CoolTravel - Middle East and Africa

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Discovering the Middle East and Africa

Discovering the Middle East and Africa CoolTravel powered by Kempinsk i

Discovering the Middle East and Africa CoolTravel powered

!"#"$%"& Creative Minds Anouk Pappers & Maarten Schäfer Design Lonneke Beukenholdt & Laura van As, Blikveld Chief editor Francesca de Châtel Initiator at Kempinski Roland Obermeier Coordinator at Kempinski Angela Wu Publisher CoolTravel CoolBrandsHouse #5 AMSTERDAM Printing Printer Trento Srl - ITALIA ISBN [hard cover] ISBN [soft cover] © CoolTravel and Kempinski All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. This book can be ordered at and Please note that names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

by Kempinsk i

United Arab Emirates Page 10 - 27

Djibouti Page 212 - 227

Jordan P.100

Egyp t P.150

Chad Page 228 - 273

Bahrain P.50 Qatar P.28 UAE P.10


Chad P. 2 2 8 D jib o u ti P. 2 1 2

Namibia Page 274 - 299

Qatar Page 28 - 49 Ta n z a n i a P. 3 1 2 Bahrain Page 50 - 99

Jordan Page 100 - 149

Egypt Page 150 - 211

Nam ib ia P. 2 7 4

Tanzania Page 312 - 327

'**/(&4+-/+,5(2-/*.+6-#-3* We touch down at Abu Dhabi Airport in the late afternoon. Our personal driver Ahmed is waiting for us at the arrivals, dressed in an impeccable uniform and carrying a sign with our names on it. “Welcome to Abu Dhabi,” he says. “Your car is waiting.” Two porters take our suitcases; all we have to do is follow Ahmed outside where a white Rolls Royce is waiting for us. This is a perfect start. We drive to the Emirates Palace where we have a meeting with CEO Reto Wittwer and Ulrich Eckhardt, President for the Kempinski Hotels throughout the Middle East and Africa. We pass the newly built Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which looks like it is floating in the air in the light of the setting sun. The reason we are here is CoolTravel, a project we launched several years ago with the aim of writing about cool travel destinations. This soon evolved into ‘destination branding’ and then ‘storytelling for destinations’. So our job is to travel the world, take pictures, write stories and publish them in our series of CoolTravel books. Last year, we gave the Kempinski group’s Roland Obermeier a copy of one of our books at the World Travel Market in London. “How about making a book about the Kempinski destinations in the Middle East and Africa?” Roland suggested. “Well Roland,” we said. “We would have to think about that... for about two seconds! Let’s do it!” Three months later, we’re rolling up to the Emirates Palace where we receive a warm welcome in Arab style with coffee and a cold towel. “Your mission is to do what you do best: travel, take pictures and write stories,” Ulrich says. “Kempinski will give you ground support. Not only five-star hospitality, but also in-depth local knowledge.” We nod as we take a sip of our caffè latte. “We would like you to write the personal story of two travellers discovering the Middle East and Africa,” Reto continues. “It has to be aspirational – something our guests can identify with.” We take another sip of our caffè latte and nod. “Our hotels are all different, a collection of individuals – like our guests,” Ulrich adds. “And when you are in Djibouti, try to swim with a whale shark.” “And try to ‘capture’ a lion in Etosha,” Reto adds, “and go to Petra when you’re in Aqaba.” “Thank you, gentlemen,” we reply, “but can we finish our caffè latte first?” Love & Vision, Maarten and Anouk

P re v i o u s p a g e - E m i r a t e s P a l a c e

A bu Dh abi We s t a y e d a t E m i r a t e s P a l a c e H o t e l i n A b u D h a b i . w w w. k e m p i n s k i . c o m / e m i r a t e s p a l a c e D o y o u t h i n k y o u h a v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f A b u D h a b i ? S h a re t h e m w i t h u s a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s


7%*(8%+9-:*)+'".;<* You can’t go to Abu Dhabi without paying a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque. Known as the Grand Mosque, this edifice is on a different scale to anything else you will see in the UAE. With 80 marble-covered domes, 1,192 columns, and minarets rising to a height of 107 metres, it is one of the largest mosques in the world. The materials and design features used in the prayer spaces and courtyards were brought from around the world. The Grand Mosque has a mystical air about it, both in the daytime and when it is lit up at night. The marble-covered courtyard can accommodate 30,000 worshippers, while the prayer hall itself has the capacity to hold another 14,000 people. All details have been thought out and carefully incorporated into the design. As an example: the Italian marble that covers the courtyard stays cool even in the stifling Abu Dhabi summers so that visitors can still walk and sit on it. Women have to wear an abaya and cover their hair before entering the premises, so there I go. Being dressed in this way is a new sensation for me, but also makes the experience more authentic as it is the same veil worn by the women who come here to pray. Mohammed, an Emirati student and volunteer guide at the mosque, offers to show us around. He explains why women and men pray separately in a mosque – something I always wonder about when I see prayer spaces for men and women or spaces divided by folding screens. According to Mohammed, it is because in Islam worshippers sit close together when they pray, often with their feet and shoulders touching, in order to ward off any evil spirits that might slip between them. If men and women were to pray in the same space, men would be more easily distracted and would not devote their full attention to the prayer ritual. Now I understand, !"#$%&' Mohammed!


Abu Dha bi

=%*+>-./+?-&* One of Abu Dhabi’s most exciting projects is the development of a multi-billiondollar cultural district like no other in the Arab world. Construction is in full swing and by 2012 visitors will be able to marvel at masterpieces from the Guggenheim and the Louvre in spaces designed by world-class architects like Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel. We’re not going to sit on the beach till 2012 though, so in the meantime we decide to visit the Yas Marina Circuit, where the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held every year. Situated on a man-made island about 30 minutes from the city, the track is the Arabian version of Monaco, with several long straights and 21 corners. We wander around the track’s backstage area where we meet Steve, a safety car pilot. “I can take you for a few laps if you’re up for it,” he says. He hands me a helmet and I follow him through the ‘stables’ where Ferraris, Porsches and even a Dodge Viper are lined up ready for action. Just as I start getting excited about what car Steve will pick, we stop in front of a Nissan. “Make no mistake!” Steve says. “This baby has a six-cylinder, 3.8L motor and reaches top speeds of over 300kph.” We get into the car and as soon as Steve starts the engine I realise that this is not just a car with go-faster stripes and a spoiler. “Ready for take-off?” he asks. “Never been more ready!” I reply. Poor Steve probably thinks I’ve never been in a fast car before. The engine roars as the car eases its way from the garage on to the pit stop. As soon as we hit the circuit the car picks up speed and I am pushed back into my seat. The first lap is fast but smooth. “Cool,” I say. “Wait,” Steve says. “You ain’t see nothing yet,” and he pushes the accelerator to the limit. The car rockets down the straight, powers past the grandstand in a few seconds and approaches the next corner. The speedometer’s pointer has hit 270kph and the curve is just 200 metres ahead. That’s when Steve slams on the brakes. The car slows down to 60kph for a few instants, but even as we are entering the curve Steve steps on the accelerator again to build up speed before the next curve. After the third lap, Steve pulls up on to the pit stop. The car stops, but I notice that the circuit is still moving. As I get out I also realise my vision is blurred and I lean against the car for support. “Are you okay?” Steve asks. 15

“Fine, never felt better!” I lie. “It was mind-blowing! But next time I’m in Abu Dhabi I might visit the Guggenheim instead.”

L e f t - Vi e w o f t h e Ya s r a c e t r a c k

A bu Dh abi

@(2)(*.+-&)+@<AA#*. As we have breakfast overlooking the Arabian Gulf, we wonder what will be on the programme for today. It’s not our first time in Abu Dhabi, and we know from experience that there are always new things to discover in this rapidly growing metropolis. If your idea of Abu Dhabi is desert and a couple of lost camels, think again! Yesterday we tested the new Formula 1 racetrack; the day before we visited the impressive Sheikh Zayed Mosque. What shall we do today? A safari tour with dinner in the dunes? Or a visit to the Gold Souk with a stroll down the Corniche? “I have a better idea,” says Nareena, who just joined us for breakfast. “The Abu Dhabi PGA Golf Championship is on! We should go and watch the game and hang out at the golf club!” Nareena works for the Emirates Palace Hotel, one of the tournament sponsors. Through her we can get easy access to the tournament and even get into the VIP area. An hour later we’re on our way to the golf club on the other side of town, speeding along in a sleek Maybach limousine. Arriving in a Maybach is our ticket in – no one even asks to see our entry passes. “(")&'*+&*!&")&', welcome to the Abu Dhabi PGA Golf Championship,” is all that the guards at the door say with a polite bow.


We cross the falcon-shaped clubhouse and make our way to the VIP lodges from where we have a great view of hole number 9. It’s a par-five, which means that it takes the players on average five strokes to get the ball from the tee into the put. We head out to watch the players and admire their skill: incredible swings, awesome approaches, amazing puts and lots of birdies. It all looks so easy from a distance… At the clubhouse, we mingle with a cosmopolitan crowd who are sipping champagne and sampling the local cuisine. This is clearly not only about golf; networking is just as important at this event. The guests are talking to old acquaintances and business relations, making new contacts and expanding their already vast international network. The saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is certainly valid in Abu Dhabi. As we return to the clubhouse after our stroll on the field, Nareena rushes up to us with an air of excitement. “Did you see it?” she asks. “Did you see the hole-inone?” She explains that as a sponsor, the Emirates Palace has created a special prize for every hole-in-one. “We just gave away a lifetime of one-week-a-year stays in a Diamond room at the Emirates Palace!” As the last flights are coming in, we head to the main clubhouse area and I can’t help but wonder if the final score would be in favour of the birdies or the bubbles...

Bo tto m l eft - T he club hous e of the A b u D hab i G ol f C l ub

Abu Dha bi

0B5-&+7/<) We arrive in the emirate of Ajman to find that the prestigious Arabian Horse Show has just ended. However, Doaa, our friend at the Kempinski Hotel Ajman, tells us she knows the director of Ajman Stud, the stables of Ajman’s Crown Prince Sheikh Ammar, and that she will try to arrange a visit for us. The next day we head off into the desert to visit the stud farm, which is like an oasis in the midst of endless sand dunes. Arabian horses are reputed to be the most beautiful in the world and so we are excited to see Ajman’s collection of prizewinning steeds. Upon arrival, general manager Khalid welcomes us with a traditional coffee ceremony before showing us around the grounds. The stables look like a five-star horse hotel: spacious boxes with views of the desert and a vegetable garden where they grow carrots, lettuce and alfalfa for the horses. Ajman Stud has more than 70 horses, including numerous international prizewinners. Escape, the white stallion featured on the right page, was one of the stars of the recent horse show. Now that we see them with our own eyes, we understand why they say Arabian horses were created by Allah. They are proud, beautiful and elegant beings. After our tour of the grounds Khalid shows us the trophy cabinet – though ‘cabinet’ is perhaps not the right word as the collection of cups, medals, ribbons and wreaths takes up three entire rooms. Sheikh Ammar’s passion for Arabian horses is clearly paying off...


Previous page - Thomson Gazelles belonging to Ajman’s Crown Prince Sheikh Ammar Ri g ht - T he famo us s tal l i on Es cap e

Ajma n We stayed at Kempi n s k i H o t e l A j m a n . / a j m a n Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f A j m a n ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

C*.*2/+D"-)+/"+'-.1</ We could of course have stayed at the hotel and lounged around on the beach enjoying the mild winter sun and the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, but you can’t really call that ‘discovering Ajman’. We decide to take a trip to the oasis of Masfut, a small town in the mountainous east of the emirate of Ajman near the border with Oman. The road cuts straight through the emptiness of the orange sand dunes with only the occasional herd of wild camels to break the stillness. As we draw nearer to our destination the landscape changes: mountains loom in the distance and acacia trees dot the landscape. It also becomes clear why we have a four-wheel drive: as we enter Masfut the tarmac ends and we are hobbling over unpaved tracks to reach the historic fort that rises 200m above the town. From here we get a good view of the place: with just 6,000 inhabitants it is not large, but each house has a garden with date trees and greenery. Masfut is a popular holiday resort for Ajmanis fleeing the stifling heat of the city in search of cooler mountain air. We receive a warm welcome from the principal of Masfut municipality, who not only serves up traditional coffee, but also fresh fruit juice, water from the local spring, almonds and dates. He tells us about the key sights in the oasis and organises for a guide to show us around. The English teacher from the local school serves as our translator. Authenticity rules here in Masfut, with the old fort, the dam, the traditional village and the Arab hospitality. After our tour of the sights we head into the mountains beyond the village where we stumble upon a miniature canyon with waterfalls and rock pools. So this is the pride of Masfut! The town’s spring water is famous for its fresh taste and is even being bottled at a small plant up the road. And it is of course also what the principal of Masfut had offered us to drink!


Left - The fort of Masfut Top and middle right - The Masfut region

A jm an

C<A-(+7<$*2#-/(E* Driving through Dubai is like leafing through ,"-*.#/''-!!*011$*12*31%)4*5-61%4!. The biggest shopping mall, the biggest dancing fountain, the biggest indoor ski slopes; if it ain’t larger than life, you’re probably not in Dubai. We decided to shoot for the stars: Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. A few thousand years ago you had to go to Giza, Egypt, to find the tallest manmade structure. The Great Pyramid was about 140 metres high and held the world record for over 4,000 years. In 1889 however, Gustav Eiffel designed his iconic tower for the 1889 Paris World Fair, the first structure to exceed 300 metres. But the ooh-la-las would not last long, because in the 1930s New York was gearing up for another whopper: the Empire State Building stacks more than 100 floors up to 400+ metres, a considerable feat that even King Kong could not ignore. Another 40 years later the ball was in Asia’s court, as the Taipei 101 shattered New York’s record with its ballsy 500 metres of towering glass and concrete. Leave it to Dubai to raise the bar once and for all. Burj Khalifa has 160 storeys, reaching the soaring height of 828 metres. Yeah, we know. Most impressive! The building is part of the two-square-kilometre flagship development along Sheikh Zayed Road called Downtown Burj Khalifa. We enter the building through the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall of course. In less than a minute we rocket smoothly from the ground floor to the highest observation deck on earth at 442 metres. The Burj Khalifa elevators firmly hold the world record of fastest elevators in the world. And did we mention that Burj Khalifa holds two other world records? It has the world’s highest mosque on the 158th floor and the highest swimming pool on the 76th. To infinity and beyond! Needless to say, the view is also incredible. On one side we see the whole of Dubai, a fast-paced metropolis of steel and glass. We can see as far as the Palm Jumeirah Island, where the new Kempinski Hotel & Residences Palm Jumeirah is. The 360-degree walk around the Burj takes some time, as we hop from telescope to telescope to check out all sides of the city. To the east, the edge of the sprawling city comes into focus through the looking glass, slowly giving way to the mighty desert where sand, heat and stars rule supreme. Even from up here, it looks huge. Could it be the biggest desert in the world? We wouldn’t be surprised. 26

After all, this is Dubai Superlative.

Previous page - Bur j K h a l i f a , t h e h i g h e s t b u i l d i n g i n t h e w o r l d Top left - A Fer nand o B o t e ro s c u l p t u re w i t h B u r j K h a l i f a i n t h e b a c k g ro u n d Bottom left - A view o n D u b a i f ro m t h e 1 2 6 t h f l o o r o f B u r j K h a l i f a Ri g ht - A vi ew o n th e B urj K hal i f a M ari na

Dubai We stayed at Hotel & R e s i d e n c e s P a l m J u m e i r a h i n D u b a i . Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f D u b a i ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s



As we check into Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, we have no idea that our image of a ski holiday is about to change forever. We follow our personal butler through a regular hotel room door and bam! Suddenly we are in Switzerland, settling into our Swiss chalet that comes complete with wooden ceilings, a fireplace and a view of the slopes - and just five minutes ago we were in the 30˚C heat of Dubai! Our ‘chalet’ is in fact a three-storey apartment, with two staircases leading up from the hallway to a mezzanine with two bedrooms off it. From here another set of steps leads to a luxurious master bedroom that is about as big as an apartment all on its own. No time to unpack; we’re headed straight for the slopes! Within half an hour we’re all kitted out in ski gear and zooming over the fresh snow on a nearly empty piste - totally surreal! We’re skiing down an 85-metre hill in the middle of one of the biggest shopping malls in the world in the Arabian Gulf - it’s wild! Back in our chalet we settle down to a gourmet meal and discover that even better than skiing down the slopes ourselves, is to watch others tackle the white mass looming in front of them. Many of them are first-time skiers and it is fun to watch them fumbling their way down the slope!

L e f t - Vi e w f ro m t h e s k i c h a l e t o n t o t h e s k i s l o p e To p r i g h t - Vi e w o n t h e M a l l o f t h e E m i r a t e s m e t ro s t a t i o n B ottom ri ght - I ns i d e of the S ki C hal et

Du bai We s t a y e d a t K e m p i n s k i H o t e l M a l l o f t h e E m i r a t e s i n D u b a i . w w w. k e m p i n s k i . c o m / d u b a i D o y o u t h i n k y o u h a v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f D u b a i ? S h a re t h e m w i t h u s a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

0A<+!-5*2-+ Etiquette is an important part of Emirati culture and we found that locals really appreciated it when we adopted some of their customs. For the coffee addicts among us – particularly those who are trying to cut down on their caffeine intake – it is handy to know that if you have a cup of strong Arabica but don’t want a refill, you should shake your empty cup before placing it back on the table. If you just put it down, you automatically get a refill, which can be tempting, but also dangerous as the coffee is quite strong. Emirati culture and customs are strongly influenced by Muslim tradition. In fact, Islam has grown to be more than a religion today; it is a way of life that permeates all aspects of society from dress to behaviour and language. One of the quirkier Arab customs we learned about during our stay in the UAE was the use of the word ‘Abu’ or father. If Adnan’s first son is called Odai, friends and relatives will call him Abu Odai as a sign of respect. The term Abu can also be used to describe someone’s habits or profession. In our case, Maarten soon became known as Abu Camera – which probably has something to do with the fact that he never leaves home without his camera!


Le ft - T h e o l d c i t y o f Du ba i Nex t p a g e - S h o e s h o p in th e Sou kh in Du ba i


C"%-+"&+F"<2+C-:+GH We are having breakfast on a terrace in Doha’s Old Town when we meet Charne, a South African woman working in Qatar. “What do expats do in their spare time?” we ask her. “Most people work six days a week, with a day off on Fridays,” she says. “There are things to do out of town: beaches, dunes and an old fort but most people stay in Doha and go shopping.” She explains that the air-conditioned malls are popular with expats, especially in summer when temperatures regularly hit 40ºC. She proposes to take us to Souk Waqif, the city’s traditional market made up of narrow shady alleyways and hundreds of little shops. We weave our way through the bustling crowd: shopkeepers enthusiastically tout their goods, customers inspect the pashminas, shoes and shiny handbags and old men sit in front of their shops drinking tea together – it is a fun, laidback atmosphere and we can easily see how you could spend part of your day off wandering around here. From the souk, Charne takes us for a walk down the Corniche, which runs along the seafront from the Old Town to the diplomatic district seven kilometres further up. Along the way we pass joggers and families strolling with their kids. By the time we reach the other end of the Corniche, another hour of Charne’s ‘weekend’ has passed. “Do you want to see the best panorama in town?” Charne says. “I work in one of the tallest buildings in town, the Kempinski Hotel & Residences. From the 62nd floor you get 360-degree views over Doha.” An hour later Doha is at our feet. “She was not lying,” we think as we identify the Pearl, a new, man-made island to the north, the Arabian Sea to the east and the Doha bay to the south. “What’s that white building on the southern end of the Corniche?” we ask. “The Museum of Islamic Art,” Charne replies. “They have a beautiful exhibition at the moment. You can go tomorrow if you like – but it will have to be without me, because tomorrow is Saturday, the beginning of my working week!”


P re v i o u s p a g e - T h e D o h a s k y l i n e L e f t - S o u k Wa q i f


0+I"<2&*:+=%2"<4%+J.#-5(3+ K(./"2: Our friend Charne told us that whatever we do while we’re in Doha, we mustn’t miss the new Museum of Islamic Art that opened in 2008. The museum is a flagship project of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, the emir of Qatar, who has brought together Islamic artefacts from across three continents and dating back more than 1,000 years. Built on an artificial island off the Corniche, the building has become a Doha landmark, an architectural masterpiece floating on water. With its stark geometric exterior, it looks like a cubist impression of a veiled Muslim woman. Inside, we are blown away by the spaces: light filters in through high roof lights, a broad staircase floats up through the central atrium and bay windows offer sweeping views of the Doha skyline across the bay. The museum’s architect I.M Pei – also known for his iconic Louvre Pyramid – designed the building when he was in his late 80s and travelled throughout the Islamic world to seek inspiration in Cairo, Tunisia and beyond. As we wander awestruck through the central atrium space we meet Aisha, a young Qatari art historian who works at the museum.


“I was just about to go and work on some of the pieces in the calligraphy rooms,” she tells us after we introduce ourselves. “You’re welcome to join. I’d love to show you some of our treasures.” As we walk through the spacious galleries Aisha tells us about her work. “What makes this museum special is that it brings together pieces from 8th-century Spain, 13th-century China and 20th-century Iran and that they are all very different, but at the same time inspired by the same ideal. It is really unique.” In the second-floor calligraphy gallery, she shows us a series of Korans: ancient manuscripts written in gold leaf, tiny decorated pocket books and large printed tomes. “For me, this is what truly reflects the wealth of Islam,” Aisha says as she leads us further through the museum. We see delicate porcelain figurines, opulent gold statuettes decorated with rubies and emeralds, but also items from everyday life such as bowls, dinner sets and perfume bottles. After more than an hour of browsing through the wealth of exhibits, Aisha says: “Let me show you something else.” She takes us out to the water garden, which has views over the Doha skyline. “This museum is a bridge from the past to the present,” Aisha says as she looks out over the modern city rising up in front of us. “It is a place where we can learn lessons from our rich history to use for a better future.”

Previous page - The w a t e r g a rd e n s o f t h e m u s e u m o f I s l a m i c A r t Ri g ht - T he i nteri o r of the m us eum Top left - The muse u m f ro m t h e o u t s i d e

Qat ar

=%*+':./*2:+"1+/%*+=2**+"1+?(1* We have arrived in the Bahraini capital Manama and are wondering what to go and see. We know that this little island in the Persian Gulf is famous for its pearls, and that locals traditionally made most of their income from pearl diving. When we ask our hotel concierge Ali which sights are worth visiting on the island, he pulls out a map from behind the reception and opens it up in front of us. “There is the Formula One circuit south of the city, but there are no races on at the moment,” he says, pointing at a dot in the desert. He pauses as he looks up to see if we are disappointed by this news. Of course he doesn’t know we just did a couple of laps on the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. “Then there is Oil Well No. 1 in the middle of the desert – the first oil well in the Persian Gulf, which was spudded in 1931 and where they struck oil one year later.” We look at the map and see that the middle of the desert is only 30 kilometres from town. “Cool,” I say, “that means it’s only a short drive away.” “And what’s that tree on the map?” we ask. Ali adjusts his glasses and inspects the map more closely. “That, my dear friends, is the Tree of Life,” he says as he removes his glasses and clears his throat as though he is about to embark on a public speech. “It is one of Bahrain’s natural wonders. It is a mystery where it draws its water from.” He leans over and with a meaningful look whispers: “The tree is estimated to be 400 years old! Much older than any other acacia tree – they only live for 150 years usually.” “Sounds like something we have to check out!” we say as we pack the map away. “Thanks Ali, see you later!” Armed with our cameras and a bottle of water we get into the car. “Driver, Oil Well No. 1 and the Tree of Life please.”


P re v i o u s p a g e - T h e O i l We l l n u m b e r O n e

B ah r ain

7%"$+?(8*+-+@-%2-(&(L+M"2.%($+ /%*+7<&+?(8*+-+,<2"$*-& We’re in Bahrain in spring and the weather is perfect. Not too hot, not too humid, and certainly a whole lot more pleasant than the freezing, snowy weather conditions back home. After a long lazy breakfast we head to the pool to soak up some rays of morning sun. We know we have to be careful though, because in a couple of hours the temperature will peak at 35ºC and the sun’s rays will be too strong for our European skin. Bahrainis never sit in the sun – instead, they look forward to the rare rainy days, which they consider a treat. When it’s sunny, they seek shelter inside – much like we do when it rains and snows back home. We ask our hotel concierge Ali where people go to get away from the heat, especially in summertime. “For business, people meet in the lobbies of major hotels,” he says. “For entertainment, they go to one of the cafés in the mall. Bahrainis love shopping.” As the poolside temperatures hit 35ºC, we decide to go local and check out Bahrain City Centre, a giant shopping and leisure complex with an indoor water park.


At the main entrance we stop to look at the mall’s floor plan: a giant Carrefour to the right; Virgin Megastore to the left; Starbucks is straight ahead, beside H&M and Zara. It’s like being in a mall in Paris or London – the only difference is the AC. We have a coffee at Paul, a French café chain, and watch people walking by. This is bizarre: the only thing that reminds us that we are in the Middle East is the people wearing dishdashas and abayas. Otherwise we could be anywhere… We sit back and reflect on the evils of globalisation for a moment. “The world is turning into a sea of sameness,” I say in a wistful tone. “Not really,” says Anouk, “because however global we go, on a sunny day, Bahrainis will pick the shopping mall and we will pick the pool!” And with that, we make our way back to the pool, where we get our friend Najib to set up an umbrella and bring us a cool drink. Even if those sunrays are harmful, we Europeans will always appreciate some heat in winter!

Previous page - Ed H a rd y s t o re a t t h e B a h r a i n C i t y C e n t re

Ba hra in

M-#8(&4+/%2"<4%+K(./"2: What do the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the Prophet Moses and Lawrence of Arabia have in common? They all passed through Jordan at some point and became part of its history. Driving through this country is amazing: from biblical sites to Crusader castles and desert fortresses, it is a historical puzzle. And when you are not walking through a biblical story, you are staring at the incredible natural scenery or admiring the beautiful view. The landscape changes every few minutes, as does the weather: it can be snowing in the capital Amman, while the Red Sea resort of Aqaba is basking in summer sun. We arrive in Amman, a rapidly growing metropolis that is spread out over 19 hills. Rainbow Street is the hip and happening area with trendy cafés and restaurants on every corner – great for coffee or lunch, or just to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. The city has a lively downtown area centred around the Roman theatre with buzzing souks and markets. We climb up Jebel al-Qal’a or Citadel Hill which offers views of the city. In the middle of the Citadel lies the Roman Temple of Hercules, with massive columns dramatically silhouetted against the sky.

The Citadel of Amm a n , J o rd a n

Amma n We stayed at Kempi n s k i H o t e l A m m a n . / a m m a n Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f A m m a n ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

After lounging in and around the Dead Sea for a few days we head back up to higher grounds. The road up from the Dead Sea is spectacular: from minus 400 metres we wind our way up steep gorges and narrow valleys to 1,000 metres in just 50 kilometres – a steep climb if ever I saw one! Here we join the King’s Highway, which runs from north to south and passes through spectacular mountain scenery. In antiquity this road was a key trade route for Nabataean caravans that transported valuable merchandise between Egypt and Damascus. And so here we go again, stepping into history!

De a d Se a

=%*+?"./+!(/:+"1+6*/2-+ In 1812 the Swiss traveller and orientalist Jean Louis Burckhardt was making his way from Damascus to Cairo dressed as a Muslim sheikh from India. In the area of Wadi Musa, in what is now Jordan, he overheard locals talking about an ancient city locked away behind an impenetrable mountain. He was dying to see it, but had to avoid looking suspicious: a true Muslim would consider such ruins to be the work of infidels and therefore uninteresting. He told his guide he wanted to sacrifice a goat on Jebel Haroun, the biblical Mt. Hor where Moses’s brother Aaron was buried during the exodus from Egypt. His guide was suspicious but agreed to take him, leading him down a narrow gorge, the Siq, only to emerge at the foot of an ornate façade carved out of the sandstone cliff – the Treasury. Burckhardt could hardly contain his excitement. He was almost sure that he had found the ruins of Petra, the capital of the once-great Nabataean civilisation that had collapsed toward the end of the 1st century AD. The city had been deserted and gradually forgotten until Burckhardt rediscovered it for the Western world. Having read Burckhardt’s story we are eager to see this magical place for ourselves. We are up at the crack of dawn and we are the first visitors of the day to enter the Siq at 6am. Being here all on our own is an amazing experience – we feel a bit like Burckhardt himself! We want to go further though, get off the beaten track and reach the Monastery, a shrine hidden away high up in the mountains on the other side of the site. What a climb! Silence, no signs, nothing, just us, huge rocks, buildings in rocks, some temple ruins, steps, canyons and the 360-degree views... Every so often we meet a lone camel or a donkey, but that’s about it. At times we are not sure we are heading in the right direction, but we carry on. The higher we get, the more spectacular the views. Looking back is incredible: we are crossing whole canyons.


We meet a Bedouin woman who says we are about halfway up. We hope she is kidding, but soon find she isn’t. We keep on climbing until we reach a point where the path ends. We look up and see the urn that rises on top of the Monastery peeking out from behind a rock – nearly there! We carve out a path between the rocks that still separate us from the shrine: down a bit, a sharp right – we are almost running to cover the last metres. And then there it is – unbelievable! A 50-metre-tall golden-red sandstone facade, carved from the rock wall. There is a makeshift Bedouin café in a cave across from the Monastery where we sit down. The sun is slowly creeping up in the sky and illuminating the monastery inch by inch – it is truly a magical atmosphere. Imagine the people who lived and worshipped here thousands of years ago... it is really awe-inspiring. The teashop owner pours us a refill as we continue to gaze and daydream. He smiles and acknowledges: “Petra is the most beautiful place in the world. It is not like heaven, it is more than that!” But then again, he never has left Petra in his life... Previous page - The Treasury Right - The Monastery


J&+-/+/%*+C**$+,&) Aqaba is considered to be the perfect base from which to visit the sites of Petra and Wadi Rum, but Alejandro, the general manager at Kempinski Hotel Aqaba, tells me it is also a great place for diving. He had his first dive here two years ago and since then takes every opportunity he can to explore the amazing corals and marine life. It makes me keen to give it a try. It is going to be my first dive ever and I gather the Red Sea is not a bad place to start! Alejandro calls Nabeel, his friend and master dive instructor, and before we know it we are in the Aqaba Marina putting on our gear. Nabeel gives me a brief introduction to the key principles of diving: the main thing is to keep breathing – seems fairly straightforward! We wade into the sea, put on our flippers and push off. Nabeel stays near the surface with me to start with, snorkelling along, while the rest of the group who are more experienced pass by underneath us. Soon we come to an area covered in beautiful corals and colourful fish. I want to go down to have a closer look so Nabeel helps me: one metre, two metres, three metres… we’re going down! It’s an amazing feeling – just keep breathing! As I skipped the diving lessons, Nabeel regulates our depth, which makes it even easier for me to enjoy the incredible fish and underwater scenery. Alejandro, his wife Yartika and Maarten wave at us from a distance and signal that we should come closer. They are motioning to the bottom, to an army tank covered in corals. It’s so cool! Fish are swimming in and out of it and even the tank barrels are still intact! Wow, I wonder how it ended up here... We slowly make our way up to the surface and snorkel back to the shore where towels and a large bottle of cold water await us. 7"#$%&' Nabeel! I spend the rest of the day relishing the memory of my first dive which will certainly not be my last.


Aqa ba We stayed at Kemp i n s k i H o t e l A q a b a . / a q a b a Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f A q a b a , P e t r a o r Wa d i R u m ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

?-N2*&3*+"1+02-A(-+ Wadi Rum is one of the most spectacular natural environments in the Middle East, a sandy desert with giant granite and sandstone mountains rising up to 800 metres from the desert floor. Famed for its natural beauty, Wadi Rum also has a special historical significance as the place from where Lawrence of Arabia planned his assault on Aqaba during the First World War. Our Bedouin guide Mteer takes us to the place where Lawrence is said to have stayed in Wadi Rum. It is a piece of desert like any other really, with a crumbling stone wall to ‘prove’ that Lawrence spent time here. The source that springs in one of the rock faces nearby has also been renamed as Lawrence’s Spring. With a bit of imagination I can see Lawrence hunched around a campfire with a group of Bedouin fighters, planning their assault on the Turks. Mteer invites us to drink tea with his family who live in a couple of tents in Wadi Rum. His father has three wives and Mteer has 25 brothers and sisters, most of whom work as guides in Wadi Rum. The family invites us to stay the night with them, but unfortunately our schedule is too packed and we have to pass on the generous offer. Mteer leads the way as we climb up the rocks above the camp. At a height of about 50 metres we have a magical view of the sunset which bathes the sand dunes in red light. It is dark when we drive back to the edge of the Wadi Rum nature reserve. We say our goodbyes to Mteer who makes us promise to come back and stay longer next time. It will be an honour!


Previous page - The d e s e r t o f Wa d i R u m


J&+/%*+>""/./*$.+"1+'".*.+ We take the boat from Aqaba to Nuweiba in Egypt. From here we move into the mountains where we reach the desert monastery of St. Catherine’s within a couple of hours. We prepare ourselves for the midnight walk up Mount Sinai, the same mountain Moses climbed a few thousand years ago to receive the Ten Commandments. We set off at 1.30am, together with our Bedouin guide Sobhe, slowly climbing up the rocky path that winds its way up the 2,286-metre mountain. There is no moon tonight so it is pitch-black, except for the light of the stars. Thankfully we have two flashlights to help us make out the path ahead. As we climb higher, we see small lights dancing up the hill: other groups of people making their way up. Along the way local Bedouins have set up makeshift tea shacks where tired walkers can take a rest and enjoy a glass of hot sugary tea. We skip the tea and head on: we want to pick the best spot from which to see the sunrise. We reach the summit after three hours and Sobhe takes us to a secluded spot right at the very top of the mountain – our own private roof terrace! After an hour and a half we see the first light breaking on the horizon. The sun creeps up over the horizon, illuminating the red rocks and bathing the whole landscape in a golden light. Finally we are warming up! We choose a different route down, taking the steps to St Catherine’s monastery. It is a lot harder than the way up, but the views are breathtaking! At the foot of the mountain we say goodbye to Sobhe and try to recall the Ten Commandments...


Previous page - Sun r i s e a t M o u n t S i n a i w i t h a v i e w o n M o u n t C a t h e r i n e Bottom left - St. Ca t h e r i n e ’s M o n a s t e r y

Egy pt

=%*+'-4(3+"1+!-(2"O.+@-P--2 After the quiet serenity of Mount Sinai and the Egyptian desert, arriving in Cairo is quite a shock to the system. The sprawling metropolis of 22 million is buzzing with energy, but also somewhat overwhelming and chaotic. We have arranged to meet our guide Eman at Fishawy’s, the oldest café in Cairo. Situated in a quiet side street in the old city, this place has probably not changed much since it was established over 200 years ago. As we sip our mint teas, Eman, a passionate Egyptologist, regales us with her tales of pharaohs, pyramids and ancient deities. “Tomorrow I will show you the pyramids and we will immerse ourselves in Ancient Egypt, but today we are going to explore the old city of Cairo.” We follow her through a labyrinth of narrow streets, diving into little hole-in-thewall shops and emerging through different exits into other alleyways. We turn left, right and then left again, and enter what must be the most magical bric-a-brac shop ever. The shelves are packed with trinkets and curios – from old postcards showing Cairo street scenes at the turn of the 20th century to family photos and mysterious amulets. Under the colourful lamps, necklaces and scarves hanging from the ceiling, we eagerly rummage through this treasure trove. We emerge with an ‘anch’ amulet, a hieroglyphic character in the shape of a cross with a loop at the top, which signifies eternal life. In ancient Egyptian tombs and temples, deities were often shown holding such an amulet. We ask the shop owner how much the small metal pendant costs, but as soon as he names a price Eman intervenes. A heated discussion in Arabic follows which looks suspiciously like an argument. But after some hard bargaining, they agree on a fair price and shake hands. The ‘anch’ amulet with magical powers was given to protect the dead during their journey to the other world. Just what we need!


Previous page - Eve r y d a y l i f e i n S h a r i a A l - M u i z z Top left - Lunch at F i s h a w y ’s

Egy pt We stayed at Kemp i n s k i N i l e H o t e l . / c a i ro Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f C a i ro ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

!-(2"L+!(/:+"1+-+=%"<.-&)+ '(&-2*/. After our visit to the bazaar we walk along Sharia Al-Muizz, a long pedestrian street in Cairo’s Islamic quarter that runs from the bazaars to the fortified gates at the northern edge of the medieval city. As we stroll past mosques, water fountains and historic houses, our guide Eman tells us stories about medieval Cairo and its inhabitants. Soon enough, her words have carried us away and we are no longer walking through a street but wandering through*8'-*,"1#!&'4*&'4*8'-*9/:";!.


On our right lies the Mausoleum of Sultan Ayyub, on our left we enter the 13thcentury Mausoleum of Sultan Qalaoun through an intricately decorated bronze door. The dark corridor behind it leads to the tomb itself, a tall space decorated with Koranic verses written in elegant calligraphy. Eman leads us back out and through the maze of alleyways to the House of Uthman Katkhuda El-Qazdughly, Cairo’s chief emir in the 18th century. The house is a labyrinth of corridors, staircases and interconnected rooms built around the central garden where we sit down to catch our breath. We imagine life in 18thcentury Cairo, a rich dignitary living in this huge house with his four wives and extended family. All the windows in the house are covered by fine lattice shutters which allowed the women to look into the street and the gardens without being seen themselves. We head further towards the northern gates. The call to prayer resonates above us as we pass the Al-Hakim Mosque. “We have no time to go in,” Eman says as she hails a cab. “I want to show you my favourite mosque and make it to the Citadel before sunset!” As we enter the Sultan Hassan Mosque, we see why she loves this space: it is vast, yet intimate and serene at the same time. “I love to sit right here, watching people or reading a book,” Eman says pointing at a spot next to a large door that leads to the mosque’s courtyard. As we climb up to the Citadel the sun is slowly setting and the sky is turning pink. At our feet Cairo is settling down for the evening and thousands of little lights illuminate the skyline. Truly, Cairo lives up to its epithet, the ‘Mother of all the World’.

Previous page - Mo s q u e o f S u l t a n Q a l a o u n Ri g ht - M o hammed A l i M os q ue at the C i tad el Top left - Sultan Ha s s a n M o s q u e M i ddl e l eft - Sul tan H as s an M os q ue Bo tto m l eft - Al H ak i m M os q ue

Egy pt

C*.3*&/+(&/"+/%*+6%-2-"%O.+ ="5A It is 6am as we head out of Cairo along the west bank of the Nile. “We’re not going to Giza,” our guide Eman says decisively. “That’s for tourists.”


Instead we are going south to the Red Pyramid in Dahshur, the first sheer-sided pyramid, which was built around 2600 BC. “We will even be able to go inside to see the tomb!” Eman says excitedly. As we stand at the foot of the 101-metre-tall pyramid, Eman explains that we have to clamber up the sloping stone face to reach the entrance, which lies at a height of 27 metres. The site is deserted and as we squeeze through the low narrow entrance we feel a sense of trepidation, as though we are about to discover a secret treasure. Half bent over, we make our way down the long steep corridor. After about 40 metres we emerge in the first burial chamber which is covered in hieroglyphs. “Here you can see the name of the pharaoh,” Eman says while she scans the walls with her torch. “And this passage is about his life...” “You can read hieroglyphs?” we exclaim in amazement. “Yes,” she says with a smile. “I studied this language for four years. Here is a list of what the king wanted to take to the afterworld. The ancient Egyptians believed that everything depicted on the walls of his tomb would materialise in the pharaoh’s afterlife.” We start wondering if she could be the reincarnation of Imhotep, King Djoser’s doctor and high priest, and the architect who created the first step pyramid. The first chamber leads to a second chamber, which in turn leads to a third, all connected by low tunnels. We are at the very centre of the pyramid – deep, dark and mysterious. This is how the first archaeologists who entered these tombs must have felt. After more than an hour of exploring we make our way back up into the world of the living and are welcomed by bright sunlight and dry desert air. We head for Memphis, one of the oldest cities on earth and the capital of the Old Kingdom. “Can we also go to the Great Pyramid in Giza?” we ask tentatively. Eman, who abhors anything to do with mass tourism, frowns but eventually gives in with a smile. “Ok, but only to take a picture of the Sphinx!”

Previous page - The R e d P y r a m i d o f D a h s h u r M i ddl e l eft - Ramses I I Ri g ht - T he Sphi nx at G i za

Egy pt

J&+/%*+>""/./*$.+"1+6%-2-"%.+-&)+ Q").+ Luxor’s Temple of Karnak is one of the largest in all of Egypt. Dedicated to the god Amun, his wife Mut and their son Khornu, the temple still exudes a grandeur that makes it easy to imagine how the ancient Egyptians worshipped their gods here. One of the guards takes us up a hidden staircase to a gallery from where we get a panoramic view of the whole temple complex and what lies beyond. We sit down on a low ledge and take in the vast surroundings but also the amazing detail. Those ancient Egyptians really were incredible craftsmen! Every little piece of stone is decorated with hieroglyphs and drawings that have been wrought out of the soft stone. It’s impressive. As I peer at the detail of some of the images, I notice that the kings are always depicted several times larger than the queens, who may just reach the height of the king’s knee. Women’s Lib clearly never reached Ancient Egypt! Wandering between the huge columns through the various temple spaces is like time travel. Any minute we expect to bump into a pharaoh or see an Ancient Egyptian priest pop out from one of the secret chambers. Certain parts of the temple are off-limits to visitors in order to protect the antiquities. But if there is one thing we have learnt since we arrived in Egypt, it is that everything is possible in this country. So I ask a guard whether I can take a photo in one of the ‘forbidden areas’, at the same time handing him a 5 Egyptian Pound banknote. This is called ‘baksheesh’, a form of tipping common between Egyptians that allows taxi drivers, waiters, doormen and guards at the Karnak Temple to earn something extra in addition to their meagre income. With a broad smile, the guard ushers me into the cordoned-off area. “Of course it is possible to take a photo there my friend!”


P re v i o u s p a g e - S t a t u e s a t t h e e n t r a n c e o f K a r n a k Te m p l e L e f t - I n s i d e K a r n a k Te m p l e

E gypt

>#"-/(&4+GE*2+/%*+R-##*:+"1+/%*+ S(&4.+

In ancient Egypt, the east bank of the Nile was the centre of life. The west bank of the mighty river, where the sun set, belonged to the dead. This is where all the tombs and funerary temples were built. During the Old Kingdom, the pharaohs were buried in pyramids in the north of the country; during the New Kingdom, they were laid to rest in the valleys on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, or Thebes as it was known at the time. The best way to get an overview of the vast Theban necropolis is from a hot air balloon. We arrive at the departure site in the early morning to find a dozen men preparing the balloon. They are using an enormous gas burner to blow hot air into a slack piece of cloth, which slowly takes on the shape of a giant mushroom. Then the cloth lifts off from the ground and starts tugging at the basket. Time to get in! The gas burner is being regulated by our captain, Mohammed. “First time in a hot air balloon?” he asks. “Mine too!” Apparently humour is the best way to make people feel at ease. A last surging flame from the gas burner and the basket floats up. Below, the villages are waking up. We see farmers harvesting sugarcane, heavily loaded donkeys slowly moving across the fields, children who stop to wave at us... We hear people talking and smell breakfast being prepared in the open kitchens. And in between these everyday scenes, dozens of ancient temples are scattered. We land briefly to visit the tomb of Ramses IX, penetrating deep into the mountain along a narrow tunnel that is covered in paintings describing the king’s life. The tunnel leads to the burial chamber where the king’s most prized belongings were piled up so he could take them to the afterworld. The wind has carried us beyond the necropolis and it is time to land. “There are two ways of landing,” Mohammed says, “the usual way and the Egyptian way. With the usual way, the basket is dragged across the ground over about 50 metres before coming to a full stop. But I’ll show you that next time,” he says with a smile as he smoothly sets the basket on the ground, the Egyptian way.

P re v i o u s p a g e - A e r i a l v i e w o n a F re n c h A rc h e o l o g i c a l M a n s i o n , L u x o r We s t b a n k L e f t - A e r i a l v i e w o n t h e We s t b a n k

E gypt



We are in Soma Bay, Egypt, and it is February 14: Valentine’s Day! Our friend Heckmet has asked us to meet her at the beach bar around noon. As we walk up to her she is smiling mysteriously and we wonder what she is up to. “Come,” she says, leading us towards the beach. A table has been set for us in the water! Two young men are standing beside the table, knee deep in water. “Welcome to our Soma Bay Valentine Seafood Lunch.” We sit down, our feet in the cool water, and Heckmet beams at us. “Enjoy!” she says as she walks away with a wave and a smile. While the boys serve us an aperitif, the chef wades up to our table with rolled up trousers; he has left his shoes in the kitchen. “I have prepared a seafood lunch for you. It will swim right onto your plate,” he jokes, pointing to the fish swimming under our table. During the Marinated Octopus the water reached our calves; when we ate the Stir-Fried Calamari it was up to our knees; the Seafood Hotpot was served with water at waist height, and now that the Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries are being served by our two personal waiters, the water is just under the table’s edge. And while there are no waves in the Red Sea, the occasional passing boat means we have to lift up our plate to make sure the strawberries are not washed away to become lunch for the fish. Maybe we’ll go and drink our caffè latte on the beach! While sipping our coffees on dry land, we meet ‘Mister’ Fahid, as he is known, who has been living here for years. “The weather is always perfect here,” Fahid tells us. “There are even days when I long for cold rainy autumn weather. “Then I close the curtains, turn on the shower to simulate rain, put the airconditioning on the coolest setting, and snuggle up under a blanket on the sofa to watch TV. The only thing missing is my mother bringing me a cup of hot chocolate.”

P re v i o u s p a g e - K i t e s u r f e r s i n S o m a B a y

E gypt We s t a y e d a t K e m p i n s k i H o t e l S o m a B a y. w w w. k e m p i n s k i . c o m / s o m a b a y D o y o u t h i n k y o u h a v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f S o m a B a y ? S h a re t h e m w i t h u s a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s



After two days of lazing about at Soma Bay, we’re ready for some gentle action. Nothing too strenuous – no hiking or trekking for days on end – just some light snorkelling. We meet Hany from Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay, who says he can organise a boat for us. Cool! Our own private yacht! We set out for the reef with Hany as the skipper and his son as the crew. We avoid the most popular snorkelling spots and throw out the anchor at a coral reef just a few hundred metres from the coast. Time to get out our snorkels! We dive in and look around for coral and fish. Neither are hard to find, and within seconds hundreds of fish are surrounding us. They are so close it is as though we have become part of the school, and we wonder who is watching who. After a few dozen metres we see a group of large rocks covered in bright corals, which attract hundreds of fish of all shapes, colours and sizes. What’s great about this part of the Red Sea is that the water is incredibly clear: at times we have a visibility of about 50 metres! Even better is that the coral here grows at just a few metres depth, which means the colours are very bright and intense. When we dive deeper down, the water filters out the light, making the coral that is six or 10 metres down look grey and colourless. 96

Back on the boat, Hany suggests we stay out for a bit longer to wait for sunset. He heads westwards and lets the boat float gently towards the setting sun. The sky goes pink, the sun drops down behind the mountains and then, as if someone flipped the light switch, it is dark. When we get back to the harbour, there is only one thought on our minds: more of the same tomorrow!

Previous page - Re d S e a c o r a l s

Egy pt

?-+@-(*+)*+Q%"<AA*/+T+0+?(//#*+ 6(*3*+"1+6-2-)(.* We’re sailing from Soma Bay in Egypt to Djibouti on Captain Maurizio’s 38-metre schooner. He has been sailing the seas in this part of the world for years and he knows the Red Sea and the countries that surround it like the back of his hand. His personal favourites are Yemen and Djibouti. Maurizio’s schooner has nine cabins and he regularly hosts groups for weeklong trips. The disadvantage, he admits, is that as the trips are short, he never has the chance to build lasting relationships. “This life may seem like heaven, but I do get lonely sometimes.” After three days of good winds we sail into the Baie de Ghoubbet and go down the Djibouti coastline. We pass several islands, including l’Ile du Diable, which is covered in hardened lava. The region here is volcanic, which is why the landscape sometimes looks moonlike. Maurizio lowers the anchor for some kite surfing and snorkelling. The Baie de Ghoubbet is famous for its depth and abundance of fish, but also for its good winds that blow 360 days a year, making it an ideal spot for kite-surfing fanatics. Some of the guys are already getting their kit on and before we know it they are hitting the surf and making impressive jumps. Back on the boat, a lunch of freshly caught fish, salads and bread is served. The combination of an Italian captain and an Egyptian chef is clearly a recipe for success: delicious food in the sun with a light breeze in the background – perfect! After lunch it’s time for siesta and we retire to the hammock on the upper deck. It is as though time has stood still in this piece of paradise on earth.


P re v i o u s p a g e - T h e B o re a s o f K a t h a r i n a i n t h e B a i e D e G h o u b b e t

Djibou ti

G&*+C"N&+"&+':+@<38*/+?(./U+ 7N(55(&4+M(/%+-+M%-#*+7%-28 We are sailing in the Gulf of Aden towards Djibouti. Our captain, Maurizio, who is a barista in his spare time, is standing behind his espresso machine preparing a caffè latte macchiato. Suddenly the calm is disturbed by one of the crew: “Whale shark!” Leaning over the rail of the 38-metre schooner, we scan the water’s surface but can see nothing but waves. “Whale shark!” the sailor calls out again and gestures towards the waves. Suddenly we see part of a tail fin emerging above the surface, slowly cutting through the water. We abandon our coffee and upon Maurizio’s directions Marco, an Italian photographer, and I get into the Zodiac with our underwater cameras and our snorkelling gear. The sailor takes us to the place where we spotted the whale shark last. Whale sharks are the largest fish on earth, measuring more than 12 metres in length and weighing up to 21 tonnes. There are only a few spots in the world where these animals gather to mate and this area off the Djibouti coast is one of them. “There he is!” the sailor exclaims and we see a shadow disappear under the boat. I put on my diving mask, bite on the snorkel and spend a few seconds considering whether it is a good idea to get into the water with a beast that weighs the equivalent of several mid-class passenger cars. I decide that a real man isn’t afraid of a couple of mid-class passenger cars and let myself fall backwards into the water. As soon as the air bubbles have dissolved and I have oriented myself I start looking for the Big One. The sailor has spotted him from the Zodiac and points: “He’s coming!” he calls out. Is that excitement or worry I detect in his voice? Marco and I start swimming, but I soon stop and just peer ahead in awe. An undefined shape is moving toward me and getting bigger by the second. Oh help, I am on a collision course! I distinguish a one-metre-wide mouth with two small eyes on either side. The colossus is swimming right at me and is only a few metres away. “Easy boy!” I think with all my might. I know these fish are plankton eaters, but I have no doubt that I would easily fit into this mouth that is the size of a garbage container. A metre and a half before impact the whale shark appears to notice me and dives down to pass underneath me. I walk my hands over his back, which feels surprisingly smooth. After about eight metres of fish I see an enormous tail fin coming at me – it looks more like the sail of a wind surf. As though he knows where I am, he steers his tail clear of me as well. Strangely enough, when I come up to the surface the world hasn’t changed... I just had a close encounter with a whale shark! “Wow!” I try to scream, but because I have a snorkel in my mouth it comes out a bit differently. I pull myself up onto the boat, fall onto the floor of the Zodiac and realise that I can cross one item off my Bucket List – one down, nine to go!

P re v i o u s p a g e - p i c t u re t a k e n b y M a rc o C a s i r a g h i

Djibou ti


>-<#/+?(&*.+-&)+7-#/+?-8*. The road is packed with hundreds of trucks as we leave the Djibouti Palace Kempinski for a two-day drive to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Our driver and guide Daniel explains that as Ethiopia is landlocked, Djibouti’s port is Ethiopia’s main access to the sea. Every day dozens of ships dock at the port and unload their freight onto trucks that immediately set off on the 900-kilometre journey to Addis. On our way to the Ethiopian border we make a detour to Lac Assal, a salt lake that lies 155 metres below sea level, the lowest point in Africa. As we skirt the Djibouti coastline, we pass a huge canyon that is known as the Afar Triangle, a ‘triple junction’ where three tectonic plates meet: the African, the Arabian and the Somali. The plates are drifting apart at a rate of several centimetres a year, so that the earth’s crust in this area has been reduced from the usual 100-kilometre thickness to just 15 kilometres. The result is that there is a lot of tectonic activity in the Afar Triangle including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – though hopefully not today! We continue our route east to Lac Assal, one of the hottest places on earth. Looking down on the lake from the road above, the salt looks like snow on the edge of the blue water. It is surreal! Lac Assal is surrounded by a huge ‘ice field’ of salt known as la Banquise de Sel. The 62-square-kilometre, 80-metre-thick mass is the largest salt reserve on earth. In the past, salt was used as a currency and the Afar people who lived around the lake were so rich that they could even buy gold with their salt. Today, all that has changed though: the value of salt has dropped dramatically and the Afar people work hard to make a living. Daniel asks Ali, an Afar guy who is harvesting salt at the lake, to show us the tricks of the trade. He shows us where they get the salt and how they process it. He also offers us a salted buck skull as a souvenir.*.&4*4-:#- – thank you, Ali!


P re v i o u s p a g e - Vi e w o v e r L a c A s s a l B ottom ri ght - The s al ted b uck s kul l N e x t p a g e s - D r i e d m u d a t L a c A s s a l ; Vi e w o v e r L a c A b b e

Djibou ti We s t a y e d a t D j i b o u t i P a l a c e K e m p i n s k i . w w w. k e m p i n s k i . c o m / d j i b o u t i D o y o u t h i n k y o u h a v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f D j i b o u t i ? S h a re t h e m w i t h u s a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

K-$$:+S().+(&+VOCB-5*&Chad has a chequered history marked by civil unrest, instability, poverty and, more recently, streams of refugees flowing in from neighbouring Sudan. Recent developments, however, are bringing the promise of a new era in Chad’s history. For the time being, however, tourism remains virtually non-existent in Chad, making it difficult for visitors like us to discover the country. At the Kempinski N’Djamena, we meet Zaid who gives us some interesting insights into the country. Half-Ethiopian, half-German, Zaid combines European efficiency with an African heart – a perfect mixture in Chad. He suggests we visit the SOS Children’s Village, which the Kempinski sponsors. “Spending just an hour with those kids gives me enough energy to face anything for the rest of the week,” he says. The village, situated on the outskirts of the capital at the end of a dirt road, consists of 12 houses, each housing 10 children and one ‘mother’ who takes care of them. Aged up to 14 years old, most of these children were picked off the street and have harrowing personal stories. In the village they receive schooling, proper medical care and regular meals. “But most of all it gives them the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment,” adds Abdelkerim, the village director, whom the children call ‘father’. We tour the village and are struck by how polite all the kids are, shaking our hands with a smile and a cheerful “Bonjour!” We meet some of the mothers and more kids who soon get used to our presence and start coming closer, touching us, smiling, laughing and playing. But as soon as we want to take a picture they freeze and start posing awkwardly. In order to dispel this camera shyness, we give them our PowerShot camera so they can take pictures of each other and of us. “I want to be a photographer when I grow up!” one of them shouts. After half an hour the kids are used to the cameras and we start taking portrait photos. While their young faces show signs of their past suffering, their broad smiles are little rays of hope for a brighter tomorrow for Chad.


Cha d We stayed at Kemp i n s k i H o t e l N ’ D j a m e n a . / n d j a m e n a Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f C h a d ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

=%*+7"<&)+"1+7(#*&3* We meet Nadja in the Namibian capital Windhoek and set out for the coast along a road which she promises will be spectacular. The landscape here has been formed over millions of years by drifting continents, volcanic eruptions, ocean currents and unabating winds. Namibia’s coastline used to be attached to South America, which means that we are right on the fault line that divided Africa and America. We drive through a varied landscape with vast plains, deep valleys and sweeping views of the mountains in the distance. So far we have not encountered a single car, only a tortoise on the road and a couple of grazing springboks in the fields. In a way it is no surprise: this country, which is more than three times the size of the United Kingdom, only has two million inhabitants. As we draw nearer to our final destination, the landscape becomes more arid. We are entering the desert, with sand dunes as far as the eye can reach. We leave the dirt track and drive into the desert for about half an hour until we reach a sheltered area below some rocks where two other cars are parked. We get out of the car and look around. Not a sound. The grey rocks reflect the orange glow of the setting sun. “Up here!” a voice echoes from somewhere above. We climb up the rock and meet Hilmar, who has come here to watch the sun set with friends. “Welcome to the moon!” he says as he shakes our hands and points to the plunging views over the valley and its bizarre landscape. “I brought some fresh oysters and champagne for the occasion. Get ready for the best sunset of your life!” With the sun behind the mountains and the sky still pink and orange, we follow our host over a steep hill into a narrow valley where some 300 candles in paper bags have been scattered over the rocks like stars. A desert camp has been set up in the clearing between the rocks. “How do you like my desert dining club?” Hilmar asks. Dinner is fantastic: great food, great scenery and great company! As we throw a last log on the fire, the candles go out one by one. We walk to our tent and I realise that I have never heard such a deafening silence, nor seen such darkness. Welcome to the desert! 125

P re v i o u s p a g e - S u n s e t a t ‘ M o o n l a n d s c a p e ’ i n t h e d e s e r t Lef t - On our way to the d es ert M i d d l e and b ottom ri ght - The d es ert d i nner and c a m p p la c e

Nam ibia

?(E(&4+C*.*2/ We wake up as the first morning light filters into our tent. We are camping in the Namib Desert, one of the oldest deserts in the world that was formed over a period of millions of years. At breakfast we meet Tommy, a sand dune and desert specialist with over 40 years of experience. “For millenia, the Orange River carried sand from the Lesotho Highlands to the Atlantic Ocean,” he explains. “Ocean currents transported these sands northward and deposited them on the shore to create these dunes. From here, vigorous winds drove the sand north-east. This ‘marching’ of the dunes continues today at a rate of 20 metres a year.” We head off in Tommy’s truck, in search of the life hidden in these sands. “It looks like nothing can survive in the desert,” he says. “But that’s a false impression.” Initially, we have no idea what to look out for. Then Tommy suddenly stops and jumps out of the car. “There!” he points. “Do you see it?” “See what?” At what we thought was a random-looking spot, Tommy rummages in the sand with a metal hook with which he draws out a sand-coloured snake. “A sidewinder,” Tommy explains. “It moves sideways to cross the loose desert sands.” He releases the animal, which glares at us as it disappears back into the sand. Soon after, we spot a poisonous scorpion going for a morning jog. As soon as we draw near he starts waving his tail at us. We suspect that tail wagging does not mean the same for scorpions as it does for dogs and keep our distance. Tommy catches the animal with one of his instruments and then takes it in his bare hands, holding it firmly by the tail. After a brief meet and greet, he places the scorpion back on the sand where it continues its workout. “Next comes an animal with a master degree in camouflage: the chameleon,” Tommy continues as he walks up to a bush. The animal, which had attuned its colouring to that of the bush, immediately changes outfit when Tommy places it on the sand. Tommy places a small beetle in front of it, which the chameleon considers for a while. Then, within a split second, it unfurls its tongue and scoops up the insect. Amazing! His tongue is at least as long as his body! After four beetles and two fancy dress sessions, the chameleon has had enough of us and ‘moonwalks’ back to the bush.


P re v i o u s p a g e - S a n d d u n e s i n t h e N a m i b D e s e r t Lef t - C ham el eon To p r i g h t - S i d e w i n d e r M i d d l e ri ght - G ecko B o t t o m r i g h t - To m m y, t h e l i v i n g d e s e r t e x p e r t

Nam ibia

>2"5+M-#E(.+@-:+/"+ 7N-8"$5<&) After exploring the harsh desert environment for two days, we emerge onto the Atlantic Ocean front. What a contrast – it’s like flicking from one channel to another. We have moved from the vast (apparently) lifeless sea of sand to a 100 percent liquid environment in the space of a just a few kilometres. From Walvis Bay we take a boat northward to Swakopmund. The captain is called Franz, a name that is not uncommon in this former German colony. He’s a real old sea dog and we spend the journey listening to his heroic tales of storms and shipwrecks along the Namibian coast. He points to the crumbling skeletons of boats stranded on the coast – they are constant reminders of the violence of the Atlantic Ocean. “I know the captain of that ship,” he says, pointing at a Russian wreck. “We meet in a local pub every now and then and polish off a bottle of vodka. His ship went down seven years ago and he hasn’t left Walvis Bay since.” The smirk on his face suggests this is just another one of his tall seaman’s tales. “Your story’s so touching, but it sounds jes’ like a lie,” I sing as I do my best Robbie Williams impersonation. As we gaze at the shipwrecks and listen to Franz, we have a strange feeling though… It is as though we are being watched. We look up into the cloudless sky and spot a huge pelican hovering 30 metres above the boat, eagerly eyeing our every movement. “I know this fellow,” the captain says. “His name is Wilhelm.” This is probably another one of his stories, we think as we watch the large bird. All of a sudden the captain is hanging over the railing, waving a fish in his right hand and making what are probably meant to be pelican sounds. To us it sounds more like the noise of a diesel motor with a broken exhaust, but the pelican seems to understand this language and swoops down towards the boat. The captain tosses the fish overboard, just in time for the pelican to catch it mid-air. Wow, a performance worthy of the Cirque du Soleil! The pair repeat their act several times, but as soon as the pelican realises that the bucket of fish is empty, he soars up into the air and heads off towards the setting sun. 130

N am i b i a

=%*+K())*&+7*32*/.+"1+ =N:1*#1"&/*(& From Swakopmund we drive north to Etosha National Park, a long drive, but with interesting stops along the way. We follow the shore up to the Skeleton Coast, which provides some dramatic scenery. From there we turn inland towards Twyfelfontein. Twyfelfontein – ‘Doubting Spring’ – got its name because of the unreliability of its water. The area around the spring is superb, with red rocks that look as if a giant with contemporary art aspirations moulded them thousands of years ago. But it is not only the weirdly shaped rocks; there is something else which makes this place unlike any other. We ask a local guide to show us around. She leads us up between the rocks and then stops below a tall red rock. As we draw closer, we distinguish carvings on the rock surface: a giraffe, a rhino and other animals. “These carvings were made by San nomads,” our guide says. “They are between 2000 and 6000 years old and were seen as spiritual, shamanistic and educational tools. Giraffes and rhinos, for example, were ‘rain animals’. The San believed that the more of these they carved, the more it would rain,” and a dazzling smile appears on her face. We discover an extraordinary carving of a man-lion, a creature with the body of a lion, but human feet and hands in the place of claws. Our guide continues her art history lesson: “This carving represents a shaman entering the other world at the end of his earthly life or during a trance session.” As we climb on we discover a map of the area carved into one of the rocks, with special marks indicating water sources and hunting grounds. “This was a way of educating the younger generations,” the guide explains. We study the map and try to orientate ourselves: if this mountain is in the south and the water source is there, then we should be able to find elephants, giraffes and lions to the north-east. North-east... Hold on, maybe they mean Etosha National Park! Etosha, here we come!


Previous page - The f a m o u s M a n - L i o n ro c k c a r v i n g a t Tw y f e l f o n t e i n Top left - Chameleo n o n t h e w a y

Na mibia

G</+M(/%+/%*+@<.%5*& We set up camp at the Kempinski Mokuti Lodge near the eastern entrance of Etosha National Park. We are here at the peak of the rainy season, which means the vegetation is lush and there is an abundance of water. Obviously this is great for the environment and the animals, but not for game spotting... When water is scarce, the animals are drawn to the waterholes, which means keen photographers like myself can basically just sit down and wait for the great shots to walk onto the scene. During the rainy season, on the other hand, animals can find water anywhere and the waterholes are deserted so photographers need to be a bit more creative. Especially when, like me, they want to shoot a lion – with their camera that is. I decide to call on Jan Tsumeb, a member of the Haikom tribe of Bushmen, who is a professional tracker. “When tracking a lion, you can see if the animal knows he is being followed,” Jan says. “If the front paw prints are close together, the lion is standing still. If the footprints are at an angle, it means he is looking behind him and has probably spotted you. And if the footprints are far apart he is speeding up.” Most worryingly though, Jan explains that if the prints suddenly veer left or right, <1# need to start looking behind you... I’m no longer sure whether this lion hunt is a good idea. Before setting off, I ask Shapaka, the best guide at the lodge, to join us as well. We’re ready for some serious safari action! As we drive along we immediately spot a group of zebras and antelopes on the side of the road, as well as a group of oryx on the shore of Etosha Lake. Then Shapaka stops the car and looks at Jan. “Shall we?” We form a single file behind Jan and walk towards the waterhole. “What are we looking for?” I ask. “Footprints,” Jan answers as he scans the ground. “See this print?” he says as he squats down. “A male giraffe, large bull, about five metres tall with beautiful, darkbrown-and-white fur.” We stare at the print in amazement. “You can tell all that just from the print?” By this time Jan and Shapaka are laughing out loud. “Not exactly,” says Jan. “The giraffe is right behind you!”

P re v i o u s p a g e - A g ro u p o f O r y x a t t h e E t o s h a P a n M i d d l e a n d b o t t o m r i g h t - J a n Ts u m e b

Nam ibia We s t a y e d a t K e m p i n s k i M o k u t i L o d g e . w w w. k e m p i n s k i . c o m / m o k u t i D o y o u t h i n k y o u h a v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f N a m i b i a ? S h a re t h e m w i t h u s a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s


!#".*+,&3"<&/*2+M(/%+-+?("& We’re out in the Namibian bush with expert tracker Jan Tsumeb and guide Shapaka and we’re on a mission: capturing a lion on camera. So far we’ve seen a giraffe, zebras, antelopes, but not lions. But we do find tracks... “From last night or maybe early this morning,” Jan says. “A group of about 10 lions, females and young males. They went in that direction.” Jan points towards the sun. As we start heading back to the car, Shapaka finds another track. “A large male is following the group!” he exclaims. After driving through the bush for a few kilometres, we emerge onto the open plain. “Stay in the car!” Jan says as he gets out. When we ask Shapaka whether it’s safe, he replies that Jan is a Bushman. Bushmen are at one with nature and won’t be attacked. “Also, the tracks show that the lions are not hunting,” he adds. “They’ve probably just eaten.” I sure hope he’s right. It doesn’t look like exact science to me. “They crossed the road not long ago, they are in the field somewhere,” says Jan as he gets back into the car. We scan the field as we drive slowly towards a waterhole, but all we see is grass. “Stop here,” Jan says suddenly. “What do you see?” We look from right to left and from left to right. “Nothing” we reply. “Exactly!” Jan says. “Don’t you think that’s strange? No zebras, no antelopes, no nothing?” It sounds like a trick question... Shapaka takes out his binoculars, Jan his senses and we our cameras. “There they are!” Shapaka exclaims. “You can see a pair of ears.” A single lioness slowly ambles towards the waterhole, followed by a young male and several others. Within minutes we are within petting distance of 12 lions. They drink from the pool and nonchalantly stroll past before disappearing into the bush. Amazing! What a catch! We’re all excited about the encounter, chattering away on the backseat as we pack up our cameras. “Wait,” says Jan. He’s the boss – so if the man says wait, we wait. We peer into the bush to see if the lions are coming back, we scan the field, but see nothing. And just as we are starting to wonder whether Jan is watching the grass grow, he points towards the edge of the wood. “There he is,” he says calmly. A huge male lion is walking towards us. He gazes at us imperiously before vanishing into the bush. “We can go now,” the bushmaster says.


To p r i g h t - L i o n f o o t p r i n t

Nam ibia

=<2A"+@*-./ I can see why the pharaohs revered cheetahs; they’re my favourite animals too. No living being moves like a cheetah, particularly when he is sprinting – those poor little antelopes on the African plain don’t stand a chance! Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, with the ability to accelerate from 0 to 103kph in just three seconds - faster than most sports cars. They cover seven metres per stride, their oversized hearts pounding ferociously. “We run them as much as we can,” says Kate, cheetah keeper and research assistant at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, 40 kilometres east of Otjiwarongo in northern Namibia. “They need the exercise.” We have come here to observe these graceful creatures and also in the hope of taking some good action shots. But they run so fast that most pictures only show half a cheetah whizzing by. “Could they run a bit slower please, just for the sake of a good pic?”

N a mi b i a

@(4+C-)):+-&)+J We have one more challenge ahead of us before we leave Namibia: conquering Big Daddy, one of the highest sand dunes in the Namib Desert, and maybe even in the world. We are accompanied on our mission by Alpheus, a desert specialist who was born and raised in the Kalahari Desert. “Our people are used to temperatures of up to 50 degrees,” he says. “We have sand dunes for breakfast.” Big Daddy lies on the edge of the Sossusvlei, a dried-out lake surrounded by tall sand dunes that is (very occasionally) fed by the seasonal Tsauchab River. We arrive at the site after a six-hour drive, covering the last five kilometres on foot. The dry riverbed is lined with ancient camel thorn trees that survive on the water they collect at a depth of 50 metres. “This way,” Alpheus says, pointing south. After a few hundred metres we arrive in the Deadvlei, another lake that hasn’t seen water for decades. Here nothing has survived and the trees are withered skeletons on the white cracked earth. It is an eerie atmosphere, almost like walking through a Salvador Dali painting... “There it is,” Alpheus says pointing at the dune, a towering 240-metre-tall beast. “Shall we do it?” he asks. The sun is burning hot, and the wind is blowing the sand over the dune’s sharp ridge which creates a dramatic ‘smoking dune effect’. “Ok... let’s go,” we say meekly as we look up at the mass of sand. The only way to climb up a sand dune is to walk over the long and winding ridge formed by the wind. With each step we take, Big Daddy resists, making the sand under our feet slip away. Progress is slow and the sun is beating down mercilessly. It all seems to have no effect on Alpheus who is hiking away at a happy pace. We follow at a distance, sliding our way up and trying to keep the sand out of our eyes and mouth. Halfway up, Anouk takes off her shoes, which are weighed down with sand. This is certainly not a walk in the park. After a 90-minute battle against the shifting sands, we finally reach the summit. Panting and spitting the sand out of my mouth, I look down victoriously: “Who’s your Daddy now, huh?” 148

Previous page - Dea d V l e i Top left - Three peo p l e w a l k i n g u p B i g D a d d y Right - Two people s t a r t e d c l i m b i n g B i g D a d d y, t h e d u n e o f 2 4 0 m e t e r s h i g h

Na mibia

C-2+*.+7-#--5O.+=(&4-/(&4-++ 02/+73*&*+ We meet Muzu in the lobby of the Kilimanjaro Kempinski Hotel where there is an exhibition of his work. “I mostly paint the people and scenes of Zanzibar, where I was born and raised,” Muzu, who has been working as an artist for 20 years, says. “The Tanzanian art scene is dominated by Tingatinga art: vibrant, colourful tableaux of cartoon-like animals and figures made with bicycle paint on canvas.” The style takes its name from the artist Eduardo Saidi Tingatinga who was born in southern Tanzania in the 1930s and moved to Dar es Salaam at the age of 16. “If you want, I can take you to a Tingatinga art centre where you can meet some artists and see them at work,” Muzu proposes. Fifteen minutes later we’re sitting in a taxi heading to the Oysterbay area. The art centre consists of a series of stands and corrugated metal sheds, selling a mixture of crafts, original art and some touristy stuff. The Tingatinga ‘studio’ lies at the back of the market in a ramshackle building where about 25 painters are working behind their easles or on the ground. We walk around, shaking hands and are welcomed with a chorus of “=&>?1@A*B&%/?#@” – ‘good day’ and ‘welcome’ in Kiswahili. Some of the Tingatinga artists are creating new works and applying new ideas. The other painters then copy the masterpiece, especially if the painting has been sold. As we stroll around, we stumble upon a painting which represents a school of sardines swimming in a tight circle. That would be a great acquisition for our art collection!


“It’s 50,000 shillings, but I can make you a good price,” the artist says. “50,000? Well I don’t like it that much,” I lie, and put the painting back. The bargaining begins: “How much do you want to pay?” “Maybe 5,000.” “But it’s worth at least 40,000, I worked on it for two weeks!” “It’s not my fault that you work so slowly, I’ll give you 10,000.” “I really like you, I can give it to you for 30,000.” “I like you too my friend, I’ll give 20,000.” “Let’s make it 25,000, so we’re both happy.” “Deal!” I say, as I give him a Tanzanian three-step handshake. Then I hand over the full 50,000 he originally asked for and say: “On second thought, I think it’s worth 50 after all!”

Previous page - A T i n g a t i n g a p a i n t i n g Top left - Muzu with o n e o f h i s p a i n t i n g s

Tanzania We stayed at Kilima n j a ro H o t e l K e m p i n s k i . / d a re s s a l a a m Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f Ta n z a n i a ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

'"<&/+S(#(5-&B-2"L++ 08-+K*2+K(4%&*..+"1+=-&P-&(-+ It is a 10-hour drive from Dar es Salaam to Arusha, a town with a view of Mount Kilimanjaro that is known for its vast coffee plantations. Along the way we drive through scenes of everyday life: kids on their way to school and commuters on their way to work. As we leave Dar behind us, the landscape changes and becomes more rural: small villages, farmers packed on to a tractor, boys on bikes fetching charcoal from the next village, and – most impressively – women effortlessly balancing heavy buckets of water or 20 kilos of wood on their heads. Near Moshi, 50 kilometres from our destination, we suddenly see tall slopes rising up ahead of us and disappearing into the clouds at a height of 1,500 metres. Could that be Kilimanjaro? This must be Kili, the six-kilometre-tall mountain, but we can’t see the summit! What a disappointment! Upon arrival in Arusha, the cloud has still not lifted and so we decide to hunt down the best cup of Kilimanjaro Kahawa in town. We stop at a coffee plantation and sit down on the terrace, which looks out over the low-hanging clouds. At least the coffee is excellent though! We get chatting to Christel, a young woman who just made it to the top – the whole 5,891 metres to Uhuru Peak! She took the most popular route, the Marangu route, which takes you to the summit and back in six days. “The last night and morning were the toughest,” she says. “Most people give up and go for the lower summit, but I was determined to reach the ‘Roof of Africa’. My friends back home didn’t believe I’d make it because I always walk around in high heels. Once I reached the summit I pulled my heels out of my backpack and had a picture taken!” “Respect Christel!” That’s definitely an item for our Bucket List. But right now we have a date with the wildlife in the Serengeti, so we start heading back. We take one last look at the heavy layer of clouds... “Hold on, look up over the clouds! No, higher, a lot higher!” The summit of Kilimanjaro is peaking out over the thick cloud cover. Her Highness of Tanzania has decided to reveal herself to us! (!&';-*!&'&, Your Highness. 156

Previous page - Mo u n t K i l i m a n j a ro Top left - Mount Kil i m a n j a ro Middle left - Coffee p l a n t a t i o n i n A r u s h a Right - Farmers wit h M o u n t M e r u i n c l o u d s o n t h e b a c k g ro u n d


C"&O/+'*..+M(/%+'-5-+ We are on our way to Serengeti National Park via Lake Manyara, a shallow lake situated in the most spectacular part of the Great Rift Valley. It is one of the largest waterholes in the area, attracting all sorts of wildlife including hippos, impalas, buffaloes and elephants. Our guide from Savannah Tours, Cliff, explains that the elephant population sharply declined from the 1960s onwards – from 640 to just 160 animals – but is today slowly recovering. He says that if we are lucky, we may see whole families of elephants today as the females have just given birth. As soon as we enter the park, we drive into a thick forest. We see warthogs, antelopes and dozens of baboons, but no elephants. “Be patient,” Cliff says as he points at a pile of droppings in the middle of the road. “They’re here alright.” Just as I want to tell Cliff teasingly that we would rather see an elephant than its droppings, the driver hits the brakes. A huge elephant is blocking the road, a male who has apparently decided that the grass is greener along the road. Wilbur – as we promptly name the elephant – is minding his own business and barely seems to notice our presence. We take advantage of his appetite to get as many photos as possible. Twenty minutes later, Wilbur moves on to the next course – tree leaves – and clears the road. “Let’s go to the lake to see the flamingoes,” Cliff suggests. Just as we pick up speed and turn the corner, the driver hits the brakes again and points into the forest. An elephant saunters out from between the trees and crosses the road right in front of us. “There’s more coming,” Cliff says knowingly. Another elephant crosses the road without even looking at us, followed by a calf. The little one looks at us askance, realises our 4x4 is not one of his sort, and scampers off to hide between his mother’s legs. In all, 24 elephants pass by right in front of us, including six calves. And then another elephant emerges from the bush, but this one is heading towards our car. She flaps her ears, shakes her head from left to right, sucks up a handful of sand with her trunk and blows it at us before heading off into the forest. Now I don’t speak ‘Elephant’, but I guess that meant something like: “Don’t even ;"/'$ about getting close to our babies.” A reverent silence fills in the car – nobody speaks, nobody moves... Then Cliff says: “Let’s go see some flamingoes!”

P re v i o u s p a g e - T h e h i p p o p o o l a t L a k e M a n y a r a

Ta n z a n i a


!7J+V4"2"&4"2"+T++ M%"+S(##*)+/%*+9*A2-W+ We are standing on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater, looking down into the 600-metre-deep, 19-kilometre-wide crater. It is absolutely breathtaking – truly one of the world’s natural wonders: a three-million-year-old volcano crater that collapsed under its own weight and has since become home to 25,000 large mammals. Unbelievable. 164

We head down into the crater, following a winding road with spectacular views. At the bottom we follow the track and see a group of vultures circling overhead, eyeing a large carcass in the grass below. Two hyenas are tearing away at it, devouring the carrion while at the same time chasing the jackals and vultures away. “Wait for your turn,” they seem to growl. Our guide Cliff says it must have been a zebra, and that it was killed quite recently. So there has been a murder! We have a body; we have a motive... The question is: who killed the zebra? How would Crime Scene Investigation tackle this? There are several suspects, including the hyenas, the jackals and the leopards... The hyena is unlikely to be the perpetrator, as it prefers eating carrion and rarely kills. The jackal? No, much too small... Could the leopard be the culprit? It could probably kill a zebra, but leopards usually drag their prey into a tree, where they can consume it in peace. The fact that we found the carcass in the grass frees the leopard from suspicion. This leaves only one possible guilty party: the lion. Lions can easily take out a zebra; particularly the females who hunt in groups and can corner a fast runner like a zebra. Let’s see if we can find the culprit; it is probably still near the crime scene. After polishing off a big meal like this, lions usually seek out a quiet spot to have a siesta. As we drive along, we see many animals, but no lions. We continue our investigation: we tail some buffaloes and try to interrogate some zebras, but they refuse to talk. And then, just as we start thinking the case may have to remain unsolved, we spot the culprits: a group of lions sprawled on the side of the road. They don’t look aggressive, but it’s probably best not to wake them to ask for IDs – especially since lions are not liable to punishment for murder in Ngorongoro. On the contrary: it’s one of their specialities – after sleeping that is. And with that, CSI- Ngorongoro declares the case closed!

Previous page - Vie w o n N g o ro n g o ro C r a t e r w i t h t h e l a k e Top left, left - Hyen a s d e v o u r i n g t h e re m a i n s o f a z e b r a


=%*+7*2*&4*/(+'(42-/("& When we decided to go to the Serengeti, the first thing that came to mind was the yearly migration of wildebeests and zebras: National Geographic images of crocodiles attacking wildebeests as they cross a river; shots of lions surveying the plain and helping themselves to whatever tasty morsel they fancy; and photos of hungry zebras in search of food. It’s the survival of the fittest – a tough, unforgiving world and now we are here to observe it first-hand. Our guide Cliff explains that since the migration is a cyclical event, we need to figure out where the animals are at the moment. “You can drive through the Serengeti for days without seeing a single wildebeest, and then suddenly there will be so many that you won’t be able to see the ground anymore – there will be tens of thousands of them on the move.” He says our best chance of seeing the animals is in the Olduvai Plains between Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. “The majority of the animals should be there before moving westwards and then northwards.” The Olduvai Plains are known as the Cradle of Mankind after scientists found the skeleton of a 1.75-million-year-old hominid there. “They call him the Nutcracker Man because of the size of his jaws,” Cliff says. There is not much evidence of this ancient history left today, but driving through Olduvai knowing what it stands for adds to the experience. Thousands of wildebeests are moving through the vast flat plain. Cliff explains that the animals do most of their trekking in the early morning or late afternoon; the rest of the day they graze and the young frolic around. The wildebeests move in droves: sometimes they stand around for a while, but when one of them starts running, the whole herd soon follows – real pack animals! It is an extraordinary sight, all these animals on the move, following the rains in search of food. They are like nomads; driven by hunger to cover the same 800-kilometre circuit every year in the face of life-threatening dangers. It’s certainly no walk in the park, the life of a wildebeest!

P re v i o u s p a g e - A g ro u p o f w i l d e b e e s t s c ro s s i n g t h e O l d u v a i P l a i n s

Ta n z a n i a


=%*+'--.-(+M(#)#(1*+!%-&&*# We wake up and have to remember where we are. It’s Day 70 of our trip through the Middle East and Africa and we have seen and done so much that we are starting to lose track of where we are. We open the curtains and look out over a savannah. Oh yeah, that’s right, now I remember: we’re at the Bilila Lodge in the middle of Serengeti National Park. The sun is rising as we walk from our lodge to the main building, where we meet a group of Maasai security guards. They tell us that they are warriors who are here to protect us from the wild animals at night. After all, we are in the middle of the savannah. “We do the same in our village: we protect the sleeping women and children and the cattle. If you want I can show you our village and the way we live.” In the village we are received by local teacher Julius, who teaches four-to-10-yearolds Kiswahili, English and maths. He gives us a little lesson in Maasai matchmaking. “Men marry at the age of 27, women at the age of 18,” Julius explains. “All 27-year-old men and 18-year-old women in the vicinity gather during a special ceremony where women choose their husband. The men perform a ritual dance and show off their strength by jumping as high as they can. The higher you jump, the more likely you are to be chosen. After the wedding, the woman leaves her village to live with her husband. The bride’s family receives a dowry of about 30 cows or goats.” In honour of our visit, a group of men perform an exuberant dance. “Singing and dancing is one of the most important social activities for the Maasai,” Julius says, which explains why we haven’t seen TVs in any of the huts. “I will show you our TV,” Julius says. We follow him along a trail and climb to the top of a rock where he tells us to sit down. We have an unobstructed view of the savannah and the setting sun. “We only have one channel: the wildlife channel,” Julius says with a broad smile.


Previous page - The h i g h e r a M a a s a i m a n c a n j u m p , t h e s t ro n g e r h e i s



7*2*&4*/(L+/%*+'"/%*2+"1+012(3-O.+ V-/("&-#+6-28.+ We have a 4am wake-up call this morning – pretty harsh, but there is a good reason: we are going on a balloon safari and have to be at the take-off site at 6am. It’s an hour’s drive through the nocturnal Serengeti plains. There are no street lights, only the stars to guide us. No morning joggers along the road either; only a couple of excited hyenas scampering along with us. And some hippos standing in the road looking perplexed at our early morning escapade. “Yes I know, I’m confused too, being up this early,” I think out loud. We arrive at the take-off site, an open space in the savannah where the balloon is spread out in the middle of a field. Our pilot Abeid takes us through the do’s and don’ts of hot air ballooning and as dawn breaks, we climb into the basket. Abeid turns up the gas burners that blow large flames into the balloon. “Hold on to the handles!” he shouts. The balloon is tugging at the basket. Abeid throws another flame into the balloon, but the basket is still resisting. Another flame, and there we go. “We have lift-off!” Initially, Abeid keeps the balloon at a low altitude so that we can get a good view of the animals below: we see giraffes, a big herd of buffaloes and a group of surprised baboons who stare up at us as we brush over the tree they are sitting in. We glide slowly over the hippo pool and take the balloon higher, over the river. Now we are heading straight towards a large tree in the middle of the savannah. “Lion!” Abeid shouts. We look down over the plain, but see nothing. “In the tree!” A lioness is stretched out on one of the lower branches overlooking the whole savannah – the perfect place from where to spot breakfast walking by. Wow, a lion in a tree... Never seen that before. After an hour Abeid effortlessly brings the balloon back to the ground and invites us to a champagne breakfast under an acacia tree. We kindly decline, saying we never drink champagne before noon. Instead, we rush back to the car and ask our driver to take us to see if the lioness is willing to pose for us!

Previous page - A t re e - c l i m b i n g l i o n

Tanzania We stayed at Bilila L o d g e K e m p i n s k i . / s e re n g e t i Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f S e re n g e t i ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

="<3%+C"N&+(&+7/"&*+="N& After weeks of travelling, we are leaving for our final destination, Zanzibar. A small plane is waiting for us at the airstrip in Seronera, Serengeti. It is airport heaven here: no passport control, no security checks and no queues at check-in. Just an airstrip, an airplane and Richard, our pilot. “Jump in, fasten your seat belts and I’ll take you to Zanzibar,” he says. Five minutes later the engine roars, the plane shakes and the runway slips away beneath us. “We’re airborne!” Richard shouts. “You can sit back and relax.” The savannah is shrinking below us: the animals, the trees and even the largest elephants all turn into small anonymous dots. As we pass over the Olduvai Plains Richard points down. “The migration, on the left!” Tens of thousands of pixels are moving south over the vast savannah. Some are zebra pixels and others are wildebeest pixels. Only a few days ago we were driving down there in a 4x4. After our stopover in Arusha I fall asleep. When I wake up, everything has turned blue. It is as if someone pressed the remote control and switched from the Savannah Channel to the Indian Ocean Channel. We fly over atolls, which look like small azure circles in the deep blue sea. “Prepare for landing!” Richard shouts. I don’t really know what he wants us to prepare, because we have no tray tables, the seats only have one position and we didn’t unfasten our seat belts during the flight. “We’re ready!” I reply. As we descend I start making out the little fishing boats off the coast. In the final approach to the airport, I take one last photo and imagine diving into the warm Indian Ocean. “Touch down, welcome to Stone Town!” We head into the old city where we soon get completely lost in the maze of streets and alleyways. We have arranged to meet our driver at Mercury Restaurant, named after rock legend and Stone Town-native Freddy Mercury. A group of kids leads us there and as we walk a tune pops into my head: “No time for losers ‘cause we are the champions, of the world!”


Previous page - Aer i a l v i e w o n t h e I n d i a n O c e a n Right - Aerial view o f S t o n e To w n


7-(#(&4+/%*+'-&4"+=2** After almost three months of travelling through the Middle East and Africa, we have arrived at our final destination. Time to relax! We check into Zamani on the west coast of Zanzibar and decide not to use the car anymore. We just want to hang out and enjoy Zanzibar beach life. We lounge around on the jetty and then decide to go for a walk along the beach as it is low tide. Along the way, locals are trying to sell knick-knacks to passersby. As it is low season there is extra competition to offer the best price. We are not interested in shopping though, so they have to come up with something more creative. “Have you ever sailed a mango tree?” a guy who calls himself Captain Alan asks. Of course we haven’t. “Come with me – I’ll show you how we sail the Indian Ocean.” We follow him to his boat, a traditional dhow with two floaters that will keep the boat stable. It is indeed a hollow tree trunk which can only just take four people. Alan ties the triangular sail to a large branch that serves as a mast. He pulls on all sorts of ropes and places a plank of wood in the water behind the boat to act as a rudder. Just as I am starting to think that this will never work, the sail swells up and the tree trunk glides through the water like a boat. There is a strong wind and we soon leave the mainland behind us. We sail out to the open sea, the dhow cutting smoothly through the waves. It is very different from any other sailing experience I have ever had. It is in fact more comfortable as the weight of the tree and the floaters means you hardly notice the waves – it is as though the dhow is at one with the sea. We sail up to the reef where we throw out the anchor and pull down the sail: a short swimming break to cool down. We have the whole Indian Ocean to ourselves! On the way back the wind has picked up even more and we reach the mainland in no time. I take it all back! All the doubts I had upon first seeing this tree trunk were invalid – what an amazing boat!


Tanzania We stayed at Zaman i Z a n z i b a r K e m p i n s k i . / z a n z i b a r Do you think you ha v e b e t t e r p i c t u re s o f Z a n z i b a r ? Share them with us a t w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / k e m p i n s k i h o t e l s

=%*+=%(&4.+'"&*:+!-&O/+@<: On our programme today: nothing! We’re going to walk barefoot along the beach, take deep breaths and soak up the scenery. Soon a local accosts us. “=&>?1,” he says, using the Swahili greeting. “Why are you walking so fast?” His name is Steve. “You’re in Zanzibar now where people take it easy, you know?” Suddenly we realise that what we thought was a stroll is in fact still a fast-paced, goal-oriented European walk. “We have time, so we do the ‘Zanzi walk’,” Steve says. “Look, like this!” He demonstrates the Zanzi walk, a slow ambling pace that is quite different from our Euro walk. We slow down into Zanzi mode and soon realise that our pace was also influencing the speed of our thoughts. We settle into slow mode and our minds clear – it’s almost like meditating. Back at the Zamani Beach Club it is time for a cool drink. One of the waiters comes up to us and introduces himself as Makame. We ask whether he has coconut juice, also known as ;#+/ here in Zanzibar. “Not on the menu, but let me see what I can do,” he says. He looks up in the air as if he expects a coconut juice to come flying into the beach club. But hold on: these are coconut trees! Makame disappears for a few minutes only to return with a rope. “Now I have to find the right tree,” he says as he wanders around the beach looking up. “This is the one!” he says after a while and walks up to a 15-metre-tall tree. We’re still not sure whether he’s joking or not. I run back to my deck-chair to get my camera and when I come back Makame has put the rope around his feet and starts climbing. He reaches the top within 30 seconds and starts hacking off several coconuts, which drop into the sand below. He puts his knife away and stays up in the tree for a few minutes, staring out over the beach and the sea. When he climbs back down he cuts a hole in the coconut, places a straw in it and hands it over. “B&%/?# and enjoy your ;#+/!”

P re v i o u s p a g e - M a k a m e c l i m b i n g t h e c o c o n u t t re e

Ta n z a n i a


J&+/%*+,&)L+J/O.+0##+ 0A"</+6*"$#*+ One of the great things about travelling is the people you meet. And we met a lot of people during this trip through the Middle East and Africa. People of all cultures, races and religions – each with their own personal story. People who received us in their homes, showed us around their country, made us breakfast, did our laundry and gave us massages. All the people we met are proud of their country and the job they’re doing. They wanted to share their enthusiasm with us and make sure that their place became ours too. In Petra, we met a Bedouin guide who said: “Petra is the most beautiful place on earth.” And when we asked him whether he had ever been anywhere else, he replied: “Why should I, I live in the most beautiful place on earth!” We experienced things that money can’t buy – for us that is the definition of real luxury. In Zanzibar a waiter climbed up a palm tree to make us a really fresh coconut juice; in Djibouti a whale shark swam with us for 15 minutes; in Tanzania, her Highness Kilimanjaro granted us an audience when she peeked out from behind the cloud cover for a few moments. Along the way, many people have asked about our most memorable or exciting experience or our favourite destination. Climbing Big Daddy in Namibia’s Sossusvlei, tracking a lion with the Bushmen in Etosha or looking down from the world’s highest building in Dubai? It is impossible to say: the experiences were too diverse, they are incomparable. But we have come home with endless stories to share, memories to savour and countless new Facebook friends from Abu Dhabi to Zanzibar. Each person we met along the way contributed to making our trip an unforgettable experience. Without them, it would have been impossible to compile this book. And so this is where we would like to say to them: thank you, merci, vielen dank, shukran, asante sana, gad degue, mahad cenid, baie dankie.


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