Society: ‘Shem’s Idle Notes’

It is the festive season, time to get away from the hassle of ordinary day life, and take a holiday.
Masai Mara sunset
Masai Mara sunset

It is the festive season, time to get away from the hassle of ordinary day life, and take a holiday.
Holidays are not for the rich only, with a little planning and some saving, you will find that you can
afford it. The places on this list are the top ten destinations in Africa, and some of them are right in
our neighbourhood.

10. Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar is one of Africa's top destinations because of its fascinating history and its incredible beaches.
Zanzibar's location in the Indian Ocean (off the coast of Tanzania) has made it a natural trading centre
throughout its history. Famous for its spices, Zanzibar also became an important slave trading post under
its Arab rulers.

The Arab influences are obvious throughout Zanzibar but especially in Stone Town one of the island's
biggest attractions. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Stone Town boasts beautiful traditional houses, narrow
alleyways, a Sultan's palace and many mosques. 

9. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Africa is known as one of the best destinations for adventure travel and what can be more adventurous than
hiking up the world's tallest free standing mountain. Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
stands at 19,340 feet (5896m) and will take you 6 days to conquer. The exciting thing about this mountain
is that anyone who is fit and determined can make it up. No special climbing equipment or expertise is
needed. That said, almost 75 of attempts fail because people figure it's doable in shorts, t-shirt and a
couple of beers for hydration.

8. Virunga Mountains (Tracking Gorillas) , Uganda, Rwanda, DRC

With only about 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, seeing them in the wild is something only a few
people will ever have the chance to experience. About 300 mountain gorillas inhabit an extinct volcanic
region called the Virunga Range along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC in East Africa. The time
you are allowed to spend observing them the gorillas is limited, but I can guarantee the hour spent sitting
and watching these incredible animals will be one of the best you've ever had. 

7. Omo River Region, Ethiopia

Combining white-water rafting with an unparalleled cultural adventure is my idea of a perfect holiday. The
Omo River Region of South-western Ethiopia, is a fascinating destination. The remote location, which is
barely accessible by 4 wheel-drive, has meant that traditional customs and beliefs are very much intact for
the more than 50 tribes who live there. It's advisable to join a tour since it's difficult to get around on
your own and it'll enhance your understanding of the different cultures you're seeing 

6. Marrakech, Morocco

Situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the imperial city of Marrakech is large, noisy,
polluted and fascinating. If you enjoy a daily assault on all your senses then you'll have a lot of fun.

There are so many things to see, you should spend at least 3 days in Marrakech. Stay in a Riad in the
medina (old walled part of town), because this is where all the action is. The Majorelle Gardens offer a
lovely respite from the bustle of the souls and shouldn't be missed. The heart of the medina, the Djemma el
Fnaa, should also be a priority for anyone who visits. 

5. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is a highlight of any trip to Southern Africa. The natural beauty of Cape Town makes it one of
the most attractive cities in the world. Cape Town boasts beautiful beaches as well as the impressive Table
Mountain right in the heart of the city. The restaurants are world class, and so are the wines. Cape Town
is also one of the most culturally diverse cities in Africa and has reputation for social tolerance.

Top attractions in Cape Town include:

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for dining and shopping

Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years

Cape Town's Beaches

Table Mountain

The Winelands

4. Djenne, Mali

Djenne (Mali), founded in 800 AD, is one of sub-Saharan Africa's oldest cities. Situated on an island in
the Niger River delta, Djenne was a natural hub for traders who shuttled their goods between the Sahara
desert and the forests of Guinea. Through the years Djenne also became a centre of Islamic learning and its
market square is still dominated by the beautiful Grand Mosque. Djenne is located a few hundred miles
downstream from Timbuktu.

The market in Djenne, held every Monday, is one of the most interesting and lively markets in Africa, and
well worth planning your trip around.

The best time to go is at the end of the rainy season (August/September) when Djenne turns into an island. 

3. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza, just outside Cairo in Egypt, represent one of the greatest architectural feats by
man. The last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the
world's oldest tourist attractions, built more than 5000 years ago.

There are in fact three main pyramids in Giza; the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), The Pyramid of
Kafhre and the smaller Pyramid of Menkaura. Each Pyramid is a tomb to a different King of Egypt.

In front of the pyramids lies the Sphinx, or Abu al-Hol in Arabic, "Father of Terror". 

2. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

There is nothing quite like getting a thorough soaking from the roaring, powerful Victoria Falls. The spray
is so impressive from the look-out points, it feels like you are in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.

The Victoria Falls lie in between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.

The Victoria Falls are just over 1 mile wide (1.7 km) and 355 feet (108 m) high. During the wet season over
500 million litres (19 million cubic feet) of water plummets over the edge into the Zambezi River. This
incredible amount of water generates a huge amount of spray which shoots 1000 feet into the sky and can be
seen 30 miles away, hence the name Mosi-oa-Tunya (Smoke that thunders). 

1. The Masai Mara, Kenya

If you want to see the 'big five' in one morning, Masai Mara in Kenya is the place to be. During the dry
season from July to October the wildlife spectacle is unparalleled. Nowhere else can you watch the annual
migration of over a million wildebeest from a hot-air balloon. The 'Mara' is as close to "Out of Africa" as
you can get.