Star Date: January 2010
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
(Hello! - I'm fine. Busoga tribe from Tanzania)
"Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put into this world to rise above."
(Katharine Hepburn (1907 - 2003) "The African Queen", motion picture about a rough-living boat captain who travels down a treacherous African river with a prim spinster during World War I. Humphrey Bogart stars as Charlie Allnut and Katharine Hepburn the proper missionary, Rose. It's thinking like this that has led to the destruction of Nature on this planet).
Ever consider the fact that you're only hearing bad news about Africa? The media seems solely interested in reporting doom and gloom when in fact the world has a lot to thank Africa for. Claims that state Africa has contributed little or nothing to 'civilization' couldn't be further from the truth. The interesting book "Stolen Legacy" by George James, outlines the great civilizations that have come and gone on the continent. Currently when thinking of Africa we have visions of unique wildlife, tasty food, exotic tribes people, rhythmic music, drumming, and colorful clothing ( I saw a great world class African fashion show in Geneva in 1995). One only has to take an informed look around to recognize the enormous influence African resources, music, arts and the very presence of people of African origin in the four corners of the globe have shaped our world. Take music for instance, the root of almost all pop music, jazz, blues, rock & roll, hip-hop, reggae, you name it, there is a direct connection to African music. Even Elvis Presley was first marketed as the "white kid who could sing like a black". Famous artist Pablo Picasso admitted he had reached the end of his inventive limits in his career when he accidentally stumbled on an inspiring collection of African masks. Ever since Ethiopian Abebe Bikila astonished the world when he ran the marathon barefoot, in record time in the 1960 Rome Olympics, Africans have dominated running events worldwide. Long considered inferior soccer players with homemade balls on dirt playing fields, compared to the European arduously trained team members; innovative French coaches opened the floodgates by recruiting on the African continent. In 1995 Liberian George Weah was named FIFA World Player of the Year. Excellent players of African descent dominate many other sports worldwide.
Africa is one of the world's great reservoirs of natural resources, without which the wheels of the global economy would probably grind to a halt. The need for these resources keeps the pot stirred. As we have mentioned in so many countries, pillaging resources is easily accomplished behind the veil of conflict. We spent time with a pilot who has flown supplies and people behind 'the current enemy lines' in conflict zones for decades. He regularly dodges missiles shot at him but has only been hit once because he claims to do his homework on what weapons that particular area owns. He should know - he said he probably flew the missiles in to sell before the conflict broke out. War is definitely one of the biggest money makers on earth. Africa is rich in copper (used in construction and electrical goods), uranium (nuclear fuel), tantalum (used in mobile phones, laptops, electronic products) and a host of other essential minerals, not to mention gas and oil. Africa is also one of the world's largest producers of gold, gemstones and industrial and gem quality diamonds. Shining sapphires, red rubies and sparkling blue-purple tanzanite to name a few, help make the world a more dazzling place.
The world is a tastier place for us 'snackers' as cashew nuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, chocolate, spices, tea and rich roasted coffee all hail from this tasty continent. Hundreds of thousands of European households are brightened daily with healthier, tastier fruits, vegetables and flowers from regulated farms in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania.
academics, writers, artists, musicians, dancers, film makers and
ordinary folk celebrate Black History month. Black descendants
from Africa living in foreign countries realized they knew little of
their heritage and this gathering has helped fill in the gap.
This process has revealed that almost all of the pillars of wisdom
on which Western Civilization rests, such as philosophy,
mathematics, medical knowledge, science and the arts all appear to
have their origins not with the Greeks as commonly believed, but in
Africa. Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Aristotle and
According to scholars, Christianity first took root in Egypt and still flourishes there in the 10% Coptic Christians. Ethiopia has always been central to Christian and Jewish belief, with legendary figures such as the prophet David and the most beautiful, the wealthiest and best dressed ruler of her time, the Queen of Sheba, still inspiring stories in her honor. Ethiopia's last emperor, Haile Selassie, was believed to have a direct connection with God, especially for Bob Marley and the religion called Rastafarianism. An African, Bilal ibn Rabah, was one of the first to become Muslim when the prophet Mohammed chose him as his 'muezzin' in the late 6th century. When Ibn gave his Azaan (call to prayer) legend has it that his voice was so clear and sweet that birds stopped their flight to listen to him. The same style of Azaan is heard today everywhere across the world from Mecca to Jakarta. Joseph and I have traveled around this intriguing world many times and have never found a '3rd World'. Still think Africa has contributed little towards world civilization? This research shows that the list is just starting.
While I was off doing my Mom & Grandma thing in the USA Joseph was exploring the south and western areas of Tanzania. There are definite well traveled northern tourist routes with paved roads and a variety of hotels; including all the well known wildlife parks like Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater. Tourists flock here on their 1-3 week holidays and get a worthwhile look at the big animals that make Africa unique. Venturing off these main routes opens up a completely different Tanzania with dirt roads, small villages and a lack of amenities. The rewards for this taste of Tanzania are great if one has the time and patience. Joseph wrote:
"Heading south from Dar es Salam I followed along the ocean south to the beautiful coastal town of Bbwara, near the border of Mozambique. Inland to Asasi, was this pleasant town amongst giant boulders. Everywhere over the southern and central regions of Tanzania were these spectacular colossus granite boulders. My interest in gems drew me on to the sapphire and fancy colored gems market town of Tunduru for a few days. As in Laos and Kenya, I saw a number of Chinese engineers helping Tanzania improve their road systems. Carrying onward past immense Lake Tanganyika and north to Dodoma I traveled further on to the ancient cave painting at Kola, where anthropologist Mary Leakey studied for nearly twenty years.
North to Arusha and Mt Kilimanjaro, where sadly the clouds covered my prize. I was glad that we had enjoyed this majestic mountain on previous visits and while flying over to Madagascar. Back and north to the wonderful town of Mwanza and a night ferry, where I experienced a night sleeping on the open deck while crossing massive Lake Victoria to the lake town of Bukoba, with all its churches. A short bus ride found me at the border of Uganda and on to Kampala, the capital. I happened on a great hotel on Lake Victoria in Entebbe to wait for Nancy, returning from her visit to Colorado, USA. I was glad to have my dear wife and traveling partner back. ”
Tanzania is home to many important archeological sites. Mary Leakey's work presented endless questions but no definitive answers. Hominid or humanlike footprints uncovered at Olduvai Gorge by her husband, George, suggest that our ancestors were roaming these wide open plains over 3.5 million years ago. East Africa is hailed as the cradle of civilization; a gene pool rich in cultures and traditions spreading over the globe. If only Lucy had left a diary.
Once I realized that I was stuck in Cairo 3 nights while flying back from the U.S. (all because of a 5 minute plane misconnect in JFK Airport ) I relaxed and set about getting to know the city anew, last here in 1996. Barely settling in I started asking locals and foreigners I bumped into "What was their favorite thing to do in Cairo?" This served me well as I made notes to replace the usual Lonely Planet base of information. Within 10 minutes I was heading off to Gurri Palace to witness an absolutely intriguing exhibit of Sufi Whirling. Having done whirling for up to 30 minutes non stop in India I was even more in awe, knowing that if these highly in-tune, focused men lost their connection for a second, down they would go. The setting in the courtyard under the stars of this old palace, with the live traditional music and colorful costumes made it a memorable experience; not to be missed.
Up at the top of this fascinating continent, Cairo is a city that never sleeps, fusing old and new at every turn. Mouth watering traditional food, lively folk music, sidewalk coffee bars, bazaars to get lost in, donkeys hauling fruit wagons next to Mercedes Benz, mosques bellowing out call to prayer 5 times a day in contrast to world renowned art exhibits, shopping and even opera. The confusion of this modern crowded noisy megalopolis is infused with the wonders of ancient Egypt. Where else is one able to gaze across the plains of Giza at the megalithic Pyramids or drool at the riches revealed in King Tutankhamen's tomb? It is like nowhere else on earth.
Khan el Kahlili. With a shop for each 1001 Nights this maze of back alleys, stairs and narrow passage ways is as mysterious as it gets. The smell of incense, exotic herbs, the aroma of Me'assel tobacco and mint tea, precious stones, the Mastrabeyas of the Harem, Coptic rosaries, traditional music drifting out from water pipe cafes. History glares out from every stone and archway. Six hundred years ago, this Khan, which translates 'caravan place' was full of merchants from across the desert loudly bargaining their wares for the best price. Still the economic heart of Cairo the alleys beyond the tourist section bear the name of the artisans whose work you can observe such as Al Nahhassin (coppersmiths) Al Fahhamin (coal traders) or Al Khayameva (tent makers). Get lost and enjoy the adventure. All alleys eventually lead back to Hussein Mosque Square as you are jolted back to reality.
The 3 days flew by while exploring mosques, hanging out and eating falafels with pilgrim villagers visiting Coptic Old Town, playing spin the bottle with a group of veiled girls on the lawn at Al Azhar Gardens, eating every imaginable vegetarian combination in a fresh pita bread at authentic restaurants, riding camels out into the desert to avoid the crowds and have a peaceful view of the Pyramids and Sphinx, and getting lost in the maze -like bazaars of Old Town and Khan el Khalili and even taking in a splendid production of Verdi's "Aida" at the Cairo Opera.
Entebbe was a quiet town turned city on the edge of Lake Victoria. We spent our days catching up while walking to the market, having lunch at Olivia's down home traditional Ugandan food 'cafe' and enjoying the sunset by the side of the lake every evening. Just down the road was Jane Goodall's compound and her Wildlife Education Center. We stopped by 3 times to enjoy the antics of the chimpanzees, lion couple, rhinos, ostriches, the Mom, Dad and cute baby giraffes and endless water birds. Doing our annual cleanse and resting up for over a week we bid farewell to some of the welcoming ex-pats and locals we had the privilege of meeting in this far off corner of Africa.
And so it goes.........................................Next month exploring the source of the Nile (4160 miles south of Cairo) and to the remote northern regions of Uganda. Until then take a break from your busy schedule to get out, commune and relax in Nature; rather than rising above it or more often just tuning it out. Glad you stopped by. Thanks for keeping in touch and sharing our webpage with friends and family! Take care.
Love, Light &
1345 Tanzanian Shillings
Favorite sign in Cairo:
King Hotel, 20 Abdel Rehim Sabri St., Dokki, 6 blocks from the Cairo Sheraton on the Nile. Phone # 33359455, Free wifi in cafe, worn but clean rooms - 3 star hotel in theory, room #809 has a balcony, a/c, $25 -$35 night, bargained during this high season, on metro line for Coptic area and Museum.
Dahab Hostel:26,Mahmoud Bassiony St., phone # +20 2 2579 9104. email: email@example.com. Backpacker rooms $7-10-$15 small, some with bathrooms. Great guy runs the desk.
Mayfair Hotel in Zamalek district. Clean, safe, well run, good location, approx $40 for a room with bath. Bud, a great fellow traveler recommended it and has stayed several times.
Ashraf Farouk: phone # 014 312 7215 or 010 94 92 703. Had a desk across from the information desk in arrival lounge. Friendly guy with medium prices. In transit I didn't even have a book to compare prices. Bargaining is draining in Cairo and EVERYONE wants a tip. He charged 60L to go to the King Hotel by his van. The King Hotel looked great compared to the $30 awful place with no window we looked at en route. (Walk ins are charged up to $50 but he has a 'deal'). I was impressed that he gave me a good deal for a day 9-5 of driver and car right away 170L. Made me think I could do better but by the time you haggle with the guys on the street it was still a good deal. The street guys will say 120L then add and add until over 200L. I was picked up at 9, did a couple errands, went to the pyramids, the Coptic area for an hour, the Khan el Khalele bazaar for 2 hours, then dropped at the airport all for $15 (plus a good tip for Mohammed who didn't speak English but was a good help). Any communication problem he would just phone Ashraf. If you find an honest driver stick with him for your stay, the pyramids, and to and from the airport. White taxis are metered, otherwise ask around and agree on a price before you get in. (Prices from King Hotel: One way 40L to the pyramids, 20 to Bazaar or Citidel, 50 from airport and 35 back, 10L for short runs such as Museum.) The Metro is a very good alternative for everywhere else, easy, they are helpful at the desks and only 1L per segment.
Favorite: Must Do!!
Cairo Opera: Quiet complex with great performances. Also the good Modern art Museum for 10L. They have chairs placed for all performances for only 75L. When the lights dim you are able to quickly pick a better vacant seat (verbatim from the ticket salesman). Otherwise seats start at 150L. Aida was phenomenal and worth the effort.
Afterwards I took a taxi for 20L to Abou El Sid Restaurant, July 26th St, near the Marriot Hotel, down an alley across from the "Diwan" bookstore. Under a 20 ft arched door but no sign. You must have the driver ask and ask but again it is worth it. An authentic place with tasty, reasonable traditional food and great atmosphere - not full of westerners. A favorite of a woman who has lived here 4 years.
If I had not been alone at midnight, when Cairo gets hopping, I would have checked out the Palmyra Cabaret, 16, 26th July St. phone # 23 93 71 17 for a belly dancing show. It was recommended as safe and fun. Next time.
Another recommendation from a kind French expat who helped me, her favorite restaurant on the Nile: Le Sequoia, in Zamalek area. Next visit. Thanks Andree.
A full fascinating afternoon for little cost:
1) Citadel of Salah Al-Din: A famous old mosque on the top of the hill. Interesting to also see the Guest Palace Museum where 'we would have stayed' centuries ago. Walk downhill and to your left down to Al Azhar Park - 15 minutes or catch a bus 1L. Entrance 50L.
2)Al Azhar Park: Great
park with vistas of the city, greenery and restaurants overlooking a
small lake. A hang out for locals, I was the only foreigner
there. 10L entrance. Taxi to Khan el Khalele 10-15L.
Akram Adly Jewellery: 72 Gohar El Kaid, main Street into the bazaar - left of square & mosque, right side. Little old family business after the gauntlet of hawkers. Honest, good prices, a selection of 10k gold items.
Coptic Old Town: Take a Metro 4 stops 1L to the Coptic Museum. Plenty to see besides the Museum - which is the only place charging admittance. Made friends with Coptic villagers and after St George's Church ate lunch with them. Follow the under street left at the junction and there is a wedding grounds/church garden on your right. A little concession sells great falafals, fried eggplant and fries in pita for 1L each.
Cairo Opera House: Verdi's Aida. Verdi's classic opera of lost love, set in ancient Egypt, Aida was first translated into Arabic and performed in Cairo in 1840.
Skyway Inn or The Sky is the
Taxi from airport to hotel 1500
Dentist to recommend: Dr Martin Opumar and his lovely wife will help you with any dental needs in their clean, friendly, sanitary clinic. St Andrew's Dental Clinic, Kiwafu Rd, Entebbe Phone ahead for an appointment # 0772 656910
Victoria Cafe & Restaurant: Local lunch food 3000us. Ruth makes a delicious buffet for 3000 but she runs out of food sometimes so go at 1pm. On the corner of the road running along the back entry of the Golf View Hotel.
Uganda Wildlife Education Center: An interesting little education center and zoo. Get a good up close look at lions, rhinos, ostrich, giraffes and the ever fun chimpanzees frolicking on their island right down the road from Jane Goodall's center. Entry 20,000
Be Sober Uganda: This worthwhile NGO run by locals, Abdul & Mary, is interested in helping the addiction and Aids problems of the people of Entebbe. They also want to help get the word out on MMS (see info on our health page) - a high success rate of helping improve the health of Africans for a low cost. email: firstname.lastname@example.org Located behind the Alpha Traditional Restaurant listed above.