Eat, Drink and Travel in Africa

 At Easter time we are  remembering these beautiful Angels painted on the Ceiling of the church of Debre Zeit, Gondar in Ethiopia. There are hundreds of these faces, each with a different expression ranging from the saintly and cherubic to downright mischievous. And although the Orthodox Church has a different calendar this is as good a time as any to look at their uplifting smiles. 

A visit to a Kenyan tea farm included an encounter with the local monkeys in a surprisingly English-looking country garden 

I'm taking afternoon tea in the garden of Kiambethu  Farm in Limuru, Kenya and it feels as if I am in a country house on a sunny British afternoon.

Just a short drive from Nairobi  Kiambethu is situated at 7,200 feet and was farmed by AB McDonell in 1910. He was a pioneer in the tea industry being one of the first to farm and sell tea commercially in Kenya, although it is now one of the country's main exports.

Five generations have lived on this farm and it is currently run by his granddaughter Fiona Vernon who serves us a delicious tea in the grounds after a tasting of some of the farm's famous brews. 

The farmhouse is set in acres of tea plantation and forests, home to the delightful Colobus monkey who scamper over the lawns and watch  us.  After tea we take a walk around the farm with Peter, who has worked here for 20 years. He points out that tea is a year-ro...

You could spend years discovering Marrakesh with all its alleyways, markets, mosques and minarets. But with good planning and a decent map,  you can pack the highlights into a busy couple of days.

I loved the beautiful Museum of Marrakesh with its lavish interior courtyard. Collections include pottery, calligraphy, old gravestones, coins, paintings, clothing, and historic documents. The café outside is a lovely spot to linger with a mint tea.

Maison de la Photographie houses many old photographs that show snapshots of Morocco and Moroccan life from the 1870s through to the 1960s. The roof terrace has a small cafe with great views out to the Atlas Mountains.

Djemaa el Fna. The city’s main square is the beating heart of Marrakesh where you can expect to see snake charmers, magicians, acrobats and musicians. Browse the hundreds of stalls and pick up some street food. Or head to one of the rooftop terraces with views over the 12th century Koutabia minaret

The Saadian Tombs, near the Kasba...

From a nation best known for famine and unrest, it is surprising  that Ethiopian cuisine is becoming one of the world’s new must-eats. Now  celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, pictured here outside his New York restaurant, is opening another Red Rooster in London's hip Shoreditch

On my first visit to Ethiopia, I found myself invited into in a tukul or traditional Ethiopian hut, the guests of a family who were eager for  my group in to see their home. We were on our way to the beautiful city of Gondar – called ‘Ethiopia’s Camelot’ because of its magical castles. My guide Daniel had suggested we stop off to meet the family. Through him we were able to converse with them. The father of the family asked about our respective occupations and urged us to sample delicious home brewed coffee. This was also my first taste of inerja - ...  Ethiopia’s famous bread which is the basis of almost every meal. It is spread out like a large thin pancake and food is piled on top of it.  Tourists have be...

Some countries in Africa may be the home of safari, but Mozambique is becoming famous for its sea safari and the chance of see some of the world’s most iconic sea creatures. Whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and other amazing marine life make tiny Tofo, in Mozambique, an underwater heaven for divers and nature lovers.

A whale shark, about 13 feet in length, glides by without so much as a blink of its eye. He pays little attention to a gaggle of scuba divers who have made the journey here from all corners of the globe for the chance to see this magnificent creature and his cousins.

Tofo lies on the Indian Ocean and is a small town fringed by an arc of white sand and blue sea. Unsophisticated and simple, there is only one hotel here, Hotel Tofo Mar, recently opened by a Portuguese MP. Otherwise accommodation for the divers and surfers is in beachfront shacks, simple hostels, rustic chalets or small guesthouses such as Casa Do Mar or Casa Barry, where the MMF (Marine Megafauna Foundation) o...

‘It doesn’t matter where or how far you go... the important thing is how alive you are,’ said Thoreau. After 25 years of travel writing it is something I am only just beginning to appreciate. More and more I feel what is relevant is not where I travel to, but how I travel.

In an attempt to take a holiday from myself and to press pause on everday life, I am on a Mindfulness Journey. The day begins with Lui Jong, a form of Tibetan yoga, on a desert hilltop with the snowy Atlas Mountains as a striking backdrop. I am with strangers under a bright blue sky, the sun is shining, the air is cold and New Year looms.

The retreat has attracted people from around the world: Sara, an open-hearted American, an Australian, Luisa, dubbed ‘Angel’ for her nurturing nature and Barbara, an enigmatic, wise German who tempts us with gin and tonics before the evening meditation. ‘This really is an auspicious group’, Brian announces on New Year’s Eve. Breakfast is followed by two hours of meditation - both sitt...

It has been a while since I was in Cairo visiting the Pyramids and the Sphinx, a tour of Egypt’s ancient wonders which was cut short by the 2011 and subsequent revolutions and unrest. But with Egypt now considered safe again, I made a vow to see the Valley of the Kings. A leisurely cruise on board a luxurious boat seemed like the ideal way to make the trip, and so I set sail on MS Mayfair which took me on a voyage of discovery from Luxor to Aswan.

This is a lovely boat, built in Egypt six years ago with some lovely French inspired furnishings and sumptuous spaces. There is a relaxed and elegant ambience to Mayfair, from the lounge filled with books and velvet sofas to the fabulous sundeck with its loungers and Jacuzzi, pretty perfect for enjoying a spot of Egyptian sun while escaping the British winter.

But the main reason to cruise the Nile is to see the amazing sites of the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and the temples at Luxor, Karnak, Kom Ombo and Philae.

From Luxor to Asw...

Exotic and romantic, the archipelago of Zanzibar is a place of legend, filled with wonders ranging from historical palaces to breathtaking beaches and cultural experiences.

In Zanzibar, sultans ruled from palaces and sailors arrived from Arabia, Persia, and India to trade for tropical fruits and spices. Legend says Sinbad the Sailor, of ‘A Thousand and One Arabian Nights’ , docked his ship here.

These days the archipelago attracts an increasingly sophisticated traveller who finds a different and exciting African experience. It comprises over 50 islands nestling in the Indian Ocean, part of the East African nation of Tanzania. The major inhabited islands of Zanzibar are Unguja (which we call Zanzibar) Pemba and Tumbatu, each with their own charms. Along the coast are luxurious resorts and hotels and Tanzania  is one of the safest countries in East Africa.

‘Jambo’ grins Joseph the boatman as we step aboard his tiny vessel called Karibu (Swahili for welcome) ‘I am taking you to prison.’ With...

Mindfulness is all the rage for dealing with stress and finding a way for busy people to be in the moment – now a retreat company is taking it a step further, literally.

Mindfulness Journeys have been lovingly created by Brian, a spiritual teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and Shannon, a South African style expert. These retreat holidays are a living example of east meets west and of how perhaps we really can have it all. Brian, with his gift for and commitment to teaching and Shannon, who lives and breathes style, do something extraordinary, and perhaps even unique.

Their mission is for people to discover the joys of mindfulness while enjoying excellent local cuisine, barefoot luxury and fine wines in spectacular locations around the globe. My mindfulness retreat takes place in the Moroccan desert but they also offer one on a tiny, green Greek island with its own private beach near an ancient Apollo site and another in a stone country house in the rolling Tuscan countryside cl...

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