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The Sands of Africa

By Sylvia Frommer-Mracký , Travel Editor

Look at a map of Africa and what do you see?  To me it is an island, and the coastline that surrounds the Continent you can almost think of as one large contiguous beach.

This is, in my opinion, an over-super-sized beach, now and then interrupted by dunes; Namibia’s  Skeleton Coast; rugged mountains, rocks, rivers, as in parts of South Africa, and, oh yes, the beautiful sand beaches, perfect for sunning, swimming, lounging and having great time, designed for a superb the tourist lifestyle. 

One sand beach area you need to know about is Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, with its trendy new posh resorts and sand beach bars with $14 designer cocktails – Kiki, Lemon Tree, Sachi at the Sea, Rituals – places that during the Summer, till about the beginning of September are the new sand beach places to be.

The beach sands of Mombasa, on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya, with its almost one-mile low tide water sand walks is spectacular. Each and every beach has the perfect sand to tickle your toes – no socks or shoes needed – just relax and enjoy Africa.

And then there is the Sahara Desert, the largest hot-sand-desert in the world – running right across all of Africa, from the West to the East with sand dunes that are mountains of the tiny, almost microscopic crystals, with oasis, where the Sahara underground water touches the surface, and sink holes like in Egypt, where during WWII, the Desert Fox, Nazi General Rommel lost all his tanks, they sank into the sand, and lost their Afrika Corps hold on Africa..

The sand of the Sahara is light brown in color and is very fine. How interesting it would be if you took a magnifying glass to see these crystals and travel all about the Continent comparing Africa’s sands, you may even find Fool’s Gold Sand.

At the Great Mosque in Djenne, Mali ( a  UNESCO World Heritage Site)  a yearly festival assists in maintaining this Mosque with mud, straw and sand bricks.  It still stands today after centuries, and seeing it, is like seeing a huge sand castle.

Let’s move on to Egypt surrounded by the Arabian and the Libyan Desert  Sand is important and helped build the great pyramids. Oh well - sand is part of almost all construction, and tourist appeal, especially when mixed with water.

See how important sand is?  Respect it while taking the sun-and-sand holidays at the sands around Africa.  Let’s plan to travel to sample Africa’s sands, on the deserts and all her beaches. 


I Came Face-To-Face
With The Kingdom of The Black Pharaohs

Expdition Account by R. S. Mracký
Africa Consult Group- The African Times/USA Editorial Board

I just got back from an incredible expedition of discovery – EVER!

I came face to face with a two thousand five hundred years B.C. remainder of an Empire that gave Africa its other Kingdoms, besides a great amount of knowledge and progress for the world.

I came face to face with the Kush Empire and the land of the black Pharaohs, Nubia.  

The Kush Kingdom and the Kingdom’s black Pharaohs, have been overshadowed and sidelined by most of modern historians, archeologists, intelligentsia and writers by Napoleon’s Egyptology and Egypt’s proximity to Europe, most of those placing it insignificantly as Nubian and Upper Egypt people on the Nile, between the Royal River and the Red Sea, however a Kingdom and culture was well known to the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Egyptians, hundreds of generations before Christ.

I came to Kush via Khartoum, capital of Sudan.  Khartoum is an African metropolis with traffic jams and overtones of the colonial era.  Great restaurants, one being the Assama Lebanese Village Restaurant – another the Al Housh, a restaurant modeled after a typical Sudanese food market housed in architecturally ultra-modern building, adjacent to intriguing battlements from the turn of last century – these two restaurants are fabulous and if you are a foodie, should not be missed. Upon arriving in Khartoum, I was met by the incongruously named tour company, the Italian Tourism Company and their key antiquities tour guide Carla – knowledgeable, and more important conversant with all the archeologist groups operating in the Kush area.

Several stops in the city are of note; the National Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, both excellent preamble to Kush and the black Pharaohs history.  Another stop should be to see the Whirling Dervishes at Hamad al Nil Tomb and Mosque each Friday.

Khartoum is where the White Nile from the Lake Victoria and beyond and the Blue Nile from Ethiopia come together to become the powerful Nile, the Royal River, and several hours drive from the Kush areas – the Nubian Desert, the Western Desert and the Bayuda Desert, my ultimate adventure destination.

From Khartoum we travelled in a four-wheel drive SUV caravan – in most instances in an off-road desert drives, where the horizon is the desert - although there are plenty of tar roads developed since the country came across its oil wealth, but not to the sites we need to see.

For nine days I saw the remains of the black Pharaohs’ Kingdom grandeur at every stop, and what I learned of the Kush Kingdom and the Pharaohs was all new.

To give you a scope of the Kush.   It is one of the longest reining kingdoms– over two thousand five hundred years -- there were three successive Kingdoms, each with its own capital and pharaohs: the Kingdom of Kerma (2400-1500 B.C.), Napata (1000-300 B.C.) and finally Meroe, at the bend of the Nile (300 BC-300 A.D.). These three left many palaces, places of worship and pyramids; the Royal City, the Lion Temple, the Royal Baths.  I saw two to three sites a day – photo wise I used up two memory cards in my camera.

From Carla, the guide, I learned that there was an earlier group of Nubians (3800-2800 B.C.) of which little is known, but there are ongoing excavations that in few more years should tell us more of the Kush history and its beginning. Thus far what is known is that the cemeteries from the earliest times represent a Neolithic culture and times. Archaeologists found thousands of graves containing a wide variety of pottery, leather garments, ostrich-feather fans, copper weapons and palettes of quartz, all of which indicate the high level of civilization reached by the earliest of Nubians.  And I can attest to that, one of the sites had pottery pieces everywhere you stepped.

Interestingly the Kush Nubian Kingdom can be compared with China’s first recorded Dynasty, Xia, with a start date from 2070 B.C. thought, till now to be the longest reigning and documented kingdom culture in the world.

Kush history is incredibly spectacular, around 1000 BC, following the collapse of Egypt’s New Kingdom, the Kush emerged as a great power in the Middle Nile. Between 760-656 B.C., Kush kings conquered and ruled Egypt over 104 years, as the XXV Dynasty, ruling over all of Egypt and Kush.  By about 300 B.C. the center of the Kingdom shifted south to the Meroe region in central Nubia, the “bread basket” for the Nile region, Egypt as well as Rome.  The agricultural heritage of the region goes back to 6,000 - 5,000 B.C. when the first agricultural villages developed domesticating plants and grains, the world’s start of farming.

The number of pyramids of Kush currently total of 223, double of its neighbor Egypt. On my trip I saw and visited about 80 or so of them, some in total collapse and others now undergoing restoration – all magnificent.  The Kush pyramids are unique with the tombs richly decorated and showing the rich history of the Kingdom.

Interestingly, all the pyramids were not of kings, they include priests of high rank, other nobles, with a concentration in the Meroe region.  A well-known British writer Basil Davidson described Meroe as one of the largest archeological sites in the world – and I can attest to it.

Over forty kings and queens are buried at Meroe. Forty generations of Nubian royalty, and every royal Nubian tomb is housed within a pyramid. The Meroitic South cemetery contained the tombs of three kings, Arikakaman, Yesruwaman, and Kaltaly, as well as six queens. Several hundred yards to the north on the sand dunes, typically reached on a camel, the Meroitic North cemetery holds an additional 30 kings and 6 queens.

Unfortunately, all the tombs at Meroe have been plundered, most infamously by Italian explorer Giuseppe Ferlini (1830s) who smashed the tops off 40 pyramids in a quest for treasure in the 1820s. Ferlini found only one cache of gold. His find was later sold, and remains at the museums in Munich and Berlin. I found it interesting that one of the well know, contemporary writers missed why the pyramids have no tops, he surmised that “pyramids were small and flat-topped”,  in fact many of them had their tops dynamited to get to the royal treasures.

The Meroetic reign lasted until the 4th century AD (king Ezana ruled in the 330 - 356 AD).

Eventually the old cultures of Nubia and Egypt changed radically due to the immigration of foreigners into the Nile Valley. Egypt was overpowered by Rome in 332 B.C., Axum Kingdom (modern Ethiopia) attacked Nubia, destroyed Meroe, Kushites fled west toward Lake Chad, West Africa, in 350 A.D.

In between came Christianity and the building of many churches and basilicas, with some of the most magnificent frescos, now in the museum collection in Poland and Germany. Then in 650 A.D. the Arab and Islam came its way, ultimately with the Ottoman Empire coming in and influencing the Kush and Nubian culture.  Again, I saw examples of this period of Nubia and her people.

As exciting and exhilarating my expedition was – in retrospect I hope that the rich history that is being uncovered by the archaeological teams from Poland, Italy, Germany, Britain, the U.S. and of course Sudan will keep ahead of today’s progress and needs and give the world the full story of the Kush Nubian Kingdom, the black Pharaohs and their people, and reinvigorate Sudan’s international tourism.



Sophisticated island retreat off Africa’s Atlantic coast

Tenerife is an island in the Atlantic, off the coast of Africa.  It is the principal one of the Canary Islands.  Some of you might have been there when your cruise ship docked in their charming city of Santa Cruz – but then, with only a half-day stay you missed the ambiance of the island and you should go back to see and enjoy what you missed.

This time fly there - getting to what you will discover as a unique holiday paradise is simple – you will fly in via Madrid, or Dakar, Senegal or Casablanca, Morocco to one of their two international airports – one in the south and one in the north.

This is what you’ll find.
…a culturally vibrant place to relax and enjoy – it is where “Joie de Vivre” lives next to great wines with superb classic and nouvelle cuisine – where everything, every day, is fresh, direct from the island’s rich soil.  And the welcome greeting where every visitor is an honored, welcomed guest -  where serving the visitors is everyone’s primary effort.

Being there gives you a sense of occasion –  friendly and welcoming - not totally European, not totally African, not totally global – but uniquely Tenerife – very contemporary with a great foundation of history.  This is where Christopher Columbus in 1492 embarked on his voyage to find India, and got stuck in the Caribbean and set foot on what has become to be known as the Americas.

There are two distinct parts to Tenerife, the South and the North – well actually three or four. 

There is the Playa de Las Americas, in the South part of the island, where you will luxuriate yourself in a charmingly contemporary life style of leisure and sea and beaches, some with white sand and some with black.  The hotels are superb, service is grand and as said – restaurants are fabulous – this is not to forget great shopping. 

Then there is the North – the historic city of Santa Cruz, where the fabulous Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife takes place and shakes up the city every February.  In 2017 the action will start on February 10 and its big, really big Grand Parade will take place February 28. 

Santa Cruz is a charmingly rich city with a relentless reminder of its history that started in 1426.  Here is a lot see and do – you can enjoy curated experiences and do it with a guide or on your own, it is a walking treasure – just make sure you look down, up and sideways – you will have hundreds of selfie spots that will amaze all your friends back on this side of the Atlantic, with where you were and what you saw.  How’s about the huge rocks at the base of the ultra-modern Auditorium of Tenerife, unique combination of a concert hall, housing the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra and Tenerife Convention meeting complex with portraits of celebs that performed there, or seeing a canon that has its own, somewhat unique name and history.

Selfies will be very important on your third part of Tenerife – the highest volcano Mount Teide, the third largest in the world and the incredible lava flow fields where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed the seven-Oscar nominated film “The Martian”.  This will become your selfies paradise, just be careful - don’t fall off the edge of the world (that is what they told Columbus, before he left Tenerife.)

Then there is the sea – we told you about the beaches and the sun, but a great way to enjoy Tenerife is on board one of the private charter sail boats, to see the dolphins and the whales and more importantly – when the skipper drops the anchor you go in the water, scuba or no scuba.   If I forgot to tell you to pack your swimsuits, I apologize -  just pack it, but then again you could buy one or two when you are there.

Having been there recently, and now writing about Tenerife makes me want to be there and enjoy a sunset dinner at one of the charming restaurants, with the sea breeze letting you know where you are, enjoying a great tapa selection, with marvelous local wine, followed with great after-dinner cognacs - I and we had a grand time with a lot of selfies on my iPhone… see you there soon, guaranteed you will have a great time, you deserve it!

For more of Tenerife info – go to:   you will be amazed!


When in Nairobi Discover Kenya's Art Galleries

Contemporary African art is gaining more and more worldwide reputation, especially the very creative Kenyan community, which draws in artisans & artists from and with all backgrounds.

The contemporary art in Kenya can be many things from tribal portrait, sculptors working with metal to clay, basketry, amazing photographers, batik work, carvings, incredible jewelry, textile designers, wildlife artist, and very abstract artists.

In Nairobi there are many galleries to visit and in most of them you can do some serious souvenir shopping for great art!

Contemporary East African Art showing Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan artists, and some of Joy Adamson’s paintings are at the National Museum in Nairobi,. Everything is for sale. Few people know Joy Adamson, famous for her memoir on hand-rearing a lioness named Elsa, was also an accomplished artist. She produced many paintings that document much of Kenya’s flora and was commissioned by the government to paint over 600 portraits of Kenya’s tribes in their traditional dress. These hang now in Nairobi’s State House and the National Museum.

The Nairobi National Museum of Kenya is located at the Museum Hill; approximately 10 minutes drive from the Nairobi city centre, open daily (including public holidays) from 0930hrs - 1800hrs.

Nairobi Gallery

In the heart of Nairobi, at the corner of Kenyatta Avenue & Uhuru Highway, is the Nairobi Gallery. This is a great museum and national monument featuring contemporary art from Kenya and Africa at large. The gallery is set in a historic building constructed in 1913, where people once came to register births, marriages and deaths, hence the building’s nickname of ‘Hatches, Matches and Dispatches’. In this way, the Nairobi Gallery is strongly connected to the city’s history and continues to contribute to its cultural development. Since 2013, the Nairobi Gallery has become the official home to the Murumbi African Heritage Collections – the outstanding private collection amassed by the late vice-president, Joseph Murumbi.

Banana Hill Art Gallery

A leading gallery for contemporary African art in Nairobi, the Banana Hill Art Gallery has exhibited the work of over 70 artists and sculptors, principally from Kenya and East Africa. Founded by Shine Tani, a brilliant local artist, together with 12 other artists, the gallery was officially opened in 2006. Dedicated to opening up the continent’s incredible art source and promoting local art appreciation, the gallery holds exhibitions every two weeks showcasing a large number of striking colorful paintings and remarkable sculptures reflecting a range of subjects related to the African context and landscape. Situated on the outskirts of Nairobi, north of the famous Village Market, the Banana Hill Art Gallery is definitely worth the drive.

Depending upon the amount of time you will have in Nairobi there are many other galleries to visit, RaMoMa, the Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art is one of them, however you will see art and some great art in the cafes, restaurants and hotels you will be passing by and through, and that may include the hotel you are staying in.

And don’t forget, beside paintings and sculptures, there is also dance, music and theatre – in Nairobi you will have great art and contemporary art variety, besides the safari and golf!

Visit Report by R. S .Mracky, The African Times/USA

Historically speaking there are only two hotels in Nairobi that live up to their names – one build in 1902 and the other in 1904. Both continuing their heritage as the historically premier hostelries in what at the time was a train stop and a birth of Nairobi. Both date back to the time, when the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt made his Nairobi lay-over, getting ready for his six months Africa safari adventure. Nairobi was the final stop of the Mombasa – Nairobi rail run that carried the tons of provisions and camping gear – he enjoyed both hotels – The Stanley and The Norfolk.

During the Hemingway '30s era, The Norfolk verandah, the Lord Delamere Terrace, and The Stanley patio and bar became the "sundowner" haunts with good and aged Scotch, Pimms Cups, and great Gin consumed with not only daily regularity, but in some cases historic excesses.

Both hotels hosted all the celebs that came to Kenya, including the royals, even then-young Winston Churchill. The Stanley and The Norfolk have been, at various times, the base for the Hollywood film idols - Stewart Granger, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck and the Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra.

Mementos and memorabilia are at both hotels - the historical photos are everywhere at The Stanley, with all the banquet and meeting rooms named after their "famous" guests.

We just returned from a delightful several days in Nairobi, with a stay at the Stanley Hotel, now reconstructed as a modern 5-star property, but with all the charm of yesteryear and its heritage in tack. It has all the most modern efficiencies, but the designers or re-designers kept the tradition and heritage, we did feel as if we were reliving the glamour days of Hemingway and Karen Blixen, but with greater comforts and amenities. During the stay we had the delightful chance to re-visit with Kenya's top hotelier, the distinguished Jaideep S Vohra, the Managing Director of the Sarova Hotels, who now own and run The Stanley as their flagship property, and correctly so. It was he who made sure that the "clock" in the lobby of this flagship hotel reflected The Stanley heritage – he searched and found the magnificent hundred-year old clock in Ireland at one of its railroad stations – now it makes a great reminder of Nairobi's railroad past.

The only regret at The Stanley was that the historic thorn tree was replaced with a new one. The thorn tree from 1902 and on was the original "social media" message board of Nairobi and the safari crowd from all parts of the world, where the "old hands" of the safari business used to communicate with each other. In fact I wondered if my note I pinned on the tree in the early '80s was still there! No luck.

The comfort of the hotel is superb, the service is unparallel, location for Nairobi is great, security is tight and professional, and the check-in as welcoming and warm, as being greeted by an old friend – a great feeling especially after hours of airline service.

An additional delight was the Exchange Bar – with its turn of the last century look, including perfectly working Colonial fans, where Michael, one of The Stanley mixologist holds court. His Manhattans are great, his Whisky Sours, are perfect, Martinis are "so" traditional that 007 would approve, except! We came upon a stumbling order Pimms Cup #3, India version served in tankers – "Sorry". And that led to a challenge: "create another Pimps Cup, be creative, and surprise us!" The challenge was on. In a few minutes as our party, together with good colleagues, including Minaz Manji, the chief of one of the preeminent safari companies of East Africa – the Twiga Tours – awaited the result.

The result is a new and terrific Pimps Cup - The Stanley Pimps Cup by Michael - you now can order this new mix in the Exchange Bar on the Mezzanine floor of The Stanley. If you wonder why the name "Exchange Bar" – in days-old The Stanley bar served as the first Bursa or Stock Exchange for Kenya.

Now to today – Kenya tourism and leisure incoming visitors from all parts of the world find unease to visit Kenya. The international media, together with various government "advisories" have created havoc with Kenya's tourism industry.

There is no question that security is a major consideration of any foreign travel and as far as tourist safety and security goes, Kenya is doing a very good job. The majority of violence takes place in North East boarder with Somalia In Kenya distances are vast , just as the entire continent of Africa is large – Africa is three times the size of United States and Kenya's 224,000 square miles make it about the size Texas, or France. 

I bring up the size of Kenya and Kenya's tragic events with the subsequent "foreign" governments and media advisories to tragic events that have taken place in other parts of the world, but without creating fear and disturbing the tourist flow – or as one of our colleagues said "When Rita Jeptoo won the women's Boston Marathon in the tragic 2013 race – there were no advisories issued, it did not stop the flow of tourist, in fact more came to be supportive".

"Exchange Bar" of The Stanley Hotel – a great place to sample the new Pimms Cup by Michael



The following is not a place to visit at this time,

but you should put it on your Africa travel bucket list.

With the surrender of the M-23 rebels and clearing the Goma city danger zone in eastern DRC, we can start thinking of ultimately visiting – hopefully in the near future - the Virunga National Park, Lake Kivu and the Nyiragougo volcano, the outstanding visitor spots of DR Congo on the border with Rwanda and Uganda. The Virunga National Park ( ) is the home of the mountain and lowland gorillas, the surrounding forest the habitat of the okapi and chimps, the very active volcano and the gas infested lake of Kivu, but still worth seeing.

DRC, or in full, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a country not like any other in the world -- a country with rich ancient traditions, a colorful cultural energy and creativity, amazing potential and much, much more. But also because of its mineral riches it has been one of the most brutally exploited parts of Africa ever since, it seems, forever. King Leopold II of Belgium made it his private cash box with cruel exploitation style, followed by Belgium colonizers just as cruel well into the 20th century – followed by more exploitation from Europe and after its independence , three wars, name change – Zaire – and fought over by world greed. Its history is bloody – but now, with closer media attention and awareness through the social media, and changing political and social awareness by the world, it has glimmer of hope for a better future.

The M-24 bloody episode, the destabilizing attitude of its neighbors who share their boarders hopefully now fully in check, and with the nation's unparallel mineral wealth, tourism will become one of the nation's major assets.

With the natural and nature assets, tourism should be and we are sure it will be a major industry that will help the People get hold of their own future. This is where you to come in – put DRC and their astonishing nature on your "must see bucket list".

The infrastructure now is in shambles needs fixing, but the international investment industry with its private and corporate hospitality and tourism players are fully aware of the international appeal of DRC, the Congo River, the rainforest, and the Kivu/Goma area and are standing by to make major investments.

Congo's lakes and rivers, along with its rolling lush hills and valleys, its eight national parks, five of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as being home to many endangered species makes Congo into a huge tourist attraction.

The present facilities in the Virunga National Park are modest, primarily the Bukima Patrol Post, a small tented camp and the base of the mountain gorilla treks. On top of the Nyiragongo on the edge of the crater are the Nyiragongo Crater "Cabanes" where you can spend a night within the orange glow of the Lava Lake and in the jungle of Rumangabo is the brand new Mikeno Lodge. The jump-off point is the city of Goma which has several operating hotels and will be expanding the number to accommodate the expected tourist flow.

The Virunga National Park is only one of eight parks, together they are a home to some of the most spectacular and endangered wildlife in the world; big cats as well as 1,000 bird species, 900 species of butterflies, 400 species of mammals (including more than 80% of African primates), half of the continent's remaining elephants, 280 species of reptiles, 216 species of amphibians, forest antelopes and forest pigs -- with more species continually being discovered, giving you the opportunity to be an explorer in your time!

And DRC's Congo Basin rainforest which plays a crucial role in regulating climate globally is a home to 10,000 species of plants (of which 3,000 are found nowhere else).

All is in place to be a major, if not the leading Africa tourist destination – providing that all the danger zones become peace zones.

The current U.S. State Department Travel Advisory for DRC and Goma specifically makes the current status very clear:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) (DRC). The Department strongly recommends you avoid all travel to the city of Goma and the province of North Kivu, and all but essential travel to the province of South Kivu and the Ituri region in the province of Oriental. Because of ongoing instability and violence, the Department's ability to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in these regions of the DRC is extremely limited. ...

For further information, consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Democratic Republic of the Congo and the current Worldwide Caution, available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website. Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, a regular toll line at-1-202-501-4444 for callers from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.

Adventurers stand by!!!


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