Tags Posts tagged with "Africa"

Africa

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The last imperial capital of Abyssinia and the capital of the modern nation of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa has only existed for a little over 130 years. As such, its name means “new flower,” and speaks to its flourishing as a center of power, culture, and influence in the ancient and storied Ethiopian highlands. Here, friendships and kindness abound, and Ethiopia’s enduring legacy of independence in the face of external attempts at conquest is a sense of majesty, tempered by humility, that makes visitors feel welcome and cared for.

Heran and I grab some coffee at an Italian-inspired coffee shop. Café-style coffee, pizza, and pasta are some of the culinary influences the Italians left after their short-lived occupation during World War II. That said, machine-brewed coffee has got nothing on the elaborate, traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
The juxtaposition of African and European design was evident in the halls of the former Imperial Palace, once home to Emperor Haile Selassie and now a museum on the campus of Addis Ababa University.
Getacho is trained as a medical lab technician. He left the field because of his aversion to the abortions he was required to help perform. I didn’t ask him about his stance on a woman’s right to choose; he just said he couldn’t bare the actual procedure. His other siblings all work in the medical field. He said to me, in much better English than he gave himself credit for, “All will work out. All will be okay.”
Students text and browse on cell phones at Addis Ababa University. The striking campus library was named in honor of former US president John F. Kennedy—a controversial figure in Ethiopia.
Women in bright colors walk past the verdant walls of an upscale residential district near the embassy zone. Some of the mansions house ambassadors and other dignitaries, guarded from—or kept from—the outside world by these high walls.
Traditional Ethiopian coffee (bottom left) compliments a platter of steaming, savory goodness.

 
-Ernest White II

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I arrived at Bamako, capital of the modern country of Mali, in the late afternoon under a hot and yellow sky. Outside the small airport terminal, greeters waited for friends and family, hotel drivers held signs aloft, and touts—quietly and at a distance—offered local SIM cards or to change currency at the black market rate. One of the touts, his hair cut in the newfangled mohawk so fashionable among youths under thirty around the world, asked me in English if I needed a ride or a guide. I had expected my hotel to pick me up, but we at least spoke for a few minutes about his long-ago trip to Washington. He impressed me with a few words of Spanish that slipped into Italian, which was even more impressive. Than a police officer shooed all the non-passengers away from the shaded terminal entrance and back across the virtually carless roadway into the sun.

After a while, when I guessed that my driver wasn’t on the way, I tried to call the hotel from my cell phone, to no avail and saving me the nearly $5 per minute charge. I asked a uniformed woman passing by if she spoke English—“Pardon, parlez-vous anglais?” being one of the scant French phrases I’ve mastered—and, upon receiving an excited “Yes!,” asked if she could help me contact the hotel. She took me to the baggage office where she worked to contact them and wait for the driver. She told me about her two daughters who live in Atlanta and how she worked for Air Afrique in the ‘90s.

Staring out from the wall of her office was a French fashion model, plump red lips parted by white teeth that protruded as if the model, as a child, sucked her thumb. The face was framed by a tempest of hair, capped by a beret, and the Eiffel Tower rose in the distance over one thin shoulder. “France is in the air,” read the airline poster, advertising the single daily flight from Bamako to Paris. The wan, pouting body in the image appeared lifeless, ghostly compared with the vivid and corpulent bodies in my immediate vicinity. From the taxi on the way to the hotel, I saw an Air France billboard advertising “royal shopping in Paris.” Economically, Mali is one of the ten poorest countries in the world.

Entering the outskirts of the city, tangerine-colored dust, reminding me of Tallahassee or Pietermaritzburg, glowed in the sunlight, and I looked at the faces of the people walking alongside the road, riding on Chinese-made motorbikes, or selling sundries in the scant shade: Auntie Rosemary, Tyrone, Keisha’s little sister, Deacon Jones, Dr. McLendon.

We crossed the River Niger during the afternoon rush hour, and I noticed the abundance of motorbikes and the abundance—not the majority, but a notable number—of women astride and driving the motorbikes in brightly-colored floor-length dresses, traditional West African headwraps, and high heels. Other women wore hijabs or hoodies protecting Beyoncé-inspired braids—blonde, of course—from the citrusy dust. The men, whose second-hand clothing spoke more to the relative economic standing of the country than did the ladies’, wrenched out any bit of style they could muster, be it a cocked and reversed baseball cap, an elegant knee-length shirt with a fedora, chic plastic-rimmed spectacles, or one of the stylish haircuts appearing in Belgian hip-hop videos. Whatever they wore, they wore it well.
I arrived at a clean, mercifully air-conditioned hotel run by an Ivoirian Frenchman and his daughter, had an unimpressive dinner, then read until jetlag sent me to sleep.

The next morning, I had plans to go out into the city after breakfast to take photographs and meet up with the American friend of an American friend for coffee. But at breakfast, I ended up meeting a middle-aged white man who had been born in the Belgian Congo sixty-five years ago. He was ten when the war of independence broke out in the Congo and took a children’s-only train to safety in Cape Town, with no news of the whereabouts or well-being of his parents for a year. They showed up eventually, and he grew into manhood in South Africa, marrying a Coloured woman, illegally. They had two children and could never live in one place longer than three months at a time because, just as surely as they had moved into a house, a neighbor reported the interracial marriage to the police, who took about three months to act on the complaint. He told me how he helped smuggle contraband to anti-Apartheid resistance fighters and about the karate dojo in the Indian section of Johannesburg where he took his children for lessons and where people of all four racial groups bonded under the shared love of a martial art and the ability to not think about race for a while, anyway. Eventually, Apartheid ended, Mandela was released, and the first general election was held in 1994. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Belgium, where his marriage dissolved. He then, finally, accepted that he was gay.

We remained wrapped—and I, rapt—in conversation for the entire day. It was Mandela Day.

The next day, not having seen very much of Bamako at all, but determined to return again during the five-year duration of my visa, I went to the airport around lunchtime to check in to my onward flight to Dakar. The airport was virtually empty of passengers, and three immigration officers stood behind the glass partition sharing a heap of barbecued ribs wrapped in brown paper, just like they do at Jenkins’ Bar-B-Q back home, except the ribs were covered in onions rather than mustard-based barbecue sauce. We all laughed; they offered me some, but I had just eaten lunch and didn’t want to get my passport greasy. One of the officers used his ungreasy hand to process me out of the country and stamp my passport.

My people.

-Ernest White II

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With welcoming cultures, natural and urban wonders, and innumerable experiences to be had, Africa is an inviting, underrated place to visit. Possessing 54 independent countries, each with a complex political, social, and economic history, most places on the continent—in fairness—require US citizens to obtain a visa in advance of any trip. Still, some countries have extended a visa-free* welcome mat that lets Americans simply book and go with passport in-hand, and maybe a pre-trip vaccination or two (after all, in some places, it’s literally a jungle out there). And they’re all no more than one flight connection away from most major American air hubs. It’s time for Africa.

Leopard in Botswana by Gregory Slobirdr Smith via Flickr

Botswana
A nature-lover’s paradise where the river meets the desert, Botswana hosts some of the planet’s oldest landforms and lifeforms. The largest group of Bushmen—who, incidentally, constitute the world’s oldest human civilization—call the country home, roaming the vast Kalahari Desert into which the ancient Okavango River flows. The fertile soils of the resulting delta sustain one of the world’s largest concentrations of game animals, protected by several natural preserves that can be visited by safari.
Fly to Gaborone (GBE) from the USA via Addis Ababa and Johannesburg.

 

Sunset Near Bangui by Afrika Force via Flickr

Central African Republic
Located literally at the heart of the continent, the Central African Republic offers visitors a modest, low-rise capital city with bright marketplace and bustling riverfront, safaris with an immense array of wildlife—including elephants and lowland gorillas—and the lovely, 165-foot-high Boali Waterfalls. Be aware, however, that the country has had more than a few security issues over the past couple of years, leading the State Department to issue a travel warning that has been in effect since April 2016.
Fly to Bangui (BGF) from the USA via Casablanca and Paris.

 

Malabo Harbour by Wapster via Flickr

Equatorial Guinea
Tiny and tropical, this former Spanish colonial enclave has got oil money to spare and gleaming new high-rises and shopping malls to prove it. The capital city, Malabo, is a mix of colonial and modern architectural styles, reflecting its history as a strategic outpost for during the Triangular Trade; Malabo was also a haven for freed slaves during the 19th century. Outside the city, pristine beaches, jungle treks, and the lush Monte Alen National Park on the mainland pack a big punch within a small area.
Fly to Malabo (SSG) from the USA via Casablanca, Frankfurt, and Madrid.

 

Snow in Lesotho by Di Malealea via Flickr

Lesotho
Landlocked and entirely surrounded by the country of South Africa, mountainous Lesotho is called the “Kingdom in the Sky” for good reason. Living in one of the few places on the continent with regular snowfall every winter, the citizens of the kingdom wrap themselves in warm blankets and wear a distinctive conical hat, almost like a crown. Aside from spectacular trekking and horseback riding in dramatic valleys and gorges, Lesotho welcomes visitors with a friendly local culture and a flavor and atmosphere utterly distinct from its more renowned neighbor.
Fly to Maseru (MSU) from the USA via Johannesburg.

 

Essaouira by Caroline Granycome via Flickr

Morocco
One of Africa’s most easily-accessible destinations by virtue of its proximity to the air hubs of Europe, Morocco melds the cultures of Africa and Europe in an exotic, dream-like haze. Buzzing markets, striking architecture, and scrumptious food define cities such as Marrakech, Fez, and Casablanca, while the endless coastline and cool Atlas Mountains provide plenty of opportunity for outdoor diversion. And despite being at one of the world’s oldest crossroads, Moroccans still welcome visitors warmly.
Fly nonstop to Casablanca (CMN) from New York and Washington.

 

Ostriches in Namib Desert by Greg Willis via Flickr

Namibia
Sprawling along the remote, sun-drenched southwestern coast of Africa, Namibia’s ancient landscapes appear more out-of-this-world than down-to-earth. Indeed, the Namib Desert is the oldest on the planet and the country’s Bushmen are among the world’s oldest civilizations. Natural and manmade wonders collide on the Skeleton Coast, littered with the remains of innumerable shipwrecks along the beaches, while Etosha National Park shelters plenty of mammals and reptiles, including the endangered black rhino.
Fly to Windhoek (WDH) from the USA via Addis Ababa, Amsterdam, Doha, Frankfurt, and Johannesburg.

 

Dakar From Ngor by Jeff Attaway via Flickr

Senegal
With a capital city that is one of the most exhilarating and underrated in the world, Senegal serves up a hefty side of sophisticated urban culture along with its beaches and national parks. Dakar’s nightlife, markets, and art scenes are legendary, while historical sites like the “Door of No Return” at Gorée Island and the colonial capital of Saint-Louis harken back to Senegal’s importance during the transatlantic slave trade. Not only are the Senegal’s sites sublime, sunsets from along its 330-mile coastline are spectacular.
Fly nonstop to Dakar (DKR) from New York.

 

The Orbit Jazz Club Johannesburg by South Africa Tourism via Flickr

South Africa
One of the most beautiful countries in the world, South Africa offers up an array of experiences unmatched by any other part of the continent: the urbane pulse of Johannesburg, the natural splendor of Cape Town, the cultural gumbo of Durban, big-game safaris, coastal drives, affordable luxury, and a home-grown house music scene that rivals Baltimore’s and Berlin’s. No wonder one of ZA’s catch phrases is “Better, Together.”
Fly nonstop to Johannesburg (JNB) from Atlanta and New York; fly direct (same-plane w/stop) from Washington.

 

Elder Swazi Warriors by Robert Staudhammer via Flickr

Swaziland
The tiniest country in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, Swaziland packs plenty of experiences within its 6,700 square miles. Traditional Swazi ceremonies and celebrations are held proudly and prominently year-round, culminating in the Umhlanga Festival each August, where young women honor the Queen Mother in full regalia. Safaris and adventure sports also feature high on the country’s to-do list, rendering little Swaziland a memorable place to visit.
Fly to Manzini (SHO) from the USA via Johannesburg.

 

Tunis Sunset by Mashhour Halawani via Flickr

Tunisia
Struggling to recover from two tragic attacks against foreign tourists in 2015, Tunisia still offers broad beaches, thriving marketplaces, and affordable luxury experiences. Many Europeans still book packages to surf and sun destinations, including Monastir and Nabeul, both built on the ruins of settlements from the Roman Empire. The country’s millennia-old history is showcased at the museums and cultural centers of the capital, Tunis, once known as the ancient city of Carthage. Tunisia has indeed been around.
Fly to Tunis (TUN) from the USA via Amsterdam, Barcelona, Casablanca, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, and Rome.

 

*Visa requirements are always subject to change. Check the US Department of State website for the most current requirements for US citizens.

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If you’re anything like me, you prefer the freedom and ease of traveling solo. When you’re alone, there’s no one else’s agenda to consider but yours. But, no (wo)man is an island, and sometimes, it’s nice to hit the islands, or wherever else strikes your fancy, with a group of like-minded individuals. Here are a few reasons why:

Connecting with Cool People
While traveling solo is indeed a great way to meet new people, so is traveling on a group tour. And if you choose the tour according to your level of interest in the destinations or experiences offered, you are likely to meet at least one other person who you can vibe with. You never know, your new friend might turn into a regular travel buddy, business partner, or significant other. Group trips create incredible opportunities for networking and, yes, matchmaking! And if you do get annoyed with the group, you can always opt out of larger group activities and do your own thing.

Minimal Dull Moments
Traveling alone often means solitude, even if you’re amid the hustle of New York or the bustle of London. Friends have to work during the day and while it’s sometimes nice to keep certain experiences and discoveries to yourself, there’s also the more mundane aspects of solo travel that would be exponentially better if you weren’t alone. If anything, traveling with a group ensures that you’ve always got someone to wait in line, sit around the airport, or do those other banal endeavors with you.

Expanded Experiences
Cost and time are factors that always affect travel plans, but when you’re traveling by yourself, these parameters can be quite challenging to optimize. While a solo traveler to Paris might have to schlep out to the Palace of Versailles on the train and wander the grounds alone, a group can more easily arrange nonstop transportation, a private tour of the palace, and lunch at a nearby winery. Likewise, a Nile River Cruise in Egypt, calling at some of the world’s oldest and most striking temples and monuments, would be an otherwise prohibitively expensive proposition. Excursions to localities a bit farther afield are always easier, or at least cheaper, in groups.

Group Discounts
One constant in the travel industry is that traveling in a group lowers the individual cost of the trip, if only because tour operators, airlines, and other service providers offer discounts when multiple participants purchase their service. You can sometimes get discounts of up to half-off when you travel with a group.

Fly Photographs
Need I say more?

Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

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As it flows northward from Aswan to Edfu to Luxor, the Nile River remains quiet and unbothered by little more than the small vessels zipping across the glassy surface. Over the course of the Nile’s various ages, it is the sturdy, wind-powered felucca that remains the most evocative and romantic of the river’s watercraft.

The name felucca, Italian in origin, is said to have come from a Greek word for “boat”—epholkion—via the Arabic fulk and Spanish faluca. Constructed mainly of wood, with three triangular-shaped sails made of Egyptian cotton and called lateens, feluccas rely on the brisk desert winds to sail upriver and the steady current of the Nile to float downriver. Plying the 300 km stretch of the river between Aswan and Luxor, feluccas are more often rented out, these days, for social events and tourist excursions, leaving the freight traffic to barges and the passenger traffic to cruise liners.

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While the average felucca ferries the average tourist up and down the Nile, when Up in the Air Life takes to the river, the feluccas play host to some of the flyest adventurers on the planet. Champagne pours as a mix of live, traditional Egyptian music and modern-day jams keep the atmosphere lit and live. As other feluccas pass by, the less-energetic passengers crane their necks to see what’s happening over on the hypest boats, and the pair of young guys who paddle up to the side to serenade unsuspecting foreigners with Euro-pop get a surprise themselves when our intrepid explorers launch into an impromptu rendition of “Rapper’s Delight.”
And as the lingering sun sets to the west, the energy of the river remains, constant and unchanged, as the feluccas carry history and culture with them to every port.

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Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

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“For, as Mr. Ferguson was saying at that minute in Luxor, it is not the past that matters but the future.”
–Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile

Ah, but the past informs the future, and with a past extending back four millennia, the lands and peoples and monuments of Nubia and Upper Egypt prove themselves as resilient as the very river that sustains them.
Exploring the shadowy colonnades and alcoves of the Temple at Luxor means stepping back into that past, when men-gods and women-goddesses commanded multitudes of builders, architects, artisans, and designers—many enslaved—and absorbing the energy of the ages, both light and dark. It is believed that many of the pharaohs of Egypt were crowned here, a monument to monarchy, unlike nearby temples dedicated to deities or deified rulers, and that even Alexander the Great claimed against all observable evidence, to be legitimized at what is now Luxor. Indeed, the French snagged a piece of Egyptian regalia, the obelisk at Place de la Concorde in Paris, leaving its companion to stand sole sentry over the entrance to the temple.

But to marvel at the intricate hieroglyphics—each symbol a story in itself—and the absolute size of a structure completed with ancient building technology only inspires the mind to wonder: what pasts, presents, and futures walk among the shadows and the sun of the Temple at Luxor on their way to greatness?

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Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

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Timeless: the only word that can adequately describe the Nile River as it courses smoothly through the ancient lands of Upper Egypt and storied Nubia. The boats that ply the great river like ants across stone are made from reed and wood and metal, their compositions mirroring the technological advances that seem to have only made it up the Nile in intermittent spurts—a satellite dish here, 3G wireless there.

It is on one of these boats—the Sun Boat IV, operated by Sanctuary Retreats—that I spent several days luxuriating in timelessness, exploring Egyptian temples to half-remembered gods built millennia ago and trading smiles and furtive conversation with the curious and friendly boat staff between ports of call. I can’t exactly remember how many days we journeyed through our stretch of the river, as the sun rose a golden disc in the east and set a golden disc in the west, the exact same sun every day without alteration, and every day one of relaxation and discovery.

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Thirty-six cabins, well-appointed and comfortable, provide guests a modern, Art Deco-inspired refuge from the desert heat and riverine humidity. Many of the cabins feature vistas of the fabled papyrus reeds along the river bank, earnest little feluccas with full sail raised, and the settlements and cities squeezed as close to the water’s edge as the river allows. Views from the spacious dining room and lounge reveal the true vastness of the river and the breezy rooftop terrace café and swimming pool attract guests in search of a more intimate relationship with the Nile.

Staff, attentive and anticipatory, make polite conversation while serving helpings of Western and Egyptian delectables in the public areas of the cruiser, while the on-board store provides ample opportunity to be decked out in traditional, timeless, Egyptian attire. What makes my particular trip so memorable—and timeless—was the perfect energy of the people who sailed with me, the people who came to Egypt to experience its timeless mysteries and its timeless gifts. The people who ventured to explore Egypt with that curator of timeless experiences, Up In the Air Life.

Find out more about my Egyptian Adventure with Up In the Air Life in the days ahead.

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Today, I joined the good folks at Up In the Air Life, luxury excursion planners extraordinaire, for a four-day cruise along the Upper Nile River from Luxor to Aswan amid some of Ancient Egypt’s most spectacular sites. Aboard the five-star Sun Boat IV, operated by Sanctuary Retreats, a group of 66 adventurous American travelers mix relaxation with exploration, tackling the striking Temple of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, the impactful Temple of Horus, while enjoying sumptuous meals, friendly service, and, yes, a DJ imported from New York. After the cruise, we’ll participate in a fabulous last-night all-white affair at Le Meridien Cairo’s elegant Sequoia Restaurant before returning to the States. Full disclosure: Up In the Air Life is covering my participation in the trip, but don’t think I can be easily swayed from writing the truth.

Be sure to follow my dispatches from the road—or rio, rather—here at Fly Brother and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

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This week, I’ll be heading east for an eclectic, exciting three-week sojourn to England, South Africa, and Egypt. The trip is ostensibly for work—I’ve got a media event happening in each place—but there’s obviously a bit of fun to be had as well. Here’s the rundown…

Transit Brunch in NYC with Oneika the Traveller
On Friday, I stop through the Big Apple en route from Miami to London just long enough to catch up with my girl Oneika the Traveller, who, probably against her better judgment, agreed to be a guest on the Fly Brother Radio Show. You can catch the episode this Saturday morning at 10AM Eastern on the Ndustry Entertainment Network.

World Travel Market in London
From Saturday til Tuesday, I’ll be hanging out in Londontowne at the biggest B2B travel fair on the planet, World Travel Market. There will be hobnobbing and schmoozing with tourism bureaus and travel companies from around the world, but also with journalists, bloggers, travelers, and the bartenders and waitstaff, too. It’s a great place for interaction and networking with decision makers in the travel industry, and the event is free.

Victoria Dock by Bill Tyne via Flickr
Victoria Dock from ExCeL London by Bill Tyne via Flickr

Essence Fest in Durban
After WTM and a few afternoons connecting with England-based friends, I’ll head down to the city of the Southern sun, Durban. The first international edition of the Essence Music Festival is happening there next week, which I’ll be covering for the Fly Brother Radio Show. Still, Durbs has other charms, including an intense culinary scene centered around Indian cuisine and a lengthy history as the center of Zulu culture. Quietly, sun-splashed Durban is one of my favorite cities in Africa.

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Central Durban by Ernest White II

Nile River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan
Finally, I head due north to Luxor, site of the historic Egyptian city of Thebes and home to some of the greatest preserved temples and monuments of Ancient Egypt. From there, I’ll sail into Upper Egypt with a group of fly folks on a multiday Nile River cruise organized by travel collective Up in the Air Life, covering the trip in words and images here at FLY, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The cruise ends with a stop in the venerable market town of Aswan before I continue on to chaotic Cairo and home.

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Temple of Luxor by VasenkaPhotography via Flickr

Be sure to follow along on all the social medias! Have you ever been to any of these places?

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Table Mountain, Cape Town

“I live in the most beautiful city in the world,” said my buddy Rob, a long-time expat American living in Cape Town. He’s been saying this, in one way or another, for the past several years. And it only took until this year for me to visit and, sooner rather than later, for me to agree with him.

Cape Town spills around the bottom of Africa, just north of where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, so far away as to be on another planet. Table Mountain and Lion’s Head and Cape Point stand, alternately shrouded and ominous or windswept and proud, testifying to the city’s singular place in the world and daring any other pretenders to make themselves known.

Yet despite this singularity of place, Cape Town recalls at once California and Florida and the Caribbean and the Mediterranean and Rio de Janeiro and Savannah: the arid mountains, the pastel buildings and turquoise waters, the lingering sun and undulating landscape, the laid-back atmosphere, the luxury hotels and marinas full of yachts, the unresolved social inequality and unearned entitlement hard-baked into the South African soil, a Southern soil if there ever was one.

The secret to Cape Town’s beauty isn’t that it is so immediately apparent; it’s the elements of the familiar and the unique that reveal the city’s kaleidoscopic aura. I sensed this aura on the rocky flats atop Table Mountain and in the sapphire surf that plays on the beach at Sea Point. I sensed it on the buzzing commercial strips of Bo-Kaap and Brooklyn, districts containing all the various and new South Africas, where the intrepid shopper could procure any good or service, legal or otherwise. I sensed it in laughter- and light-filled conversations with Xhosa radio DJs and Afrikaner waiters, Coloured publicists and Indian receptionists, French journalists and American models, portending, possibly, nascent lifelong friendships.

Which brings me back to Rob, who I’ve known for a decade. Well-versed in my cultural and intellectual leanings, he’s been championing South Africa to me for years, even as I moved to other continents. But it only took a single fantastical moment, stepping off of Rob’s porch at twilight, Table Mountain looming black and matte against a watercolor sky, for Cape Town to prove him right. He lives in the most beautiful city in the world.

—–

Oh yeah, did I mention that I went to Cape Town Fashion Week, and associated parties?
🙂