The Gambia is a very small country, situated at the two banks of the river Gambia, with a length of 320 KM an a breadth of hardly 35 KM. Gambia is well known as a beach destination for Europeans. There are a lot of cheap flights and packages to the sunny beaches and Africa nextdoor.
The country has more to offer.
Banjul the capital has an interesting National Museum (history, ethnology, local customs) and you can visit the Albert and Banjul Craft market. At the Danton bridge near Banjul you can book boattrips to the creeks of the mangrove and the dolphins in the rivermouth.
In Serrekunda you can attend traditional wrestling matches.
300 KM inland you can visit Georgtown with old slave houses.
Nearby In Wassu we visited the 1200 years old stone circles. In 2006 the stone circles along the river Gambia became an UNESCO world heritage site.
UNESCO description Stone Circles:
The stone circles of laterite pillars and their associated burial mounds present a vast sacred landscape created over more than 1,500 years. It reflects a prosperous, highly organized and lasting society.
For more information and pictures have a look at my The Gambia page.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
Official Name: Tunisian Republic; Land Area: 63,170 square miles (163,610 square kilometers); Population: 10,629,186; Capital: Tunis; Largest City: Tunis
Tunis is Tunisia's capital and largest city, with about 2,150,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area. It is a modern and pleasant city, but not many visitors remain long before heading off to more tourist-oriented towns and beach resorts.
Tunis, originally called Tynes, was founded by the Carthaginians on a narrow isthmus of land between Lake Tunis to the east and Sebkhet Sejoumi (a salt lake) to the southwest. Throughout the centuries, Tunis remained a small and unimportant town. About the only improvement was a medina built by the Arabs for defensive purposes in the late seventh century.
It was not until the ninth century, when the Aghlabid ruler, Ibrahim ibn Ahmed II, moved his court to Tunis that the city began to become an important center. In the late tenth century, however, the ruling Fatimids moved their capital to Mahdia. But after the conquest of North Africa by the Almohads in 1160, Tunis once again became a national capital. Tunis flourished between 1229 and 1574, and especially after Baghdad fell to the Mongols in 1285. That event caused Tunis to become the most important city in the western part of the Arab world. It was during this period that culture flourished, the population grew, and mosques, universities, schools, libraries, and souqs (markets) were built.
In 1881, after a period of rule by the Ottoman Turks, the French took control of Tunisia and made it a colony. They built the Nouvelle Ville (new city) east of the original medina on land reclaimed from Lake Tunis. The French influence can still be seen in wide boulevards and sidewalk cafes.
Official Name: Republic of Senegal; Land Area: 75,749 square miles (196,190 square kilometers); Population: 12,643,799; Capital: Dakar; Largest City: Dakar
The Sahel, which is derived from the Arabic word sahil, meaning "shore" or "border," is a dry savanna zone between the Sahara Desert in the north and wetter savanna zones in the south. It stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Horn of Africa in the east. All of northern Senegal is within the Sahel, and aside from scattered acacia trees, there is little vegetation, especially during the dry season. Due to overgrazing by the goats and cattle of the tribal groups that live there, the Sahel is expanding, growing wider each year. As a result, more and more cropland is being lost to desertification.
The Sahel is characterized by little rainfall, averaging only between six and 20 inches (150 and 500 millimeters) per year. Most of the rain falls in the rainy season from June through October. There are cyclical periods when the Sahel experiences higher than normal rainfall. During those years, many nomadic peoples move north with the increased vegetation. However, there are also cyclical periods of drought, and devastating famines can occur when the crops and forage die from lack of moisture.
The purpose of my traveling to the Sahel of northern Senegal was to look for Sahelian species of birds that are found nowhere else. Therefore, my group spent several days walking through the dry areas looking for these birds, all of which we did find. In addition to birdwatching, we were also able to interact with some of the Wolof herdsmen who live in the area and learn about their lifestyles.
Official Name: Kingdom of Morocco; Land Area: 172,400 square miles (446,500 square kilometers); Population: 31,968,361; Capital: Rabat; Largest City: Casablanca
One of the most popular sights in Fez is the tanneries located in the leather souq. The tanneries date back nine centuries and are the oldest in the world. In the fifteenth century, there were about 200 tanneries in Fez; nowadays, there are only two. The methods used in tanning hides are the same ones used for centuries, and no modern equipment or processes are employed. Visitors can observe the tanning process from the terraces of leather shops which surround the tanneries.
The hides of goats, sheep, and cattle are processed at the tanneries to be made into quality leather goods, such as bags, coats, shoes, and other items. After observing the tanning process, visitors can visit the leather souq and perhaps buy some souvenirs.
After the hair and flesh has been removed from the hides, they are soaked in one of the numerous circular stone vats which resemble a large honeycomb from above. The first step is to soak the hides in vats containing an acidic liquid which contains pigeon guano, cow's urine, and acid. This makes the hides soft and supple. The next step is to dye the prepared hides. This is done in vats containing dyes made from all-natural materials, such as henna, saffron, or mint. Workers stamp the hides with their feet to ensure that they are well soaked. After dyeing, the final process is to dry the hides on the roof of the leather souq.
The workers perform their jobs in terrible stench and heat, and they only earn about $7.50 per day. In addition, their arms and lower legs are permanently stained from a lifetime of working in the dyes.
Official Name: Republic of the Gambia; Land Area: 4,363 square miles (11,300 square kilometers); Population: 1,797,860; Capital: Banjul; Largest City: Banjul
The Gambia River rises in the Fouta Djallon Plateau in northern Guinea, and flows about 700 miles (1,130 kilometers) before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Banjul. At first the river flows northward into Senegal before making a turn to the west, where it enters Gambia at Fatoto. Because the river runs down the middle of the country from one end to the other, it is Gambia's main geographical feature. Most of the country's main towns and cities are located on the river, and it is one of Gambia's major transportation routes.
Although a relatively short river, several large tributaries give the Gambia River such a large volume of water that it is navigable for about one-half its length, and is about six miles (ten kilometers) wide at its mouth.
Official Name: Republic of Djibouti; Land Area: 8,873 square miles (22,980 square kilometers); Population: 757,074; Capital: Djibouti City; Largest City: Djibouti City
The Ghoubet-Kharab is an almost landlocked sea located at the westernmost end of the Gulf of Tadjoura. Two points of land from the north and south coasts almost meet and close off the Ghoubet-Kharab from the Gulf of Tadjoura proper. The narrow strait passing between the points of land is called the Ghoubet Pass.
The Ghoubet-Kharab, also known as the "Devil's Cauldron," is one of the finest diving sites in East Africa. Because there are no rivers emptying into the Gulf of Tadjoura, the waters are extremely clear and are free of silt and other debris. The clear waters provide an excellent environment for soft coral, of which over 200 species have been identified in the area.
Since the Ghoubet-Kharab is almost landlocked, it is relatively protected, and is therefore good for the production of plankton. This in turn attracts large numbers of fish, including barracudas, jacks, manta rays, sailfish, snappers, and whale sharks. The whale sharks go to the Ghoubet-Kharab to breed, so it is often referred to as a "whale shark kindergarten."
The Route du Roi Fahd passes high above the Ghoubet-Kharab, and scenic overlooks provide spectacular views of the water below.
THE DERG MONUMENT- ETHIOPIA
This huge obelisk dominates Churchill Avenue in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is located just over the road from the main Post Office. It is a grotesque tribute to the rise of the Communist Derg (translates as ‘committee’) which was a military junta that seized power in 1974. Their first months were marked by the imprisonment, torture and murder of tens of thousands of innocent Ethiopians. Led by Major Mengistu Haile Mariam, they ruled with bloodthirsty ruthlessness until 1991. This is actually a complex that you pay an entry fee to get into the grounds. The main obelisk is decorated with typical Communist gothic ‘heroic’ figures brandishing guns and ploughshares. It is an absolutely grotesque romantic depiction of the enslavement of a nation. It is a must see to understand the bloodshed of over a decade and even bizarre depictions of the famine deliberately caused by the Derg themselves.
Open 7 days a week. The ticket seller finds you. There is no ticket office. Just walk up to the gate. They will give you a receipt.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
THE LION OF JUDAH MONUMENT - ETHIOPIA
The Lion of Judah is the personal symbol of Emperor Haile Selassie I. This monument was one of several unveiled for the Emperor’s coronation in 1930 in Addis Ababa. In May 1936 the invading Italian army occupied Addis Ababa and began to make plans to seize the monuments they liked to send back as spoils of war to Rome. They demolished several monuments to Emperor Menelik, who defeated the Italians in 1896. The Lion of Judea, despite weighing several tons, was shipped of to Rome and erected next to the large white Vittorio Emanuelle Monument in time for the 4th anniversary of the declaration of the New (Fascist) Italian Empire. A young Eritrean named Zerai Deres was marching in a parade when he realised he was looking at the looted monument, the personal symbol of his Emperor. The young man attacked and killed at least one Italian military officer with a ceremonial sword he was carrying. Deres was finally subdued and killed. From that day he has been known as an Ethiopian Patriot.
The statue was repatriated in the 1960’s while Emperor Haile Selassie was still in power. It is made from black granite, so it’s very dark. No, it’s not my camera. There are images in relief of Haile Selassie and Emperors Menelik II.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
The Roman ruins of Volubilis are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site was first inhabited by traders from Carthago in the 3rd century BC. Volubilis became an outpost of the Roman Empire in 40AD.
Description of UNESCO:
"The archaeological site of Volubilis is an outstanding example of a town bearing witness to an exchange of influences since High Antiquity until Islamic times. These influences testify to Mediterranean, Libyan and Moor, Punic, Roman and Arab-Islamic cultures as well as African and Christian cultures. They are evident in the urban evolution of the town, the construction styles and architectural decorations and landscape creation."
"The archaeological site of Volubilis is rich in history, events, ideas, beliefs and artistic works of universal significance, notably as a place that, for a brief period, became the capital of the Muslim dynasty of the Idrissids. The town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun adjacent to the site houses the tomb of this founder and is the subject of an annual pilgrimage."Related to:
- Historical Travel
More Africa reading
Here are some of the books about or set in Africa that I have read. I hope I wil get around to writing a synopsis on each
Dark star safari Paul Theroux Theroux’s overland journey from Cairo to the Cape
Ukimwi Road Dervla Murphy At the age of 60 Dervla Murphy cycles from Nairobi in Kenya through Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia to Zimbabwe.
Visiting Rwanda Dervla Murphy More african wanderings by this well travelled Irish women.
In Search of King Solomon's Mines Tahir Shah
Caliph’s House Tahir Shah Shah is brilliant in discribing his home, the amazing characters he employs and the shops and coffee house of Casablanca.
In Arabian Nights Tahir Shah The story of Shah’s life and home in Casablanca.
Aboke Girls Els de Temmerman Temmerman the Belgium journalist tells the story of the abduction of 139 girls from a school in Lira District in northern Uganda by the LRA.
The Pale Abyssinian Miles Bredin The biographical story of an early visitor to Ethiopia who’s tales of locals eating raw meat were un believed back home.
My Kenya Days Wilfred Thesiger The last great explorer spent much of his later life in Northern Kenya.
Congo journey Redmond O'Hanlon The third book from one of Britain’s most amusing travel writers.
Venture to the Interior Laurens van der Post I read this just beofore climbing Mont Mulanji at the same time of year as v/d Post went but had much tamer time than he did, no flash floods, no leopards. It has been said that Post was a bit of a fibber?
Mountain People Colin Turnbull This is a sad book beautifully written by Turnbull about the Ik people of north eastern Uganda.
Forest People Colin Turnbull
Eating the Flowers of Paradise Kevin Rushby
Blood River Tim Butcher
Wizard of the Nile Mathew Green A disapointing read as Green tracks down Africas most wanted criminal Joseph Kony
Africa; Altered States, Ordinary Miracles Richard Dowden
Facing the Congo Jeffrey Taylor Taylor paddles into the Heart of the darkness
Swahili for the Broken Hearted Peter Moore I bought this book for 20p from a charity shop, possibly the worst 20p I ever spent.
Journey without Maps Graham Greene Greene walks through Liberia gets malaria and forgets to mention he did this trip with his cousin
Hashish Henry De Monfreid
Tribe Tom Stacey Goes on a bit does Stacey and not everything he says is corect but I enjoyed this memories of his time with the bakonzo people of the Rwenzori.
White Pumpkin Denis Hills This book is really of its time. Hills a lecturer in Makerere University at the time writes about his life in Uganda and about Amin who was in power when it was written, who managed to find out what Hills was writing before it got into print and for some reason Amin didn't like the bit about being called a black Nero; so banged Hills up and sentenced him to death by firing squad.
Man with a Lobelia Flute Denis Hills More wanderings amongst the peoples and hills of my favourite and most least visited part of Uganda the north.
Footsteps of Mr Kurtz Michela Wrong
I didn’t do it for you Michela Wrong Luckily the only book I’ve read on Eritrea is this one.
Its Our Turn to Eat Michela Wrong
Shadow of the Sun Ryszard Kapuscinski
Dark Safari John Bierman
Snows of Kilimanjaro Ernest Hemingway
The Shadow of Kilimanjaro Rick Ridgeway
Shooting History Jon Snow An enjoyable biography of the TV news presenter who started volunteering in Uganda and later worked there as a journalist and at one time even sharing a flight with the Amin and considered taking the gun from dictator’s holster to shoot him.
State of Blood Henry Kyemba
The inside story of Idi Amin’s Reign of Fear by Amin’s former Vice President.
Africa brew ha ha Alan Whelan Rides a motorcycle through the muddy roads of Africa but what I most enjoyed was Whelan’s experiences in village huts and local cafes is an Africa that I find all to familiar.
NOVELS ABOUT AFRICA
Fong and the Indains Paul Theroux
Jungle Lovers Paul Theroux
Matagari - Ngugi wa Thiongo
The River between - Ngugi wa Thiongo
Devil on the cross - Ngugi wa Thiongo
A Grain of Wheat - Ngugi wa Thiongo
Petals of Blood - Ngugi wa Thiongo
Concubine Elechi Amadi
Estrangement Elechi Amadi
Cockroach Dance Meja Mwangi
Going down river road Meja Mwangi
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean there are bottles floating with a message inside. The message is from me and asks the finder of any of these bottles to let me know where they find them. I have been doing this for years and only ever had 2 found – 1 in Venezuela and the other in Thailand. These pictures are from the Island nation of Cape Verde, of the West coast of Africa. Before I travelled to Cape Verde I laminated sheets of bright coloured paper with my message and simply put them in empty water bottles. I removed any labels and added a small amount of sand as ballast. Then threw them as far out as I could. Last seen – headed south. If you find one let me know!
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS
Want to see the final resting place of the 10 Commandments (The Arc of the Covenant)? You need to visit Axum, Ethiopia. Of all the cities on the ‘Historical Route’ of Ethiopia, Axum is the most overlooked. It shouldn’t be. What other city is home to the following?
• The Arc of the Covenant/original 10 Commandments
• The Queen of Sheba
• The golden crowns of Ethiopian Emperors
• The traditional city for all Coronations
• Massive Stelae over 200 years old
• Tombs of Kings
The other nice thing is that Axum is flat, easy to explore and has a relaxed atmosphere. It would be a great town to see just to get away for a few days.
Axum started as an ancient empire that started as early as 400BC. It was a land and naval power which traded across the Middle East and East Africa. Each king built higher stelae to symbolise their power. These also served as places for sacrifice with the holes to drain away the blood still present. The tallest now standing in 82 feet high. Legend has it that they tried to go too high and the last built crumbled meaning the end of the old religion. This would have had the effect of ending the magic around them and the King. King Ezana converted to Christianity around 300AD and his obelisk is the 2nd highest still upright.
The Queen of Sheba was born here (you can see here Palace) and travelled to Israel to marry King Solomon. Their son, Emperor Menelik, retuned as the first Emperor with the Arc of the Covenant. Axum is considered the first city founded in Ethiopia and is the holiest city for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
You can see all the main sites in 1 day with a guide who will not cost a lot. There is an amazing amount of history to see here.
Ethiopian Airlines is the quickest way here and back and they have an office in town.
Please see more by clicking on: DAO's Axum PageRelated to:
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
MIRROR LAKE- MOZAMBIQUE
Lagoa Poelela (the name of the lake) is near Inharrime - a small town on the EN1 "Motorway". The most striking feature is its calm surface and fantstic scenery. It is one of a series of inland lakes that almost join the ocean between Inhambane and Maputo. Despite all the roadworks nearby, the surface of the lake is always completely calm and like a large mirror.
Just one thing.
Apparently the lakes in the area have a heavy mineral/sulphur content that makes the water more placid and produces the incredible mirror effects. It also makes one hell of a stink if you disturb the water. So if you stop for a close look or a pee, stay clear!Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
BROWN LEMURS (Madagascar)
Brown Lemurs are friendly and cuddly. These friendly guys are actually 'Red-Fronted Brown Lemurs' or Eulemur Rufus. It’s a little hard to tell the difference between the males and females because they are the same size. A give-away that it’s a female is when they are carrying a baby (last picture). These cute little guys live for up to 30 years and they definitely love bananas. They also eat fruit, flowers, leaves, bark, sap, soil, insects, centipedes and millipedes. Obviously they are not picky eaters. They live in mixed groups of 13-18. Females have a gestation period of 130 days and give birth to 1-2 babies between August and October.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- National/State Park
THE FRIENDLY REPTILE CENTER (MADAGASCAR)
Ok, reptiles may not be for you, but this place is a natural wonder. The MADAGASCAR EXOTIC (REPTILE FARM) actually breeds a variety of reptiles and insects. This means you can see great examples of truly exotic fauna all in one place very quickly. You would need months to see all these varieties in the wild. Some of the chameleons are truly exceptional and unique. Some are brightly coloured, others blend in with the environment. You would truly miss out on seeing half of the natural diversity of Madagascar without a visit to this remarkable place.
The center is also knows as Réserve Peyrieras, after it's founder, Mr. Peyrieras. They are open 7 days a week from 7 am to 6 pm and it costs less than $5 (US) to get in.
Please click on the photos for a better view!Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
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