There is something special about the mornings before a vacation. The air seems to be scented with the fragrance of new discoveries, and one can feel again as a kid in front of an unopened gift.
However is not morning, not even afternoon and I lean my head against the window on the row 29 F on a light load plane departing to Athens. “This is pleasantly unexpected”I thought when after a short glance at my minion posture, a nice gentleman jumped up in rescue and without the smallest effort, placed my bag in the overhead near to his seat, making sure he will be the one giving it back to me. I blushed, he smiled, and unable to think of anything flattering or smart, I mumbled a “thank you” and hided on my seat, pretending to be tired.
In reality, there is no shadow of tiredness in my body, maybe just my mind is a bit overworked from daydreaming my next 5 days in the city of the Philosophers.
Just a few days back, I had no clue where should I spend my mini vacation, and now, somewhere in between here and there, flying above thousand of dreams and hopes, it feels right. As if I was always supposed to go there.
I haven’t booked a shuttle, and I am not planning for a taxi; that would be too easy, I would feel as a coward trying to escape a fearful action. So for the bus I go and the bus is waiting for me as knowing I would be there. We depart in five minutes.
Closing the welcoming night, the hotel receptionist is waiting.” The last guest for the night” he said and smiled, half with politeness, half with relive that he can finely withdraw himself into the warmth of his room. Is still chilly in Athens at night. I smile back and rested my gaze into his hazel eyes for a last time.
A daring sunshine, obviously not interested in how less I have succeeded to rest, drags me out of bed. I have a weakness for the morning sun, lavishing careless on my balcony. “Good morning Athens!” And the city seems to answer back through every sound. People are already rushing on the streets and without remembering what happen in between, I am already in the lobby of my hotel, map in hand, my camera hanging around my neck, ready to embrace whatever the city has to offer.
As I am looking for the best way to reach Acropolis from my hotel, which is located near Omonia square, I discover a pedestrian street, tizzing my imagination with glimpses of ruins on the other end.
I will discover later that Athens is packed with narrow streets, inviting you to indulge in local delicacies as kourabiedes (walnut cookie) or Galaktoboureko (milk pie), choose from countless international and local brands or try the local olive oil base cosmetics or traditional style jewelry.
Eolou street is no exception, the street is filled with tourist enjoying their morning coffee, and locals, reading their newspaper or shop for the Ester celebration. The trees are painted in a dark purple, and maybe is the Ester season that fills the street with a delightful mood, or maybe is my childlike way of seeing the world, either way my feet seem to dance on a music everyone seems to understand.
In front of a church, a well dress gentleman, looking like his soul has forgotten the age of his body, is playing the violin. I joke to myself, thanking the Greek Gods for such a welcoming, and let loose a few coins into the man’s old violin case. He gifted me back a smile as if he just intruded my imagination and I take the corner to Plaka.
Spring is the best time to walk around the streets of Plaka. Heavenly scented flowers are embellishing the walls, and the balconies, painted in bright green, red or blue are taking you back in time.
The narrow streets, competing for space on the Acropolis Hill, are now crowded with nicely decorated tables and colorful sitting areas, as if in this place, people have no notion of time. Plaka feels like an old nostalgic memory, that people are refusing to let go of.
I got lost a few times, forgetting I go somewhere, lost in wonder and adoration. As I take a corner, a worm smile grandma’ with glittery eyes, thinking probably of the time her grand-kids will come for the Easter celebration, is watering the flower pots, proudly exposed by the freshly painted window.
I follow the street, turn right near a mouthwatering smelling restaurant, cross a few more streets, greet the locals, smile at tourist, and soon I find my way to the Acropolis. A dense forest is trying to keep the mystery for a few more minutes, but as soon as a few more meters were climbed, the majestic construction can not be kept hidden anymore.
As expected tourist were rooming around, mostly oblivious of the beautiful sight, trying desperately to catch a view of their smartphone, selfie sticks, professional cameras, anything but a true, deep breath into the beauty of history. A better angle is preferred to a better understanding this days. And once again I am glad I am alone in the middle of the world, no distraction and no selfie stick.
The sky seem to pour over the acropolis and I stare at it until my eyes sting and drops of pleasurable tears slide across my cheeks.
Did Pericles had any Idea of the greatness of his construction. Did he intended “immortality” by ordering the construction of Acropolis, or he was just building a monument as we all do this days; with a practical utility, not thinking of the far future, when tourist will wanna see it, as a symbol of an antique and different society?!?!
Does the building in itself makes us wonder and spend time and money to visit, or is the story behind it?!?! If you think about it, you will realize that, except you are an architect, you are travelling to see stories unfolding in front of your eyes, and not places. I have no clue about the importance of the building, the architectural complexity or the difficulty of execution; all I know is the story behind it. I imagine Plato and Socrates, walking the corridors of buildings like Acropolis, meeting for lectures in Arenas or Agoras. I can feel a wave of humbleness and excitement, walking the same ground as the biggest minds of this planet. Gazing at the same side of the sky they did, maybe meditating upon the same rock. 😅
The day unfolds between bits of history. Even if the city is filled with historical footprints, the majority seem to be condensed around the Acropolis.
At the base of the Acropolis Hill you can find the Roman Agora, a relatively small area, hiding a water watch and a few meters to its left, the Ancient Agora is occupying the space of an entire park. Bits of history scattered between rare trees and narrow paths. On the far end of the park you can find hidden, as if shy of its modernity, a small church and a museum, or what is now known as the meeting place for Art and Theater students.
On the other end of the hill from the most compact peace of architecture you can find on the Ancient Agora, I am now enjoying the best view one can have of the Acropolis. ( Except the view from the last floor bar of my hotel).
The Adrian’s Library, the Zeus Temple and the Stadium are the next stops, and a little after midday, I found myself in need of a break.
After a well deserved coffee and a bite on a salmon baguette'( I am a shame at trying the culture in food) , I decide to go for the biggest hill in Athens, or the Lycabettus Mount as they call it. “Sunset will be spectacular from the mountain pick”, in case I have the courage to stay on the mountain for the show, and descend on dark a 20 minutes walk trough a forest, followed by 1 hour walk to my hotel. If you are like me and and love walking, the time will pass like nothing. Up until the base of the mountain, you will be walking around shopping streets and surround yourself with noisy bars. From the base of the mountain you will have tree option: a cable car is there for the lazy ones or the ones which have walked their limit already, a paved road will zigzag trough the forest if you decide on a moderate walk and for restless people like me, small pathways, scattered around the mountain, will let you enjoy the beauty of nature.
I have decided to miss the sunset on the hill, after a long time gazing in owe at the view, and head back with the sun chasing me from the back. I felt a bit coward, the place is more than safe, however I convinced myself that a wine on the hotel bar is the best option. At the end, it is famous for its view.
The sky is bleeding fire, and from my spot, wrap in cozy blankets, the Acropolis looks like a giant worrier, watching over the city. My eyelids are slowly closing, the wine is worming up my body, and I let my mind drifting off. Tomorrow will go chasing for the Greek Gods again.
806, a grave voice is shouting, as he was shouting at a lottery pull. Room 806, he cries again, this time directing his inexpressive look towers me.
I nod, pick up my small backpack, hiding just my camera my lip-balm and my hand sanitize; this days I have renounced on caring my house along, travelling makes you realize, most of the time you wont need more than money and a good camera.
The short, grumpy looking man, taking me to the buss, must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, or maybe is just the passing of the years, imprinted on its perfectly round face, either way, his look can not hide his loving nature, betrayed with every time he stops to see if I’m following, the spark in his dark eyes as he is struggling to place each of us on the right buss. His name is Socrates, and he will be our buss driver today. Near Socrates, now looking more at ease, on the other side of the steering will, a middle age woman, armed with a microphone, brakes the ice in a Greek accent English welcoming us to Go Tours, “ladies and gentleman Il y a de francophone aujourd’hui avec nous?” she continues, reveling her secret weapon; her french accent is impeccable, if not for a few Greek translations, I would believe we got ourselves a french tour guide.
The 2 h and 30 minutes drive until the Mount Parnassus, took us trough 4 different regions of the country; all with very important mythological stories, as Miss D will make sure not to escape any detail. In vain I try to catch up on some sleep. The story goes one about the young man who became a king after answering a terrifying beast’s question: Which being is standing on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and tree in the evening?” Apparently the answer was” the human” and as I couldn’t get why without a hint, I have to give up my hope of being a Queen😂
The Mount Parnassus is now showing off its white pics on the right, and we get to know that right near Delphi settlement, one can literally see the center of the ancient world.
The legend says that Zeus sent two eagles from two extremes of the world, and they have met here. A more modern day theory sustain that part of the mountain collapsed into itself, forming a V-shape crevasse and releasing natural gasses, which gave the impression of being close to the center of the world.
The gasses released were used as hallucinogens, and famous stories have been born due to its powers. The Delphi oracle, based on the believe that trough the hallucinogenic gas exposure, a young lady, was in touch with the Gods, has attracted thousand of pilgrims every year.
According to history, and Miss D, the young girl predictions were understood just by priests, who were in return translating them, in double meaning phrases. Every pilgrim was therefore due to interpret his prophecy accordion to his personality and believes.
The Ruins of Delphi Oracle are deeply hidden in the mountain, protected by valleys and walls of stone. The beauty of the place is Apollonian, as Miss D loves to say, reflecting God Apollo love for art, music, sun and knowledge; a serenity hard to dismiss while you find yourself on the mountain where the same God used to be worshiped.
I have skipped the museum, situated at the base of the mountain, and as much as it saddens our tour guide, missing being the witness to her extended knowledge, I have decided to spend some more time, climbing higher in to the mountain, to a stadium they use as a race track.
Passing trough Arahova on the way back, we were delighted by the charm of the mountain side village, its narrow colorful streets and the houses competing for space, as if the mountain was too small to fit them.
We stop here for a late lunch and I get to contemplate the day, in seeps of wine and cheese pie.
Two days, two mountains, and my legs are burning with pleasure and pain.
In two days, my feet have crossed the entire city, walked every hidden street and wondered, places out of tourist maps. Mountains and hills, ruins and shopping streets, museums and cafeterias, they have all sink in. I have enjoyed every movement, every sound and every color, every aroma Athens can offer, the only thing missing, for completeness is the beach, the breeze, playing in my hear, and my eyes resting upon the waves, as a meditation technique.
Is my last day in Athens and with the morning sun playing on my skin, I head to the beach, no destination in particular, planning to stop, where the sky meets the sea.
The tram is full, and I am wondering what will it be in full season, in an oven heated summer. I dismiss the thought, happy is March and people are still running around their day, dreaming of summer time. The tram stops, and a handful of a person enters carrying two grocery bags, covering a third of her body. I stand, and offer her a seat. Proudly hesitating, she finally seats, and leaves behind a shy thank you, as if she took the seat, not because she needed it, but with the love of a caring grandmother, trying to acknowledge her grand-kid good intention.
It took another twenty minutes until I finally sow it: the blueness of the sky is overwhelming, and the see is calm, expectant.
I get down at the first stop, and start walking in silence, as not to disturb the sea. A few daring souls, were disappearing slowly under the still water, making the scene look like a baptism ritual, a soul purification. Coming towards me, on an average peace, was a shirtless man, his breathing trying to cope with years of smoking. he passes me by, as if I was not there, and I continue walking, aimlessly, or maybe just following the sun. It may have been an hour or two, when the cornice road, suddenly turns into a small docks area.
Where did all this people came from , suddenly I feel like I have just felt from the sky on a overpopulated planet. People are walking up and down the docks, children are playing on the far end park, lovers holding hand, and tourists obviously impressed are looking for a place to have their lunch.
Right in front of a luxurious boat, showing off in the afternoon sky, a open air bar, has catch my eye. its low, cozy couches, are inviting you into reverie.
Hours pass by and all I can do is stare into deep blue water, the sky has turn into a pale pink , as the flame of the sun fade out, hiding between the boats.
It´s time to let go I think to myself Saying goodbye is never easy, however, there will be no new beginnings without it. and life is movement.
I am back on Sintagma Square, and as I try to feel every step of the road, back to the hotel, from the corner of the street, a local band is performing one of the last summer´s hits. I take it as a farewell, remember the man playing the violin on my first day in Athens, smile at the memory and once again, thank the Greek Gods for the worm welcoming.
My eye lids are heavy and I lie my head on the window at row 29 F.
To all the travelers up there, wanderers, historians, world lovers, Luxor must be on your “must see( understand, love)” list.
While we are all dreaming to someday visit The Pyramids, wondering around one of the 7th wonders of the world, will have a bigger significance if first we take a detour on the land of Pharaohs, learn their history, and have a clue of what those Majestic constructions are all about.
Luxor is the artifact of years of tumultuous history. Love stories with Kings and Queens, hate, revenge, superstition, magic, all of which are greatly depicted on every stone.
“An open air museum” as many historians are seeing it, and containing the second biggest worship temple in the world *just slightly behind Angkor Wat in Cambodia*, Luxor is the dream of every history lover, and should be a must for every passionate traveler.
Despite its historical treasure, after the revolution that took place in Cairo in 2013, tourist rate dropped drastically in Luxor even though Cairo continues to enjoy its touristic attention.
I was about 10 when I first heard about Egypt and Tutankhamen a age when symbolism was not more than a fancy ward and didn’t keep me from falling in love with the fascinating stories of Pharaohs and Semi-Gods.
At that age, my appreciation for a too complex history, converted in a formal respect leaving out the need for further investigation.
Years passed by and my latent love for Pharaohs stories converted in a more mature interest in culture.
Living in Middle East for the last 3 years and being surrounded with so many different cultures, inclusive Egyptian, acted like a trigger, reminding me of my childhood fascination with Pharaohs.
As many others, at the beginning I thought I will be able to apace my soul in Cairo, visiting the Great Wonder, the Pyramids. However it was not it, I couldn’t find myself in Cairo.
Indeed the construction is out-striking and definitely worth visiting but somehow lacks the footprints of its historical significance since is closed to public view in major part and one can find out more about its interior from the Egyptian museum or Louvre in Paris.
Luxor came as a healing for my expectations, I didn’t know much about the place or what to expect but I had to give Egypt another chance.
The Luxor experience!!
Scattered all over the city, Tombs, Museums, Temples, are all paying testimony to a mysterious era of God-like Kings and Queens.
I woke up in the middle of the most fascinating story of the humankind. Every rock and every wall is taking you to a trip in to the ancient Egypt.
I used to see Hieroglyphs as more than a way of transmitting simple information, and more like encrypted codes from Gods letting to the mortals their secrets.
While I am not believing anymore in secret inscriptions and codes, the Pharaohs did made sure they will be immortal. They are living in our collective memories trough pages of history encrypted on walls, through their temples and mummification.
They were actually believing that their soul will return taking the shape of a bird and looking for their body. Hence all the struggle of the mummification and the architecture of their tombs.
The body must be placed in a straight line from the entrance they say, so the bird can easily find it. No wonder no Pharaoh has returned since all the mummies have been taken out of the tombs. The birds must have had a hard time looking for the museums. 🙂
Descending into Luxor you can already feel that something is setting this city apart. Extremely green and clean, Luxor is totally opposite to the Cairo’s frenetic modernization.
People here have found their way in agriculture and family life. Friendly and well mannered, they make the best host you will encounter in Egypt
Finding a good hotel here is an extremely easy task. Along the east bank or the modern side of the city you will have dozens of 5 star hotels at a very convenient price. If mingling with the locals is your purpose, the west bank offers a variety of traditional and modern apartments. A great quality for a great price.
The Nile river is separating Luxor in two equally fascinating sides.
The east bank takes you in a historical journey trough temples and museums between which Karnak and Luxor temples are the most famous.
The second largest complex in the world, Karnak, has been Luxor’s main place for worship for 3000 years. Dedicated to Amun, his wife Mut and his sun Montu, the temple is charged with a huge amount of symbolism and mystery.
Closely relates and connected with Karnak, by the Avenue of the sphinx, Luxor Temple is known to be set apart by not being dedicated to a specific God but mostly used by the Kings for coronations and celebrations.
The Cornice side is the best place to make your way from a temple to the other and stop for a quick visit at the Luxor Museum and for a sunset ride on the Nile.
While dozens of private boats are waiting to take you on the other side of the Nile, the best way to experience the Luxor lifestyle is to take the National Ferryboat. Running 24h, it will cost you just around 25 cents(1 pound) and taking your change it will be insisted upon.
People will follow your every move and you in turn will follow theirs. Curious and a bit hesitant some will ask for your name and where are you from, and you will smile back and try to do your best to impress by replaying a ward or two in Arabic.
The West bank is the home of the Pharoes or if you want a more accurate description ” their eternal rest territory “. The Kings Valley and The Queens valley, the place of burial of the kings and queens of Egypt are strategically positioned on the west bank symbolizing the fall of the sun on the west. and also for a natural protection between mountains.
The only ancient construction that will appear out of the pattern in a burial area is the Hatshepsut Temple. The majestic construction was built between 7th and 22nd year of her reign and is said to be connected to her burial place in the Kings Valley.
The first female to be ruling Egypt Hatshepsut is depicted as a man, however most of her portraits were destroyed by her step sun Thutmose III.
Stories are saying that Hatshepsut step-sun destroyed her portrait so when her spirit will want to return, it will not have an image to return to.
Roaming around the Kings Valley temples is like shifting pages in a history book. Every Tomb is engraved with encrypted stories and mythical beings supposed to help the spirit reach the afterlife.
However nothing compares with standing in front of the mommy of Tutankhamen. The only king still in his grave and not a museum, seeing a 3000 years preserved body of one of the most controversial kings of Egypt is breathtaking.
Less tall than I imagined and as I found out later, way younger (Tutankhamen died around age 18) I had at just 10 cm away, the figure of the one which inspired my thirst for culture and sparkle my childhood fascination for Pharaohs.
Seeing the 18 years old king has forced me to admit once more the power of symbolism and how the beliefs in forces out of this world is so needed when one has to preserve the authority and power.
Theories are saying that Tutankhamen was buried as to appear similar to Osiris the God of afterlife. His mouth open and the blackened body are just part of the facts possibly confirming the theory.
Away from the Tombs and temples, Luxor has still much to offer, from a walk on the cornice stopping by for a local mint tea to a light show and a brief journey in time on the Karnak temple.
From a boat ride on the Nile and stopping by the banana farm where you can have a local dinner by the fireside and a taste of freshly picked bananas, to a incursion on the alabaster manipulation into beautiful works of art on the Qurna village.
Luxor is breathing its history trough every stone and every local can get you back in time over mysterious ancient secrets and fascinating stories told beside a campfire and underneath a cover of millions of stars.
Every traveler-to-be has that moment in life in which his future will gonna unfold in front of his eyes and he will have to choose from a sea of possible outcomes, how his journey will continue from there.
You will most probably stay alone in a train station or at the departure gate of the airport and scared as s**t, excited and full of dreams, will try to contain your heartbeat from braking out through your “travel the world” T-shirt!!!
You are now dragging your feet through the warm sand, listening the soft waves, braking just a few meters away. The sun is stronger than you ever experienced it back home and on your skin, rivers of salt and sand are now painting your new life.
You could have sworn that, that watermelon juice was alcohol free, when overwhelm by a tremendous warmth you collapse near the fire.
Noise, too much noise, people are now passing by through your life, like through a train station.
At the beginning they are just passengers, carrying their own life like untold stories, strangers, leaving behind the faint feeling of a ghost. But as they pass by, they start touching the walls of your heart, they start leaving behind peaces of their life-stories, they start creating a warm feeling of being there, and an emptiness when they are gone.
That small creature, full of dreams and wonders, has become now the carrier of the world, he carries in his soul fragments of thousand lifes, stories of nations.
This is what I felt in my first traveling experience. I was alone in the airport dreaming of what might arrive in my life, of how my life will gonna change and if I should better stop this now and go back home to my friends instead of dragging my feet in places I have no clue of, around people I have no information of.
“Who knows what can happen out there, the world is crazy! but at another thought…SO AM I“, and the outcome I have chosen to concentrate upon, is more than inviting !!!
A land of blue clear water, golden sands, seafood, bonfire parties, tribal dances, french accents. An island in the Indian ocean, where the Chinese, French, Indian and Creole culture are a fusion to excite your senses with.
Mauritius is the first destination gate-away I have chosen for my solo travelling baptism.
The taxi took me that early morning, upon arrival, through a dense jungle. Smells like dust and wet cloths, and from the radio a Indian beat is making my driver sketch a shy smile under a rich mustache.
The drive took us around an hour and I can not deny the relief I have felt once we stopped in front of a waterfront resort. “Coin de Mire Attitude“, a name that somehow matched my dreams while making the booking.
Within just crossing the street from the beach, and with a vast garden and entertainment court, the resort seem to be a great choice. the same were feeling the two lizards which have introduced themselves as my room-mates.
I am terrified of lizards, and I still can’t realize how I managed to sleep so peacefully the 5 nights of my vacation, knowing that at any moment I could have had one of my flatmates cuddling on my bed.
I guess it was the Universe’s way to show me that I am not alone.:)))
I have choose my hotel on the north of the Island, famous for beach resorts, and cruising along small islands, for snorkeling and sunbathing.
The south was tempting without discussion for its mountains and wind, a surfer’s paradise. However, for my first solo travelling experience, I have decided to remain “in the neighborhood”
The day unfold in a great speed, with a challenging amount of entertainment. I was to discover that is not in my destiny to be alone. I seem to have a magnet for open minded free souls, and within just a few hours upon arrival as I was sipping on my local exquisite drink, watching a traditional dance performance, my future travelling buddies join my table as we were knowing each other forever.
It felt so strikingly awkward and normal at the same time, but they seem inoffensive, so, “What the hack, I am thousand miles from home, alone in the middle of an ocean, why not making some friends”.
The sunrise in Mauritius is something you have to see for yourself to believe. I had already my swimsuit and my snorkeling kit, my coffee is smelling like heaven, the sun is bathing the ocean, the ocean is bathing my feet, and the only thing missing is me shearing a tear to commemorate the beauty of the world. :))))
Our boat is approaching and my new friends also, so I have to leave my poetic mood for some alone time, if there will be any. :))
What followed next, needs more than words to be expressed.
We have started with getting lost between colorful fishes ( God I have felt so tiny!) Is amazing how peaceful can it feel, to cruise around when, under your feet, the traffic is wars than India:))))
The day continued with a boat barbecue, lots of sunbathing, amazing stories, occasional off-the-board accidents :))) and plenty of hydration.
I know I was a bit melodramatic with the sunrise, but you should have seen that sunset, Oh my Lord that sunset! It might have been the drinks, or the excitement of being alone in the middle of an ocean, however, that was one of the best sunsets of my life!!!! :)))
Success!! After that day, I knew somehow that it was the beginning of a long and happy relationship with the world.
The next 2 days wore spent discovering hidden beaches and following the locals through their daily routines. Fruit markets were my favorite! Having pineapple as ice-cream, and taking the courage to ride local buses just to have a glimpse of culture, away from touristic crowds.
The departure was tough. Somehow I have left a peace of my soul on the island. It was my first solo-traveler love.
I have learned there that feeling lonely has nothing to do with being alone, but with how ready you are to open up your heart to the world and most important, to yourself.
In Mauritius I have become addicted. Addicted to life, addicted to the world, addicted to discovering myself.
The air seems heavier down here. As my body is struggling with the heat, I am wondering if passing from -15. C of the Frozen Iceland, to the 35 .C of a heavy, humid Zanzibar, it is actually a good idea.
The contrast is striking, just a few hours ago I departed from a well organized land, where culture, manners, and high lifestyle is a daily concern, and here I am now in Zanzibar, a land where at a first glimpse, the chaos is normality.
My senses have been assaulted, colorful, noisy people started dragging me to their taxi.
I feel as rivers are chasing down my spine and my breath was now taking a life of its one. My heart starts pounding as if it’s not coping with my brain, or maybe I was still frozen and now all my buds were waking up to life.
“Little one, where are you going”, a somehow familiar voice was calling. I woke up from my hypnotic state realizing that I am not alone.
Lets call him Tim, a portuguese kite-surfing instructor, happened to be seated next to me, and as solo travelers, starting a conversation didn’t take much effort.
After a few drinks, ( he found out is my birthday), our expectations of this journey, somehow matched. So we decided to exchange numbers and potentially meet up with the rest of the gang.
I was not really convinced of the idea of meeting a new gang, in a place I have never been, trusting a guy I have just met.
However, here we are, in front of the small airport saying goodbye and see you in a few days!…Maybe !!!!
Once again, I found myself alone. Not as if is new to me, but in a way, every time is different.
My taxi driver was waiting.
In a very strong African-English, he introduced himself as Mohamed, and without any other introduction he jumped on talking about the politics of the place, his family and inquiring about mine.
How it all stated!
Zanzibar has passed through a history of slavery and Arab domination, however at a first glimps people seem to have made peace with the past.
The two days spent in the Stone-Town, will soon teach me the insights of the culture. Another Mohamed, my tour guide this time, made sure he will not skip a detail while he guided me through the city markets, slave caves, and fortresses.
The brief history I will guide you through next, is a mix between official facts and personal information shred by the people I have interacted with durring my stay.
It seems to me that Zanzibar was always a lay-back nation. Lacking the military defense and being expose from the ocean, to commercial routs, they have always asked protection from powerful nations.
The Portuguese were the first to succumb the territory. Zanzibar has asked their help in developing the country. However the Portuguese attitude was: “I came, I see, I conquer”, taking advantage of the man power and starting here one of the biggest slaves markets in Africa.
This pushed the locals on asking the Arabic peninsula for help. Oman, back then under British dominance, accepted to help and liberate the country from the Portuguese domination, however they decided to stay.
Durring the arab domination, the majority of the portuguese culture and architecture got distroyed, between which, most of the christian churches.
The Islam will now become the dominant religion in Zanzibar and with it, the slavery becomes illegal.
However in the depts of the forests, a black market survived. The caves where the slaves were kept, are paying testimony until today to an era of oppresion.
After years of suffering, the British came in, trying to eradicate the slavery, and as a testimony, on the ruins of the slave-market, we can now find an Anglican church. However the one who finally stopped the slavery was Said bin Sultan, the 3rd sultan of Oman,
Finding freedom, didn’t convert the nation in a revengeful or closed culture, by contrary, they have learned to accept their faith.
The combination between a dominant Muslim belief, a lay back African culture and a history of suffering, converted Zanzibar in to one of the most humble and friendly African country.
Zanzibar in Arabic means ” the land of black man” . Therefore, African people, speaking Swahili, guides by Muslim religion, with a deep influence of Indian architecture and cuisine, Zanzibar seem to keep its calm and peace, converting tourism, into their hope for development.
Satisfied with the findings, and influenced by the new welcoming culture, I have decided to trust my new travelling friend and to open up to what proved to be, a Hakuna-matata life experience.
The fun begins !!!
I always say, if it feels good, its not necessary safe! However Zanzibar prove me the contrary.
From the Stone Town to Paje Beach, where I suppose to meet Tim and the rest of the gang, takes about 2 hours on taxi.
The road submerges into a dense coconut jungle, the only sign of life being the red ass monkeys crossing the streets in a lazy attitude.
Here and there, popping up from nowhere you can also meet the locals, selling the annual harvest.
My taxy driver, who by now was calling me “Sister”, invited me for a fruit lunch on a sidewalk. A huge Jackfruit was freshly cut, and we all shared the sweet taste; a combination of pineapple and banana.
Mary, the wife of our host and side-road sails-man, gifted us a bag full of mandarins and small bananas for the road, and we soon head back towards Paje Beach
We have reached Paje by afternoon, just in time for a sunset dinner.
Tim was waiting for me as if he was waiting an old friend.
Without further pleasantries, he informed me that I was supposed to meet them all for dinner on the beach bar.
An Australian, a Dutch, an Italian, a Jordanian and two Portuguese, were waiting for me.
Even though they have welcomed me in their family, the true bound arrived after a few drinks and some hammock side story. We all breath relived finding out that we haven’t bumped into any psycho. 😂
The stories continued until late in the night, as the stars were competing with each other in getting our attention. I haven’t seen such a spectacular parade since childhood.
Waking up in Heaven!
The sand is still warm under my feet, and as I walk along the beach, the freshness of the morning air, reminds me somehow of Iceland. Just two days ago, my mornings were tough. Waking up in a freezing cold place is a major task for me.
The sun starts rising, painting the sky in orange shades, with splashes of pink assaulting the infinite sky. I forgot how much I use to love waking up for sunrise.
Since the wind was not in our favor, we have spent the next 5 days between bonfires, beach parties, motor-rides, and complete laziness.
Sun-kissed and submerged in a deep calmness, tingling my senses with beautiful stories, laughing my heart out with people which are more precious than diamonds, I once more metaphorically hug myself for taking that leap of faith and trust people.
Travelling solo can be a phobia for many, or a dream for the others, but for me is an opportunity to experience, learn and discover.
PS: 1 year after, my Zanzibar acquaintances, are now my good friends. People I treasure and admire, people I am grateful for!
If even Justin Bieber had to have his white underwear showed-off in a freezing glacier in Iceland, why not me ?!?!?😂😂
As my fast-coming birthday it’s getting me into travelling mood, as always, I am passing through thousand destination getaways, looking for the most ingenious way to commemorate my existence.
Last year I had the great idea to celebrate my passing quarter by challenging my body.
I have pushed myself to lay dawn on paper my Maltese experience for two months now. However I have always felt like the story is not over yet, I grabbed on to it like it’s a matter of survival, and maybe it is. The survival of my poisonous nostalgia.
With every country I visit, my heart pumps my blood in different colors, transforming my spirit in a beautiful rainbow. Poisoned by my own heart, relishing sparks of color from every pore.
For an adventure seeker like me, Malta has never been on my bucket list. However a series of circumstances brought me in front of the possibility, and I admit; for an European, Malta is perceived as an easy escape, a less expensive relaxation getaway.
Or, how I’ve crossed my heart and went to visit the captive elephants of Pinnawalla!!!
When an animal lover hears the ward “captive”, his cognition process collapse. The part of the brain in charge with analyzing data, refuses any intake of information.
While the world is struggling with War, Hunger, Racism and mostly Hypocrisy and Injustice; there is nothing that can move masses more than…FOOTBALL!
This frenetic, almost addictive joy, that takes over humanity while watching a “ball-chasing game”, is mind-blowing.
So here I am, in Berlin, loosing myself in this wave of people, with hopes raised high, that maybe, just maybe, Germany will claim victory over Italy for the first time.
Who cares now about War, Hunger, Refugees or Brexit, when a country’s ego is challenged!!??
Surrounded by hundreds of people, I found myself carried away, following the street between Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate.
It is believed that if you want something bad enough, sooner or later, you will get it!. Lets add a little work and the success is almost guaranteed.
The Niagara Waterfall, was hitting the top of my bucket-list, since long before I could even imagine myself as a full-time traveler.
So here we go, without any big revelation, or strange emotions, in front of the long awaited moment, I arm myself with patience for the 7 h. trip that separates me from crossing another major dream-destination from my list.