From Tanzania

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Henry Miller

FROM AFRICA: Many of you share my deep love of Africa. One visit usually results in a malady known well to all African visitors; for generations, it has afflicted British explorers, writers, doctors, hunters, and ordinary tourists. The disease is incurable. The characteristic symptom is a compulsion to return to the magnificent continent year after year. Tanzania hosts the great migration of the shy zebras and the curious looking wildebeests across the vast and endless plains of the Serengeti. There is no sight more awe inspiring than seeing thousands of animals crossing the Mara, 20 foot long crocodiles, jaws snapping, waiting for the slow or small to fall behind. Portable safari in luxurious tents can be combined with lodges making for an authentic African bush experience.

In Tanzania, one can travel a safari circuit to visit Grumeti River Camp, Klein’s Camp, Lake Maynara Tree Lodge and of course, the very over the top Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. If one visits Tanzania, one must visit the crater, and that means Crater Lodge is your only choice! It is spendy, but as they say: location is everything. Intimate lodge, lovely suites, all wildly ornate, a sensory overload; however, it is perched on the edge of the crater-prime viewing real estate! The animals don’t migrate from the floor of the caldera, so one can easily see the Big Five on a drive, including some of Tanzania’s last black rhinos.

Grumeti is a whimsical inspired camp, overlooking a bywater of the Grumeti River and situated in a remote valley in the western corridor of the Serengeti National Park, east of Lake Victoria. Grumeti is a very comfortable haven in which to experience the wild pulse of Africa.

A lovely couple, Alistair and Petro Kilpin, who share a love of African adventure and excel in safari hospitality, manage Klein’s Camp. Intimate accommodations, it features just 10 cottages of local rock and thatch with rich wooden floors and classic interiors. Klein’s Camp is situated deep in the heart of the game-rich northern Serengeti in Tanzania, off the beaten tourist track. Its 24,800-acre private wildlife concession is leased from their Maasai landlords and is allotted for the exclusive use of the camp’s 20 guests, offering you the ultimate personal Tanzanian safari.

Of course the Maasai children are the heart stealers; some cling to you, others back away shyly, but most are eager to see themselves on your digital camera. I always carry hundreds of balloons, pens and paper to share with these engaging children. I believe it is of paramount importance for my clients to meet the local villagers, to visit the schools, and the AIDS orphanages in Africa- we are neighbors living on this fragile planet. Experiencing layers of culture and understanding the distinctive social traditions adds significant value to your visit and your children will never forget their encounter.

My very favorite in this circuit is Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. Set in the heart of a mahogany forest, the soda lake teeming with thousands of flamingos and herds of elephants, it is the only lodge in the diverse Lake Manyara National Park in northern Tanzania. Ten luxurious stilted safari tree house suites, each tree house features large screen ‘windows’ inviting the lush forest inside, the animals peer at you through the sheer screen ‘windows’, including the rare tree-climbing lions known in this area. With 387 different bird species recorded here, Lake Manyara Tree Lodge offers abundant bird watching opportunities; guests can experience incredible night drives as well. Or just sit and chill beside the pool in the middle of the forest teeming with exotic jungle chirps and deep growls, a cacophony of wild sounds, which is exactly what I frequently do!

Elegant lodges and tents or portable safari- hundreds of lodging options, exotic, wild and untamed.

Africa is as boundless as my affection for it’s people, the endless vistas, and the wonderful wildlife.

A visit to Africa is always a life altering experience.

From Marrakech

“The further you go, the more you shall see and know.
Medieval Proverb

FROM MARRAKECH: Spending four days with an expert guide and a fearless driver in
Marrakech, I explored many riads within the walls of the ancient Medina and sourced out the best of the souks; this is not an easy task, as Marrakech contains acres of wiggly alleys winding about – jammed with hundreds of haggling vendors. Had it not been for the keen guiding, I would still be roaming the souks, lost! Imperial Marrakech is magical, slightly untamed and exotic. An assortment of handmade goods are sold here: babouche (leather slippers), pottery, metal work, the street vendors offer food, however, you have to be willing to witness live chickens and rabbits being butchered, sheep heads (eyeballs included) are also on display, something for every palate!

It is a site to behold: turban topped cobra charmers squatting on the famous Djemaa el Fna plaza, boys carrying small monkeys – be careful in your admiration, as apparently it is an implied ‘invitation.’ Two adorable monkeys were quickly perched on me; one on my wrist and the other on my opposite shoulder – my comfort level reached an unparalleled high when the shoulder monkey explored my inner ear with one hand and twirled my hair with the other – enough intimacy with the monkey! Naturally, I was expected to pay a few Dirham for the uninvited monkey pleasure.

Marrakech has never lost its exotic flavor and seems to be on the ‘hot’ list of emerging North African style. Cooking schools are readily found here: traditional Moroccan or French cuisine.

La Maison Arabe, where I stayed, offers a half-day cooking class at its off–site professional
kitchen, in a secret gated pool and garden compound. Celebrity boutique riads compete with the fabulous Aman resort, the Amanjena, plopped outside of town, an oasis seemingly in the middle of the desert. I visited many refurbished contemporary riads, decorated in chic and muted tones or traditional Moroccan interiors, all maintaining the time-honored Islamic architecture and characteristics, however many are updated with small central pools. Dar Seven, an elegant, tranquil oasis, is more like a small home with four rooms. It’s sister hotel in Rome, is one of my favorites, La Residenza Napoleone III. Visit a hamman (steam bath) for the latest in spa treatments. The streets of the Medina, the historic old quarter, are teeming with donkey carts, zippy scooters, veiled women, exotic food stalls – a sensory overload, shadowed by the 12th Century Koutoubia Mosque, which in a rather rhythmic, wailing chant, calls men to prayer five times a day; I came to enjoy the soothing call- some semblance of calm to override the chaos of the city streets.

The best of Marrakech will be discovered with my marvelous guide and fearless driver; he with the tales of the complex history, the final, if needed, bargaining point in the souks, a guide to tasting the best spices, finding vendors selling indigenous music, facilitating introductions in a small school in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, sourcing traditional Moroccan handicrafts, obtaining reservations in the best local restaurants.

What makes anyone travel, especially such a distance? We connect with others, we connect our experiences and attempt to make an abstract connection with our ‘daily routines’, returning home inspired to modify the mundane and retain the transformed clarity which travel often provides – the gift of the travel experience.

One of my favorite recipes from Morocco:
Best in a traditional tagine, but fine in a heavy metal skillet as well.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Spiced Pine Nuts
This version epitomizes the spirit of Moroccan cooking, with many flavors in perfect balance and no single ingredient overwhelming the others. The savory, juicy meat is an absolutely delicious combination. Garnish with preserved lemon slices.
Yield: Makes 4 servings Active Time: 1 hr Total Time: 2 hr
For tagine
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pound) cut up in pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 large shallots, finely chopped (1 cup)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of saffron threads
1 cup water
2 tablespoons blood-orange preserves or bitter-orange marmalade
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 thyme sprig
2 cilantro sprigs
6 dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

For spiced pine nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne (optional)

Garnish preserved lemon slices
Make tagine:
Pat chicken pieces dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then brown chicken breasts, skin sides down, without turning, 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Brown thighs and legs, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes, transferring to plate. Brown wings and backbone in same manner.

Cook shallots in butter with remaining tablespoon oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, and paprika and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

Add chicken with any juices from plate, saffron, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to shallot mixture and turn chicken to coat. Add water and bring to a boil, covered, then cook at a bare simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

Turn chicken and add orange preserves, cinnamon stick, thyme, cilantro sprigs, and apricots. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Brown pine nuts while chicken cooks:
Heat oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then stir in pine nuts, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne (if using) and cook, stirring frequently, until nuts are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes (watch carefully; they burn easily). Transfer to a small bowl.

To serve:
Transfer chicken to a platter and keep warm, covered. If sauce is not thick, boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 cup. Discard herb sprigs, cinnamon stick, wings, and backbone. Stir in chopped cilantro and spoon sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with nuts and preserved lemon slices.