Saturday, September 20, 2014

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech – Land of God

Marrakech or Marrakesh is a major city in the northwest African country of Morocco. Marrakech is derived from the Amazigh – Berber words mur (n) akush meaning `Land of God’, and is the third largest city in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat.

 It is located near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and by road is placed around 580 km southwest of Tangier, 327 km southwest of the Moroccan capital of Rabat, 239 km southwest of Casablanca and 246 km northeast of Agadir.

It is also a few hours on foot of the Sahara Desert and is an awesome destination in Morocco mingled with its location and contrasting landscape. This city is divided into two sections namely the Medina which is the historical city and the new European modern district known as Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle.

While the Medina is full of intertwining narrow passageways with local shops, Gueliz has modern restaurants, fast food chains together with huge brand outlets.

Major Economic Centre/Tourist Destination 

Marrakesh is one of the busiest cities in Africa which is a major economic centre as well as a tourist destination which was advocated by the Moroccan reigning monarch Mohammed VI with the intention of increasing the number of tourist in their country to twenty million by 2020.

The real estate and hotel development in this city has improved to a great extent in the 21st century in spite of the economic recession. It has the largest traditional markets (souk) of Berberin Morocco with some 18 souks selling wares which ranges from traditional Berber carpets to modern consumer electronics.

Marrakesh is very popular with the French and one will find a large number of French celebrities owning property here.

Several Universities/School

This city is served by the Marrakesh railway station and Menara International Airport connecting thecity to Casablanca and northern Morocco with several universities and school which includes Cadi Ayyad University. Besides this, one will also find a number of Moroccan football clubs here which include Najm de Marrakech, KAC Marrakech, Chez Ali Club de Marrakech and Mouloudia de Marrakech.

The Marrakesh Street Circuit hosts the World Touring Car Championship, FIA Formula Two Championship races and Auto GP World Series. There is much to explore in Marrakech and a whole day can be dedicated in visiting interesting places in and around Marrakech which offers many historical and architectural sites together with some interesting museums.

Interesting Sites to Explore 

Palmeraie, the green lung of Marrakech is a real oasis on the edge of the city and is a perfect setting to take a few hours of camel ride and enjoy the surrounding of peace. The square of Djemaa El-Fna, the highlight of Marrakech night has musicians, dancers and story tellers crowding the square, filled with drum beats and plenty of noise. Many stalls are lined up selling a variety of Moroccan fare.

The Souks or markets are adjacent to Place Djemaa El-Fna, where most of the things can be purchased. The Majorelle Gardens in Gueliz is more expensive than other interesting sites and is somewhat priced too high for a modest size attraction of half an hour though it provides an excellent viewing from the everyday life. Marrakech is an amazing destination with many more sites to explore which are worth visiting.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Capri – Isle of the Sirens


Capri
Capri, an island is situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula, on the southern side of the Gulf of Naples in Campania region of Italy. Capri, the main town has been a resort since the Roman Republic till present times.

Capri is known in the Greek mythology as the isle of the sirens and was a favoured resort of the Roman emperors. The interesting features of this island are the Marina Piccola which is the small harbour, the Belvedere of Tragara, a high panoramic promenade which is lined with villas, the limestone crags known as sea stacks which projects above the sea, the Faraglioni, the town of Anacapri, the Grotta Azzura – Blue Grotto and the ruins of the Imperial Roman villas.

It is a part of the Campania, Province of Naples, region and is the island’s main population centre with two harbours namely Marina Piccola and Marina Grande, the main port of the island. Anacapri, the separate commune is placed high on the hills towards the west.

Interesting Sites to Explore

Faraglioni, rock formations are one of the natural wonders of the island. The Faraglioni beach is one of the most beautiful beaches with many unusual rock formations in the sea surrounding the island which includes a natural arch.

Anacapri which is the highest town on the island has amazing view of the harbour which is at a lower level. There is a chair lift to Mount Solaro near the central square and a street with many shops some of which offer limoncello tasting - limoncello is lemon liquor.

 Items made with lemon are also found in several shops with handmade sandals, ceramics as well as perfumes which are specialities of the island. Capri’s fashionable shopping street, Via Camerelle is the place where one will find exclusive luxury boutiques and fashion.

Grotta Azzura, The Blue Grotto is the most amazing site of the islands’ several caves where the refraction of sunlight in the cave gives it an iridescent blue light in the water. Entry to the cave is done with the guidance of small rowboatswhich are available around the cave entrance and once inside one gets the opportunity of seeing the most spectacular sight of the blue water.

Capri – Picturesque – Island of Limestone Rock

Capri is a very picturesque and an interesting island made of limestone rock. Tourist reach by boat at Marina Grande being the main harbour of the island, with beaches scattered all around the island, with only two towns, namely Capri which is above Marina Grande and Anacapri, the highest town. One will find lemon trees, birds and flowers in plenty here.

The island can also be reached through frequent ferries and hydrofoils from the city of Naples as well as from Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. One will find a range of hotels in Anacapri and Capri and though Anacapri is more peaceful at night, Capri has more nightlife being the main centre of the island.

The Grand Hotel Quisisana, an exclusive hotel with a spa and baths since 1845 is one of Capri’s most excellent hotels while the luxurious Capri Palace Hotel and Spa in Anacapri is a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Timbuktu - African El Dorado


Timbuktu
Timbuktu is a word which is often used in several languages to denote a faraway place but in reality it is an actual city in Mali in the African country. It is located at the gateway to the Sahara desert, in the confines of the fertile zone of Sudan near the edge of the Niger River.

The legend of Timbuktu as a rich cultural centre spread during the 14th century throughout the world and the beginning of the legend is traced to 1324 when the Emperor of Mali went on his pilgrimage to Mecca through Cairo.

It was at Cairo that the merchants and the traders were impressed by the quantity of gold which was carried by the emperor who claimed that the gold was from Timbuktu. Moreover, the great Muslim explorer, Ibn Batuta, in 1354, wrote about his visit to Timbuktu and also about the gold and wealth of that region.

Hence Timbuktu came to be recognized as an African El Dorado, a city made of gold. During the 15th century, Timbuktu became very important and produced some of its few goods but served as a major trading centre for salt trade across the desert.

A Centre of Islamic Study/Home of University & Library    

Timbuktu also became a centre of Islamic study as well as the home of a university and extensive library. During the 1400s, the maximum population numbered between 50,000 to 100,000 with approximately one quarter of the population comprising of students and scholars.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 and in 1990 was added to the list of world heritage sites of being in danger which was due to the threat of desert sands. A program was then set to preserve the site and it was taken off the list of endangered sites in 2005 but re-added in 2012 after the Islamist Rebels took to arms.

The city is a contrast to the rest of the country’s cities due to the fact that it has more of an Arabic flair than the African.

Mosques/Grand Marche/Well of Bouctou/Timbuktu Museum

Interesting sites to be explored in Timbuktu are the Mosques which remains closed at hours of prayers. Major mosques are closed to non-Muslim visitors as of April 7. There are three main mosques here, the Djingereiber Mosque, which is a world heritage site and probably the largest and the most impressive one.

The Sankore Mosque is another impressive minaret which is worth visiting and the Sidi Yehia Mosque. All of which are within walking distance of each other. The Grand Marche, a two storey market with stalls and shops sells all types of things and is worth visiting just to get an incredible view from the roof across the city of Timbuktu to the desert.

The original well of Bouctou, which is presently dry, is in some back garden along with the Timbuktu Museum having a mixture of interesting artifacts and contemporary folk art. Timbuktu which has come to symbolize back of beyond remoteness is not an easy place to reach.

The drive from the capital of Mali, Bamako, takes around 20 hours which is mostly off road journey. A new airport has now eased the travel to a great extent with several flights now operational to and from Bamako.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hobart,Tasmania


Hobart
Hobart – Popular City of Australian Island State of Tasmania

Hobart is the capital and a popular city of the Australian Island state of Tasmania. It was founded in 1804 as a penal colony and is Australia’s second oldest and southernmost capital city after Sydney, New South Wales. It offers a blend of heritage, scenery and culture with plenty of attraction and activities.

Situated amidst the foothills of Mount Wellington, Hobart is filled with heritage charm with modern lifestyle together with exceptional beauty and is considered as one of the top ten spots in the world to be explored.

It is located at the entrance of the Derwent River and its harbour forms the second deepest natural port in the world and is surrounded by well-preserved bushland which reaches close to the city centre with the beaches trimming the shores of the river and beyond the estuary.

Hobart has an area population of 217,973. Hobart is also the financial and the administrative centre of Tasmania, a busy seaport and serves as the home port for French Antarctic and Australian operation wherein it loads around 2,000 tons of Antarctic cargo every year for the Australian research vessel Aurora Australis.

In 2009/10, the Antarctic industry was worth over AU$180 million to the Tasmanian economy. Besides, this the city is also a hub for cruise ship in summer with around 40 cruise ships docking at the time of the season.

Hobart with many Industries

Hobart also has many other industries, like shipbuilding which includes high speed catamaran factories such as the world renowned Incat as well as ore refinement zinc smelters which are operated by Nvrstar, huge breweries like Cascade manufacturers of different beers exported nationally with premium and boutique beers found in Europe together with smaller breweries in the city.

Another well-known business in the city is the Cadbury chocolate factory manufacturing most of the Cadbury’s chocolate for Southern Hemispheres. Besides this the city also supports a light industry manufacturers.

It also supports a large tourist industry wherein tourist visits the city to explore the historic suburbs and nationally known restaurants and cafes together with its vibrant music and the cultures of nightlife. Visitors also come in to see the massive weekly market in Salamanca Place and to use the city as base to explore the country of Tasmania.

Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens/Mount Wellington/Tasman Bridge/Hobart Synagogue

A popular recreation area which is a short distance from the City centre is the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and is the second oldest botanic gardens in Australia which has extensive plant collections.

Mount Wellington can be accessed while passing through Fern Tree a dominant feature of Hobart’s skyline and at 1,271 metres, the mountain has its own ecosystem which is rich in biodiversity and has a very important part in determining the weather.

Another unique feature of the city is the Tasman Bridge which connects the two shores of Hobart and is visible from several locations. The Hobart Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Australia and is also a rare example of an Egyptian Revival synagogue. Hobart is a likely destination which is filled with historical charm mingled with modern lifestyle which is worth exploring.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands
Credit:joefuhrmanphoto.com
Galapagos Islands - Small Archipelago of Islands

The Galapagos Islands are small archipelago of islands that belong to Ecuador towards the eastern Pacific Ocean which are remote and isolated. Situated around 1,000 km from South American continent, these 19 islands together with the surrounding marine reserve have been considered as a unique living museum and showcase of evolution.

The Galapagos archipelago comprises of 13 main islands with 6 smaller isles which together embrace the 50,000 sq. km of ocean. Placed at the confluence of three ocean current, it is a melting pot of marine species.

The processes which formed the islands was due to the volcanic activity and on-going seismic and these processes with the extreme isolation of the island gave way to the development of the unusual plant and animal species and home to fascinating species like the land iguana, the giant tortoise, flightless cormorants and much more which drew the interest of Charles Darwin.

 In his theory of evolution by natural selection followed by his visit in 1835, Darwin noticed that though the islands had similar volcanic compositions, environment and climate, each of the isolated isles was a home to its own set of species and he suspected that these species had also adapted to a diet as well as the micro environment of their surroundings.

Islands Formed with Repeated Volcanic Occurrence

Most of the islands were formed due to the layering and lifting of repeated volcanic occurrence and this geographic movement is connected to the age of the island as the eastern island – San Cristobal and Espanola, said to be millions of years older than the western islands, Isabela and Fernandina.The islands seem to have a distinctive shape which is conical and is mostly associated with volcanic action.

The mountainous islands on the other hand have been formed from continuous eruption, built by layer upon layer and due to this volcanic formation, the islands have been characterized with server steep slopes with heights that ranges from few meters above sea level to over 5000 feet above sea level.

With the exception of the largest island, Isabela, each major island comprises of single large volcano while Isabela was formed with six volcanoes joined above sea level.

Galapagos Marine Reserve

Galapagos Islands geologically are probably more than five million years old with some of the westernmost islands which are volcanically active, could be around hundreds of thousands years old which are still being formed presently.

The Galapagos Marine Reserve, an underwater wildlife spectacle has abundant life which ranges from corals to sharks to penguins to marine mammals. One can get the best experience of diving with a diversity of marine life forms which are quite familiar with human beings which accompany divers.

Besides this, the diversity of underwater geomorphological form is another advantage with a unique display that is not found anywhere in the world. Accommodation is available on most of the islands with public boat and plane services enabling visitors to move around the islands.

The best way to experience the beauty of the island is by boat tour which is amazing and wherever your interest lies, whether it is diving, bird watching, snorkelling, surfing or any other activities, tour options are made available. The island has two airports, namely Isla Baltra and Isla San Cristobal with regular flights from mainland cities Quito and Guayaquil.