Category Archives: Africa

Exploring Marrakesh

Top 6 Places to Visit in Marrakech

by Alison Stone

Marrakesh or Marrakech, meaning Land of God, is a city lying in the North-Western African nation Morocco. The city is divided into two sections called Medina and Gueliz. The city has a large number of historical sites and museums for tourists and even locals to visit. The thing about Medina is that you can reach a lot of places on foot, even though the walk is long, you do not have to worry about paying for transport. So, if you decide to spend your vacations in this beautiful city, here are some places you might want to consider visiting:

Koutoubia Masjid

  1. Koutoubia Masjid

The Masjid is the symbol of Marrakech. This place is as important as the Eifel Tower is to Paris. It is right beside Djemaa El-Fna and is named after the booksellers market that was once located there. It is still used for prayers and non-Muslims are not allowed to enter but they can see it from the outside. It was built following the themes of the Almohad and topped with four copper globes.Marrakech Souks

  1. Shopping At Souks

This is the most popular market place of the Marrakech. All you just need is to name an item and you will find it at really affordable rates if you are a local. If you are a foreigner, then they will probably demand more so do not forget to bargain with them. Secondly, if you run out of local currency, then you will find merchants willing to accept the equivalent amount in dollars. Its located north of Jemaa El-Fna.Maison Tiskiwin

  1. Maison Tiskiwin

Maison Tiskiwin is a big chunk of private property under the name of a veteran Dutch anthropologist. The house is decorated by arts and crafts that have been collected from South Morocco and Sahara. The tour is basically a walk through the different countries from the Tunisia to Timbuktu. The entry is not free but it is still really cheap. Saadian Tombs

  1. Saadian Tombs

The Saadian Tombs were discovered pretty late, around the turn of 20th century. They are located near the Kasbah masjid which is extremely popular among the visitors. If you visit the tombs, then you would always find a large crowd so be prepared to stand in line for a while. You will also find tombs of Jews and Christians. There is a small entry fee here as well. Bahia Palace

  1. Bahia Palace

The palace offers a proper tour by providing you with a guide on your visit. Those who want to experience the life of a 19th century nobleman would definitely find this an ideal stop. The exterior is decorated with a big garden containing a large number of beautiful flowers and fruit plants. There are usually very few people gathered at the Palace so you have the freedom to roam around without bumping into people. Majorelle Gardens

  1. Majorelle Gardens

While Majorelle Gardens are breathtaking and consists of unique plants and vegetation, it is also a bit overpriced when you compare it with all the other great places you can visit in Marrakech. But, nonetheless, it is a great place to run off to find peace when the city becomes too overbearing. There is a café and a museum in the gardens, and there is a gift shop at the end which also contains 100 year old photographs among other things.

At the end of the day when you are too tired, you would find a lot of exquisite hotels to rest up in. Some of which include Riad El Fenn, Jnane Tamsna, Peacock Pavilions, etc. Enjoy your trip to Marrakech and do not forget to pay a visit to all the above mentioned neighborhoods while you are there.

Author Bio: Alison works at Dissertation cube where she provides dissertation writing help to students. In spare time she writes blogs for students starting their career and for those who are still in jobs. Find her on Google+.

Finding Familiarity in the Land of Anarchy

A Guide to the Capital of Somaliland

By Karsten Potts

Hargeisa, Somalia

Tucked away in northern Somalia, Hargeisa is truly a hidden treasure. Whether your want to explore the vast, vibrant markets, or chill at a coffee shop this city has something for you.

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Hargeisa is the capital of a breakaway region called Somaliland, which is located in Northern Somalia.  When Somalia collapsed in 1990, Somaliland declared independence from the rest of the country and formed its own government.  Although Southern Somalia is still ravaged by war, here in the north, the war ended 20 years ago.  Although the government of Somaliland is not internationally recognized, it has managed to keep the peace, provide public services and hold elections which were widely considered free and fair.

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The city of Hargeisa offers much of what one would expect when traveling in the Horn of Africa. If you feel like exploring the classic aspects of Hargeisa, there are markets, local restaurants and a livestock bazaar. In the central market travelers can find anything from exotic desert goods such as frankincense, myrrh and handcrafted items to everyday clothing, furniture and modern products like cell phones and TVs. It’s a good place to practice your bartering skills.

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If you are feeling more adventurous, you can venture out to Saylada where livestock is traded. There are hundreds of animals, mostly camels and goats, and dozens of traders bartering as the animals mill about. Closer to the city there are many small restaurants and tea stands, where you can sit for hours talking to locals and relaxing in the warm desert air. The tea they serve here tastes like the chai lattes sold at Starbucks, but one cup costs only $0.25. Some of the more familiar dishes are chicken or goat served with rice or pasta, and some of the bolder options include camel liver, and cow stomach. Keep in mind, while some venues do have silverware, it is much more common to eat with your hand–so why not give it a try!

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The Unexpected

The most shocking thing about Hargeisa, however, is not the exotic allure of the unknown, but the surprising familiarity of some of the features of the city. The first and most important is the peace. Technically, Hargeisa is located in Northern Somalia, which has been a name synonymous with war and anarchy. You will find neither in Hargeisa. The war here ended 20 years ago. I felt safe walking around the city until around at least 11:00 pm in downtown,  It is so safe that money changers leave piles of cash at their stands when they go to pray at the Mosque. As long as you practice basic common sense, you will be safe. One time, when I was walking down the street a man asking for money became very persistent and grabbed my arm. Immediately, five other people around me started shouting at him and came over, not leaving my side until he left and they were sure I would be safe.

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This leads to the next treasure of the city, the people living there. The people in Hargeisa are incredibly friendly. Don’t be surprised if people call out to you while you are walking down the street. Ninety nine percent of the time, they just want to talk, practice their English, and want to know what you think about the city. If you need directions, people are more than willing to give them. If they do not speak enough English to help you out, they will find somebody who does. The next surprise is the relative prosperity and obvious economic potential. The growth here is staggering. You will see modern office buildings and hotels under construction, the first shopping malls are beginning to open in the city (not anywhere near the scale of the Mall of America, but shopping malls nonetheless). They even sell frappachinos and paninis at some of the new coffee shops.

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This growth is all the more impressive considering it all happened mostly the last decade. Toward the beginning of the war Siad Barre flattened the city in a series of bombing raids. Instead of sinking into despair, the people of Somaliland built a new city from the ruins and Hargeisa is now one of the safest places in East Africa. Beyond the physical signs of prosperity, the telecommunications infrastructure is on par with the United States.

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There is amazing cell phone coverage that is affordable. You can buy a SIM card as soon as you get off the plane, and as a result of the competition between coverage providers in the country, minutes are very cheap. I spent around $5 the entire trip for local and international calling and texting. You can buy a phone or bring your own unlocked one, insert your SIM card and be on your way.  As far as internet, you can choose from 3G or internet cafes, and almost every hotel has free wifi. If you are wondering what currency to use, don’t worry, almost everyone accepts dollars. Even if they don’t, there are dozens of money exchange booths in the city center.  There is even an electronic payment system that you can access through the cell network. Shoppers can buy things at most stores without even using cash.  If you prefer to use Somaliland Shillings, however, just keep in mind that you might need to bring a backpack, a day at the market may require a few bricks of currency.

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• It is nearly impossible to transfer money directly from the United States to Somaliland. You must bring all the cash you need (bring small, new bills)

• Dress modestly. This means no tank tops for guys (even if you see locals doing it) and longer garments for women.

• Sometimes it is necessary to barter at smaller vendors


Tanzania’s Water Crisis (Video)

Katuma: River of Contradiction

Tanzania’s Water Crisis is caused by a convoluted mix of corruption and climate change, and heighten by competition between an exploding population and the dwindling wildlife.

Directed, filmed, and edited by Nick Neumann

In Tanzania water is not just a basic human need, it is a most vital resource that permeates every facet of society. Water ties people, communities, industry and wildlife together within a complex interconnected network. More than any other resource it determines the livelihood and well being of families, villages and entire regions; as such the inextricable link between water access and poverty is more visible here than almost anywhere else in the world. The relationship is complex, but at the same time simple tounderstand, boiling down to the fact that access to adequate amounts of clean water is essential for maintaining good health and access to water for agriculture is essential for food production.

In recent years in Mpanda, Tanzania access to water has actually been decreasing despite decades of national and international efforts to improve it. This can be attributed to various human factors and environmental changes. As Mpanda’s population continues to increase and investment into water infrastructure remains minimal at best, it appears as if the situation will only get worse.

This will have devastating ramifications for the majority of Mpanda residents who rely on crop production to support their family. It is also bad news for the women and children who already spend many hours each day collecting water for use in the home. Water collection and water born diseases contribute greatly to the loss of manpower on the farm and children unwillingly forgoing their education.

Furthermore, diminishing water levels could also spell a sharp decline in tourists, and the money they inject into the local economy. The fatal effects on the wildlife in neighboring Katavi National Park are clear to see, especially in the declining population of hippos, the key attraction of the park.

Poverty can be a result of political instability and ethnic conflict, but in peaceful Tanzania the greatest cause of poverty is the lack of access to water. This video follows the Katuma River,  the lifeline of the region, from its source along downstream past Mpanda town to the entrance of Katavi National Park. It explores the dynamic role of water in Tanzanian society with regard to poverty through interviews with villagers, officials and experts that were conducted while studying abroad with the School of International Training. Ultimately, I hope to draw attention to the importance of water in the development of societies and garner support to a region that desperately needs it.

nick2 copyGrowing up in downtown San Francisco surrounded by tourists, the homeless and crackheads gave Nick a unique perspective on inner city living. His diverse upbringing conditioned him for a globetrotting life of urban adventure. After traveling extensively through South Asia, he kicked it with Maasai warriors during a four month stay in Tanzania, majored in Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College and recently spent seven months backpacking around South America producing documentaries.