Casablanca in Photos

Casablanca is the economic capital of Morocco, not its cultural capital. It has wide boulevards, huge construction projects along the coast, and a cosmopolitan attitude. If you want ambiance, go to Marakesh or Fez. Nevertheless, it has the biggest airport in the country, so if you’re arriving to Morocco by plane, chances are you’ll be passing through. You can hit up the main sites in a lazy day, I recommend taking taxis–the petit ones are cheap and everywhere.

La Sqala is a great place to eat on a nice day–it occupies a fortress-surrounded courtyard at the edge of the Old Medina. Pictured is the fish tagine. Their mint tea is (like every other place you’ll ever have it in Morocco) excellent.

Casablanca has two medinas–old towns-turned-marketplaces. The Old Medina looked like the place to go for knock-off purses and crap–maybe there was nicer stuff to be discovered there, but I was in and out in 5 minutes– put off by how dirty and dark it was–and the violent fight between 2 young men that spilled out of a store. I high-tailed it to the Quartier des Habous, which was chock full of real Moroccan stuff–tea and olives, leather work and pointy shoes, lanterns and wrought iron, robes and custom suit-tailors. The streets were clean and wide. It was peaceful there. As I decided amongst the slippers, I was offered a shot-glass of mint tea. Again, excellent.

By: Sarah Landau

The Edge of Africa: South Africa

I lived in Chicago for 8 years. I love Chicago and the anonymity that a big city allows. But there are only so many times the “Hey Miss Universe” line will work on me before Mr. Friendly Homeless Guy gets nothing but words I would never say in front of my grandma. I’d eaten enough deep-dish pizza to clog my future children’s arteries. I was tired of being squeezed out the back end of the bus on frigid winter days. Change was necessary.

With very little effort my husband talked me into selling everything we own to move to Africa. Sounded good at the time. We plunked down in the tiny village of Noordhoek in South Africa and lived in a small shack in a horse paddock. In a horse paddock. We had to keep the door closed because “Ginger” had a non-mutual fascination with our neurotic Chihuahua, The Doon.

There, we discovered Chapman’s Peak Drive, as have thousands of other tourists over the years. But we know something they don’t know. The famous, cliff-side drive is closed during the winter-spring months (April-December) because of “falling boulders.”

You walk up the steep road and step easily around the closed sign. You continue walking up the, winding, deserted, breathtaking road, every once in a while stopping to sit on a bench. Or a wall. Or a rock. From there you can watch the sun setting over one of the most beautiful natural beaches in South Africa. Trails lead up and down the mountain. Some have old steps, some are wooden-planked paths snaking through the trees down to the beach. Who uses these? Nobody.

You want to experience something very few people have? Pack a picnic and go sit on the edge of Africa for an evening. There are no cars here. No monitoring guards. It’s a sleepy, quiet place that you’ll never get over.

By: Heather Gauthier

Ruhengeri, Rwanda: The Mountain Gorillas

Rwanda, the “Land of 1000 Hills” is tiny country sandwiched between Tanzania, the DR Congo, Uganda and its sister country Burundi.  As small as Rwanda is, there is much to see within its borders.  The highlight of a trip to Rwanda is trekking in the Parc National des Volcans to see the last remaining mountain gorillas in equatorial Africa.  (Less than 1,000 now live in Rwanda, Uganda and the DR Congo).  If you want to see the gorillas you must reserve tickets far in advance.  Kigali, Rwanda’s pretty capital city, will be your jumping off point. 

In Kigali you are surrounded by reminders of the genocide–even seeing a Rwandan walking down the street carrying a machete, a common sight in Africa, feels menacing.  You must go to the Genocide Museum–it has immediacy, provides a good background for the events that led up to the genocide, and provokes outrage over how the world stood idly by as nearly 1,000,000 Rwandan Tutsis were murdered.  After picking up tickets to see the mountain gorillas at the tourist bureau, you take a three hour bus ride to Ruhengeri, a small town in Northern Rwanda.  

It is a bumpy ride over lush, terraced hills, and past dozens of genocide memorials set up on the side of the road. Continue reading