was decided for Rabat to remain as such the capital because of its great location right by the Atlantic coast and because of it being a “new city”, with wide avenues created by the French, space, order and everything built and on place. But even though Rabat is considered a “new city”, it does have an amazing historic quarter with a greatly preserved ancient Medina; a complete fortress citadel, the enormous Royal Palace, the historic site of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and the ancient city of Chellah; all of it listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site under the name of: Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City.

With so much to do and see, a day was too short for us, yet just enough to visit all the major and important places I list below in the guide. I would recommend in any case at least 2 days to visit in full without rush; perfectly done in a weekend, or in combination with Casablanca. (more…)

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