North-West Africa Highlights
By: Dan Grec
With enormous diversity, a mix of different cultures, and stunning landscapes, the North-West of the African continent has an enormous amount to offer those seeking unique experiences. Often vastly different climates and vistas can be enjoyed in a single day – explorers can hike among snow-capped mountains in the morning and ride camels through the endless sand dunes of the Magical Sahara Desert in the same afternoon. In the same way, Muslims live side-by-side with Christians, where food and fashion are as different as mountains and sand dunes.
Moroccan Canyons and Waterfalls
The many canyons and waterfalls of Morocco offer welcome relief from the occasionally scorching temperatures of the Sahara Desert. On route from the mighty dunes at Merzouga to Marrakech, both Todra and Dadés Canyons are unique and spectacular, and are dotted with friendly hotels and restaurants. Todra is short, narrow, and has extremely high, vertical walls. Dadés on the other hand stretches for many miles and slowly meanders – sometimes through steep sections and at other times through wide open valleys filled with ruins, palm trees, and farms.
Closer to Marrakech, the Waterfall D’Ouzoud is simply stunning. Don’t expect to find any safety fences at the top – you can literally hang over the edge of the 360 foot falls. Down below, the river tumbles over many smaller drops and forms lazy pools perfect for swimming and enjoying a cold drink on the riverbank.
Senegal Street Markets
Coming from the North, the vibrancy and color of life in Senegal is in striking contrast to the muted colors of the Mauritanian deserts. Senegalese people greet with a broad smile and are very quick to laugh and offer a warm welcome. Venture into the countless street markets to sample life for the everyday person here. Fruits, vegetables, and fresh fish are piled high, as are handcrafted clothes, leather goods, and all manner of sculptures and ornaments. Of course, there is no escaping the ubiquitous African flip-flop, on sale in an enormous array of styles and colors.
Visitors to Mauritania can watch as the shifting sands of the Sahara attempt to consume the highway stretching from North to South. Keep an eye out and yield to herds of wild camels roaming the vast emptiness. Venturing deeper into the desert, visitors can ride the world’s longest train in Atar, visit desert oasis by camel, or choose to travel the length of the country by 4×4 on the beach.
The Gambia River
Gambia, the smallest country in West Africa, hugs the mighty Gambia River. As such, life revolves around the waterway and the farming opportunities irrigation provides. On the river itself, visitors can travel with local fishermen to see Hippos and all manner of water birds. A tour into the Gambia River National Park includes an endangered cartload of Chimpanzees that have been relocated onto an island, where they are now heavily protected. Nearby are multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and former slave colonies, now preserved as a reminder to all.
The beautiful white sand beaches of Serekunda lie just a stones throw from the mouth of the mighty waterway.
Sink into life in North-West Africa; you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the vast array of experiences on offer and the friendly people happy to welcome you to their beautiful land.
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