Continent in Focus: Africa

I am continuing my Continent in Focus series with the mighty continent of Africa. My instagram page, @my100by40, is updated daily with a different theme related to the continent in focus of the week:

  • Monday’s: An Underrated Gem
  • Tuesday’s: A Place I Would Return to
  • Wednesday’s: A UNESCO Site
  • Thursday’s: Most Impressive Place
  • Friday’s: A Photo in Nature
  • Saturday’s: A Photo of Architecture
  • Sunday’s: My Most Favourite Place

The Candidates

There are a huge 54 countries in Africa and I, not through lack of trying, have only managed to get up to a grand total of 2 countries. I know what you’re thinking. How am I going to write a post on a continent I’ve barely explored? Well I have been to two of the must visit destinations in Africa. And although there are many countries that, due to ongoing political and geopolitical conflicts, I will most likely never be able to go to I am constantly researching Africa so when I get to go back I can do it justice

Underrated Gem: El Nabatat, Egypt

Something I did not expect to see deep in the desert city of Aswan, Egypt, was this small, beautiful oasis of an island. In the middle of the Nile River and hidden behind the much larger Elephantine Island is El Nabatat or Kitchener Island.

The island holds the Aswan Botanical Gardens and is a popular spot for locals to come to find some shade and escape the some 45 degree heat in a tranquil, serene environment. Plus the island offers absolutely amazing views of the Nile River and Nile Valley and can be reached by felucca from Aswan City and the mainland. A true pleasant and unexpected find on my trip to Egypt.

Place I Would Return To: Morocco

Admittedly, the only reason I ended up going to Morocco, and more specifically, Tangier, was because it was only a 1 hour ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. For the very brief time I was in Morocco it was enough to wish I was staying longer. Architecture, foods, smells, sights, bazaars, handicrafts, textiles, souvenirs, carpets, everything has me wanting to go back for more. Add the fact that I know that I missed out on so much history, culture, sights and architecture and I am eagerly planning a return trip here.

Pictured here is Cape Spartel. The landmark that marks the point where the Atlantic Ocean, passes through the Straight of Gibraltar and becomes the Mediterranean Sea. Underneath this are the Caves of Hercules, which legend has, is part of mysterious subterranean tunnel that links up to St Michael’s Cave in Gibraltar on the other side of of the Strait of Gibraltar, and that is how the famous Gibraltar monkeys made it from Africa to Gibraltar.

UNESCO Site: The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Name a more famous UNESCO site in Africa than The Pyramids of Giza. The 3 pyramids plus 3 smaller ones were all built in the 2500’s BC. They serve as tombs for the Egyptian Pharaohs of Khufu (the biggest pyramid), Khafre (the second biggest pyramid) and Menkaure (the smallest pyramid).

From left to right: The Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure.

Khufu’s Pyramids is the largest and by his order no subsequent pyramid could be bigger than his. His son, Khafre, honoured this request by building a slightly smaller pyramid on a a slightly elevated hill so that at times and from certain angles it appears bigger.

Of course another monument of this famous UNESCO site is the Great Sphinx of Egypt. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, the Sphinx is a prominent figure in Egyptian mythology. The Sphinx may act as the spiritual guardian for the final resting place of the three Pharaohs.

The Great Sphinx of Egypt.

At around 4,500 years old, the Pyramids of Giza are the only remaining standing Wonder of the Ancient World. It has weathered millenniums of social, political, religious, geological and geographical change. As the Arab Proverb says ” Man fears time but time fears the Pyramids…”

Most Impressive Place: Temples of Abu Simbel, Egypt

I remember first gazing upon at the twin temples of Abu Simbel and being completely in awe. Silent, amazed, gazing at these mighty temples.

The temples were carved out of the mountainside by order of Ramses II around the 1200’s BC to celebrate Egypt’s victory in the Battle of Kadesh. If you have visited Egypt you would know that this guy had a bit of a complex with several of Egypt’s most famous landmarks built by and for him. At least with this temple he also built one for his wife, Nefertari.

Nefertari’s temple.

When the Aswan Dam was commissioned it was going to create an artificial lake, Lake Nasser, and destroy many temples including Abu Simbel and the Island Temple of Philae. In 1959, an international campaign started to save these temples. Between 1964 and 1968, the twin temples of Abu Simbel were cut in several 20 tonne blocks, completely disassembled and moved higher up the mountain to be completely reassembled again piece by piece. For me, this is what makes this the Most Impressive Place in my African travels. Perhaps, our modern ingenuity can be on par with ancient ingenuity.

A Photo in Nature: The Nile River

The Nile River. The longest river in Africa and the second longest river in the world. It was the lifeline for the ancient Egyptians as it provided water and minerals essential to the growing of crops. The annual flooding of the Nile dampened the soil into mud that was necessary to produce a healthy harvest. This allowed the ancient Egyptians to grow crops in an otherwise highly inhospitable environment – most of Egypt is covered by desert. Of course the Nile today is vital to Egypt’s agriculture, transportation and tourism industries.

For this reason I love this photo. The three dominant geographical features of Egypt. The desert, the Nile Oasis and the Nile River.

A Photo of Architecture: Temple of Luxor, Egypt

For a photo of architecture I could pick any temple or building in Egypt. But I was truly fascinated with the Temple of Luxor. Built in 1400BC in the ancient city of Thebes, now Luxor, that was the former capital of Egypt, it is not dedicated to a God or a Pharaoh. Rather, it is dedicated to the Kings of Egypt and may have been the place where the Pharaohs of Egypt were crowned.

The Temple is made with sandstone blocks from Nubia – way down south of Egypt. Several pylons, rooms, statues, blocks and ruins feature inside the temple as a true sanctuary for the Kings. Symbolism, grandeur, stones, design, size, everything makes you look up in awe at the ancient architectures of Egypt.

Located in front of the Temple of Luxor is an Avenue of Sphinxes that connects this temple to the Temple of Karnak Complex. A whole row of spiritual guardians used for a religious processions between the Karnak and Luxor temples.

My Most Favourite Place: Sailing on the Nile

Although I have a lot of Africa to still explore I have no hesitation or doubts about what my favourite place in Africa has been so far. The Nile. The glorious river that was the lifeline for one of the most powerful civilisations in our history and continues to be vital for modern Egyptian life to thrive in such an inhospitable environment.

Sailing down the Nile, you get a true appreciation for this as you see communities built right on its banks, agriculture thriving from its waters, locals cooling off from the desert heat and the brilliant green oasis beautifully juxtaposed against the yellow-orange sands of the desert.

Of course next to all this, to all of this modern life you get ruins of Ancient Egypt built on the banks as well, visible from the river. My 7 day cruise from Luxor to Aswan was undoubtedly the highlight of my trip on a trip full of significant sites.

Well I hope you had as much fun reading as I did reminiscing about Africa! Tune in next week for another post, 7 different places of the same themes, in a new continent…. SOUTH AMERICA!

You can follow me on Instagram for more photos and information @my100by40 .

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