Africa is to some extent still a largely unexplored continent by tourists a lot of this is down to the recent instabilities in the region for the last quarter of a century or so. However, things seem to be getting better which is great news for tourists because Africa boasts some of the most fascinating nations on Earth. Below I’ve listed the three African countries that I think you’d be crazy not to visit soon.
Capital City: Cairo
Language: Arabic (most urban areas will speak English)
Last year saw Egypt in turmoil as the Arab Spring saw the collapse of the long standing incumbent Government. However, it has calmed down in the country considerably over the last year and the warnings about travel have been lifted by many embassies. I’m so glad that the country is open again because it is such a treasure trove of everything that I want on a holiday.
The obvious draw of Egypt lies in its historical civilization. The Pyramids and Sphinx just outside of Cairo are still ranked as one of the greatest manmade structures in the world and maintain an air of mystery that continues to draw hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. But that’s not all the ancient city of Thebes, Alexandria and Cairo all have countless historical draws; including the amazing Museum of Egyptian Antiquities which houses 120,000 ancient artefacts!
For those seeking a bit more mental relaxation you could always take a camel ride into Sinai to walk up the mountain where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments. Or how about a leisurely cruise down the Nile? The longest river in the world is teeming with wildlife for the animal lovers such as crocodiles and hippo as well as offering a look into both modern and ancient Egyptian life.
I haven’t even got to the treasures and bargains that can be found whilst trawling the many markets and bazaars which can be found in most large settlements rugs, spices and trinkets are everywhere you look. Egyptian food consists mainly of bread, it can be found in the majority of their dishes offering both a utensil for eating as well as a source of carbohydrates. Both falafel and kebabs are also common features of Egyptian meals.
Capital City: Rabat
Language: Arabic, Berber, French, Spanish and English
Morocco has the dubious honour of having a film, named after one of its major cities, more famous than the country. Despite being internationally famous Casablanca is not the capital of this North African country (although it is the largest city). With stunning clean beaches, clear warm sea and hot (but not scorching) sun it is little wonder that Morocco is a popular holiday destination for Western tourists.
But there is so much more to this diverse and intriguing country than staying within a luxury hotel’s grounds. The country has been an important territory for numerous civilizations from the Phoenicians, Carthaginians to the Romans and Arabs. It is the last of these settlers that have made the biggest mark on Moroccan culture most obviously with its promotion of Islam. Islamic architecture and culture is evident around the country in the great square; Jemaa el-Fnaa which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has served as a meeting place in Marrakesh for nearly a thousand years.
The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is a relatively recent landmark in Morocco; but with a capacity of over a hundred thousand worshippers and a sixty story minaret it has to be one of the biggest places of worship in Africa. Morocco has long been proud of its literary and musical heritage it is a stronghold of many traditional North African musical styles. This makes attending a performance an important part of anyone’s trip.
Morocco is perhaps most famous for its cuisine which is richly flavoured with a wide array of spices like saffron, mint, cinnamon as well as fruits like sultanas, dates and citrus fruits. The staple food is couscous and bread which are often alongside lamb, chicken or beef. Some of the freshest and best quality foods can be found at the souks (markets) in Marrakesh.
Capital City: Antananarivo
Language: Malagasy and French
One of the largest islands in the world Madagascar constantly slips under the radar of western tourists. I have no idea why because it is a relatively inexpensive and exciting trip for the single explorer all the way to a family trip.
The history of Madagascar is far from conventional with an indigenous royal family ruling the nation right up until 1897 before being deposed by France. The capital of Antananarivo offers a great example of French colonial architecture notably the Rova of Antananarivo which was a Royal Palace built in the French style in themed 19th century.
However even I admit that most people don’t go to Madagascar to look at buildings or to visit museums. The beautiful countryside is for the most part unique to the island from tall peaks to dense jungle this small island seems to have it all. The wildlife is especially worth mentioning; it is estimated that around 90% of all the plants and animals in Madagascar are only found on the island. The most famous among the animals is undoubtedly the lemur, which is completely endemic to the island and can be found in the wild nowhere else in the world. Tours of the rural areas are well worth taking for anyone even if you’re not a wildlife fanatic.
Madagascan culture is a fusion of French and the native Malagasy people; this is clear from the cuisine that you’re likely to find in the country. The croissant is almost a staple and is served with pretty much every dish as is sweet coffee.
Josh writes for No.1 Traveller a luxury travel company, who run a Heathrow airport lounge and a Gatwick airport lounge.