Cairo (El Qahira) and the Arab spring

When my friend told me “I’ll be home by May, if you want to come and see me you have to do it now”, I realized that in 4 years I had never been able to go to her. Graduated in oriental languages, she moved to Cairo where she worked and studied but after 4 years she decided to go back home. It was January 2011, the one defined as one of the darkest periods of Egypt, the ‘ Arab Spring’ was beginning and nobody, above all the Foreign Ministry, advised to leave but I let the worst months go by and at the end of March I packed my bags.

To welcome a wonderful and immense city even if the impact was quite strong : starting from Ravenna I arrived in a city with about 20 million inhabitants, soldiers at every corner of the road, tanks and curfew, let’s add smog, traffic , the confusion … and the rain. In Cairo it was not raining for 7 years they told me … (it will have been a joke?) But after the storm always comes the rainbow .. so I received the Egyptian capital.The first stage of the trip was Giza but I do not want to talk about the Pyramids this time, but to introduce you to that part of Cairo that perhaps most tourists have never seen. Generally those who take the Nile cruise visit Cairo in one day: Pyramids , Egyptian Museum and a quick tour of the city seen from the tourist bus window. I wanted to live the city differently and I asked Egyptian friends to take me anywhere they could take me …

This mosque, named after its owner (the Arab-Muslim conqueror of Palestine), is located on the boundary line between the ancient part of the city inhabited by Copts and the predominantly Muslim part. The two Egyptian communities do not live in very close proximity and conflicts are often frequent. Reaching the mosque on foot was quite suggestive: soldiers armed with machine guns on the sides of the streets, I felt my eyes focused on me, the only westerner in the vicinity equipped with a camera at the neck .. good luck with me there was Egyptian friend ..
The mosque was tremendously silent, beautiful. Let the shoes out and cover the back of the neck we entered. Once past the door, it was like entering another world, the red carpets and the warm colors of the colonnade, out of the chaos of the city and in total peace … I would have stayed in the mosque for hours. The only thing that embarrassed me was the looks on me, the only woman and especially Western … but that situation made the moment even more magical.

Boa Vista, the deserted island

” Do not stop by the waves of the sea, the deserted island here for you ” and no doubt about it, music is almost never wrong. The songs describe well Boa Vista and more general Cape Verde , an archipelago that is no longer Africa, once it was a little bit European and it is not yet Brazil but that has all these 3 souls mixed together to form an environment that if you love, you he really loves forever.

Let’s just dispel a myth: Sal and Boa Vista at the limit will be cousins ​​but certainly not sisters nor twins. The more Sal is developed for tourism, perennially ventilated and interesting for its salt , as Boa Vista is wild, varied and full of white sandy beaches as far as the eye where it “risks” to have as companions of umbrellas turtles here I’m at home.

Yeah, because in Boa Vista there is no great nightlife, in a large island 3 times the Elbe there are only 4000 inhabitants and 50 km of cobblestone road …. So you turn in pick up and patience if the hair fold will not hold up, you may not notice anyone. The airport is a long strip in Rabil, the former capital of the island, a place where they opened a small tavern in front of the track that is open only when flights arrive from abroad to watch them … the main hotel facilities are all in the neighborhood of the airport and the capital, Sal Rei: these are international structures.

As anticipated, however, one does not go in search of hotels, but experiences: to abstain from metropolitan travelers, here there is “only” nature to visit. This island is in fact the closest to the African coasts of the archipelago and its nature reflects it: in the middle of the island you can find a desert, the desert do Viana , practically brought here thanks to the wind from the Sahara … yes because the wind is there, but if you come from March to August you could find whole days without a gust and believe me … you’ll regret it a lot!

Essential for your vacation on the road is Eliseu and his pick, he is an institution, the pick up the only possible means. With him we turn the whole island and most importantly we visit it with his own eyes. First stop is Povocao Velha : the name does not betray, it is the first island settlement . Here the event is us, the whole country stops to know us: Eliseu, proud, shows us and explains why Boa Vista often come to train the members of the American space program .. well, there is oxygen but everything else seems like another world!

Red rocks, then craters, then white beaches like Curralinho , said friendly Santa Monica

Boavista, a marvel of the archipelago of Cape Verde

After about six hours by plane leaving from Rome one arrives Boavista one of the islands of the archipelago of Capoverde . The modalities of accommodation on the spot can be multiple, the cheapest is certainly that of staying in an apartment.

These are often managed by Italians transplanted on the spot who have stipulated small facilities for excursions and meals with the large tourist villages on site.

If you are an independent traveler, the cheapest and most characteristic way to get around the island is to rely on one of the numerous beach boys . I sincerely recommend Mr Fefe a middle-aged gentleman who, thanks to his punctuality and sympathy, will make your transfers easy and fast.

With half the money he will ask you for any agency or village he will make you travel all over the island . One fundamental thing is that mr Fefe speaks fluent Italian (like everyone on the island) and will have you do the same route of the other tour operators making you visit all places on alternate days compared to those in which the vacationers of large structures, with whom he collaborates , they go there. So you will not have hordes of tourists around you.

The most characteristic places of the island are the various beaches such as Praia Curral Velho . You get there after a pick-up pick-up of about a golden hour which you can see the villages, the vegetation and the magnificent landscapes of this island. You pass from a sparse vegetation to a real rocky desert with colors ranging from black to red, until almost suddenly a blue spot will open before your eyes as you approach it begins to assume all the variations colors of blue . Here you can relax and rejuvenate in the impressive ocean waves.

My adventure in Africa starts here: some practical advice

This year I decided to realize a dream that I had in the drawer for a long time: a safari in southern Africa . I joined a group of Travel Adventures in the World and I decided to embark on this incredible journey that will start from Victoria Falls and then continue in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa .

Just a few days to go and, I’ll tell you to do, I’m in fibrillation. The safari that my group and I will tackle will not be exactly a comfortable trip as we will face the truck route and sleep in a tent . And since it hurries to say safari, but you do much less quickly to gear up to face it properly, this my first post I want to devote to travel preparations, because I think they could be useful for many. Most of these tips have been given to me by our group coordinator who has already made safari experiences for which they have the extra stamp of guarantee.

I start from the most frequently asked questions:

Are prophylaxis and vaccinations necessary for a trip to Africa?

The areas that I will travel (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) in August are very low risk of malaria so that, although there is always a personal choice, prophylaxis is not necessary. The antithetical and anti-tetanus vaccines are always advisable although not mandatory. The yellow fever vaccine is instead mandatory for those from Livingstone (Zambia) flies directly to South Africa. For the rest, I always recommend to make an appointment with the Travel Medicine center of their own city where, by explaining the route carefully, they will be able to provide you with all the necessary information. With regard to drugs, broad-spectrum antibiotics, painkillers, anti-diarrhea (antibiotics, lactic ferments) and medicines for fever and cold are recommended. Eye drops can be very useful due to the dust and the wind that are never missing in a safari!

What documents are needed?

The only necessary document is a passport valid for 6 months while no visas are required. It is necessary to bring some photos useful for visas made on site. I recommend anyone to insert the stamp in the passport because forgetting it can be very expensive! Another advice is to bring a photocopy of all documents because in the case of loss can be useful.

Currency and exchange rates

The official currency in South Africa is Rand (1 € = approximately 9.50 R).

The official currency in Namibia is the Namibian Dollar , but they also accept Rand (1 to 1), but beware that in South Africa they do not accept Namibian Dollars (1 € = 9.50 N $ approximately).

The official currency in Botswana is Pula (€ 1 = approximately € 9.43).

The official currency in Zimbabwe is the US dollar (€ 1 = $ 1.23).

However, the use of a credit card is widespread (with the exception of prepaid), to pay admission to parks, campsites, hotels and of course in the cities, and I certainly recommend taking it.

As for the dollars, bring them, possibly, in small cuts and in good condition, without abrasions.

Ideal clothing for a safari in Africa

Comfortable sneakers because it will be the shoe that will accompany almost the entire trip (at least so they told me). Hiking shoes are not required. It is advisable to wear “Teva” sandals for different occasions and above all for long journeys on the means of transport. Wide and light clothes to promote perspiration for the day but be careful, at night temperatures fall precipitously in this season so we recommend fleece and windbreaker. Indispensable a hat to protect yourself from the sun and scarves to protect yourself from dust and wind. I forgot: at Epupa Falls in Namibia it is also possible to take a bath so it is good to find a corner for a costume. I do not know about you, but I travel the k-way on the way always so that this time will be part of my luggage. I will then tell you if it helped me (we hope not!)