Africa travel - Lonely Planet (2022)

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Africa.

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  • Gardens

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    Jardin Majorelle

    French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought Jardin Majorelle in 1980to preserve the vision of its original owner, French landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, and keep it open to the public. The garden, started in 1924, contains a psychedelic desert mirage of 300 plant species from five continents. At its heart lies Majorelle's electric-blue art deco studio, home to the Musée Berbère, which showcases the rich panorama of Morocco's indigenous inhabitants through displays of some 600 artifacts.In recent years, the site has become incredibly popular, and it now ranks as Morocco's most visited tourist attraction, with around 900,000 visitors a year. It's far from the peaceful oasis it was a decade ago, but it's still an extremely stylish place with magical gardens, art deco architecture and an excellent museum. To add more space for the huge number of visitors, the YSL Foundation expanded the gardens in December 2018 by opening up the section containing Villa Oasis, where Bergé lived until his death in 2017.Jardin Majorelle also houses a pretty courtyard cafe, a small book and photography shop, and a chic boutique selling Majorelle blue slippers, textiles and Amazigh-inspired jewellery influenced by YSL designs.All areas of Jardin Majorelleare wheelchair and stroller accessible.How to get tickets for Jardin MajorelleAs Morocco's most popular tourist attraction, the lineto get into Jardin Majorelle can be long. In peak season, expect to wait15 minutes to an hour to get in. For your best chance of immediate entry, arrive before 10am,and ideally for opening at 8am.Tickets can now be purchased online, which is highly recommended for faster entry. Visit Friday to Monday when tickets include entry to the Villa Oasis gardens, which are a highlight.Don’t scrimp the extra Dh30 ($3.35) and miss the Musée Berbère; it's well worth the cost.Anafternoon visit is the best time for keen photographers because it captures the prettiest light.Musée Yves Saint Laurent, opened in 2017,is next door to the gardens, and combined tickets can be bought for both attractions. Plan to spent the best part of a day between the two.History of Jardin MajorelleIn 1923, Majorelle decided to put down roots in Marrakesh and bought a 4-acrepalm grove on the edge of the medina, planted with poplars that gave his home its original name, Bou Saf Saf (meaning "the poplars"in Arabic). The first dwelling built here was Moorish in style, with a traditional adobe tower. It wasn’t until 1931, after Majorelle had extended the plot to almost 10 acres, that he hired French architect Paul Sinoir to design a villa and studio in the art deco style.The building that has become Instagram-famous (now housing the Musée Berbère) was Majorelle’s studio and workshop. The main house, where Majorelle and then Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé lived, was renamed Villa Oasis by YSL. It remained a private residence until Bergé’s death in 2017.Who was Jacques Majorelle?Although famed for its tenure as the home of Yves Saint Laurent, it was Jacques Majorelle (1886–1962) who gifted the gardens to Marrakesh. He was a French painter from Nancy whose father, Louis Majorelle, was a celebrated art nouveau furniture designer. It was partly Majorelle's exposure to the art nouveau movement – rich with organic motifs – that cemented his lifelong passion for plants and animals. Majorelle arrived in Morocco in 1917 and was quickly bewitched by the same colors and vibrant street life in Marrakesh that seduced YSL half a century later.Majorelle became known for his Orientalist paintings of North Africa and particularly Morocco – some of the repro 1920s travel posters for sale around the medina are his work. The striking cobalt blue of the buildings at Jardin Majorelle are an original feature conceived by Majorelle himself, inspired by the bold Moroccan skies, the shade of blue in traditional Moroccan tiles and the head-turning blue veils of the Tuareg people in the southern Sahara. The color became known as "Majorelle Blue"and was even trademarked as such.Plants in Jardin MajorelleThe gardens are home to more than 300 plant species from five continents, mostly collected by Jacques Majorelle over several decades of globetrotting. The gardens were first opened to the public in 1947 but were abandoned after his death until Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé made it their mission to save them from property developers.Aspiring botanists will be in heaven, but Jardin Majorelle isa wonderful space to explore whether you’re a plant super fan or not. Regular signage includes useful illustrations to help visitors identify everything from Mexican agave to Chinese windmill palms and North African date palms, though it could be more helpful if common names were labeled as well as scientific names.Dense thickets of bamboo stretch as high as desert towers, flecked with strong shards of sunlight. Jardin Majorelle’s exotic bamboo groves are well known and well loved, but what you might not expect is the immense volume of graffiti. For years, tourists have shown their affection for the site by thoughtlessly etching their initials into the gardens’ signature stalks and even into some of the giant succulents. Not only has this environmental graffiti become an eyesore, but the gardens’ botanists have realised that it is damaging the plants. Carving into the plants is now forbidden.Musée BerbèreMajorelle’s electric-blue art deco studio houses the fabulous Musée Berbère, which showcases the rich panorama of Morocco’s indigenous inhabitants in displays of some 600 artifacts, including wood and metalwork, textiles and a room of regional traditional costumes displayed with the flair of a catwalk show. Best of all is the brilliant mirrored chamber displaying a collection of chiseled, filigreed and enameled jewels.Villa Oasis GardensIn December 2018, the Villa Oasis gardens opened to the public for the first time. Accessed via a pathway draped with bright bougainvillea and distinct from the main gardens, they are arguably the more sumptuous and engrossing of the two and have greatly enhanced the visitor appeal of the complex.The residence itself is larger than the studio and more Oriental in design, mixing Marrakesh’s signature terracotta red with Majorelle’s electric blue and Islamic green on its facade and tiled pyramid roof. The bamboo groves of the main garden give way to giant succulents, cacti and mature palms. There’s also a succession of calm-inducing water features filled with koi carp, noisy frogs and lily pads, the largest of which pools around a white-pillared pavilion.The Villa Oasis house isn’t open to the general public (only a handful of very high-end hotels are allowed to run exclusive tours here), so you might just have to imagine the sumptuousness of its interiors. The salon is a masterpiece of Moroccan craftsmanship with elaborate painted cedarwood, magnificent zellige (colorful geometric tilework) and museum-quality art deco furniture.Yves Saint Laurent MemorialOne of the most popular spots in the garden is the memorial. You’ll find it along the back wall on the opposite side of the gardens to the entrance/exit. If you can block out the photographers and Instagrammers, it’s a poignant space. The memorial is an ancient Roman pillar, which Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé found on a beach in Tangier. Bergé, who was both Yves Saint Laurent’s business partner and life partner, was added to the memorial after his death in Provence, France, in 2017.Where to stay near Jardin MajorelleJardin Majorelle is in theVille Nouvelle neighborhood of Marrakesh, the "new town" with modern amenities.Hotels in the medina beat those in the Ville Nouvelle hands down for atmosphere, but if you prefer a more contemporary sleep, theVille Nouvelle and Gueliz areahas plenty of options. In this neighborhood,you'll find the international hotelsaimed at the package-holiday market. It's no better value to stay here, but most hotels have on-site bars and larger pools than you'll find in the medina.Where to eat near Jardin MajorelleInside the gardens, the former servants' quarters house Café Majorelle, a lovely, leafy spot for tea or cake. Just outside the entrance of Jardin Majorelle, MyKawa serves salads, sandwiches and Moroccan breakfasts with a dash of Mediterranean style.How to get to Jardin MajorelleBus No 12 from Bab Doukkala heads past Jardin Majorelle. If you want to walk, it's a 10-minute stroll from Bab Doukkala. Head up Avenue Moulay Abdullah and then turn right onto Ave Yacoub El Mansour.Taxi drivers who hang out around Jardin Majorelle are renowned for overcharging. Walk away and hail a taxi off the main road instead.

  • Square

    Djemaa El Fna

    Roll up, roll up for the greatest show on earth. Everywhere you look in Djemaa El Fna, Marrakesh’s main square (pronounced "jema"– the "d"is silent), you’ll discover drama in progress. The hoopla and halqa (street theater) have been non-stop here since the 11th century. Until a few decades ago, it hosted a daily food market for mountain traders. Now the whine of snake-charmer pungi flutes hits full throttle by mid-morning, and the show doesn't really kick off until sunset when restaurants fire up their grills, cueing musicians to tune up their instruments.History of Djemaa El FnaDjemaa El Fna sprang into life in the 11th century, around the time that the city of Marrakesh was founded by the Almoravids. Historians and locals will argue over whether the square got its name from the fact that public executions were likely held here: one translation is "assembly of the dead." Another translation is "mosque of the dead," which could be a nod to the partial collapse of neighboring Koutoubia Mosque in the 18th century, burying worshippers inside.For centuries, Djemaa El Fna square was used as a giant food market, with traders flooding down from the mountains to set up under canvas tents each day. Early photos of this era can be seen in Maison de la Photographie. The present boundaries of the square were imposed by the French, as all the buildings surrounding the Djemaa were erected during the protectorate era.Unesco declared Djemaa El Fna a Masterpiece of World Heritagein 2001 for bringing urban legends and oral history to life nightly, and although the storytellers who once performed here have since given way to communal games, musical performers, and slapstick comedy acts, Djemaa's nightly carnival continues to dazzle. Amazigh musicians strike up the music and gnaoua troupes sing while henna tattoo artists beckon to passersby, and water-sellers in fringed hats clang brass cups together, hoping to drive people to drink. This is a show you don't want to miss, and it's a bargain too: applause and a few dirhams ensure an encore.The square's many eclectic exhibitions are not without a darker side, though; you are likely to see monkeys dressed up and led around on chains for entertainment, and some of the practices of the plaza's snake charmers are ethically questionable to say the least.Cultural collapse on Djemaa?Djemaa El Fna has been a protected urban landmark since 1922 and Unesco-inscribed since 2001 as a place of unique cultural exchange. Yet Unesco has flagged the square as a space under "serious threat" from urbanization and cultural assimilation.For centuries, Djemaa has been a stage for gnaoua dance troupes, whispering fortune tellers, cartwheeling acrobats and, above all, hikayat (storytellers). Today, the last of the storytellers have gone and with them many of the square's traditional performers. Djemaa is still the throbbing heart of the medina, but like its inhabitants, it's moved with the times. Live music and local food are its 21st-century trademarks.Mornings in Djemaa El FnaStroll Djemaa as it wakes up to catch the plaza at its least frenetic. At this point, the stage is almost empty. Orange-juice vendors are first on the scene, along with the snake charmers and their baskets of cobras. Eager dentists, potion sellers and henna-tattoo artists start setting up makeshift stalls under sunshades.Djemaa El Fna by nightCars are banned from the square after 2pm, and local food stalls start setting up for the nightly dinner scrum around 4pm. At sunset, Djemaa finds its daily mojo as Amazigh (Berber) troupes and gnaoua musicians start tuning up and locals pour into the square. The hullabaloo doesn’t knock off for the night until around 1am. To view it from a different perspective, head to one of the rooftop cafes ringing the square.Food stalls in Djemaa El FnaSpicy snail broth, skewered hearts, bubbling tajines, flash-fried fish: the Djemaa food stalls are a heaving one-stop shop for Moroccan culinary specialities, and they're not to be missed. Despite alarmist warnings, your stomach should be fine. Clean your hands before eating, use bread instead of utensils and stick to filtered water.Stalls have numbered spots and are set up on a grid. The snail chefs are in a line on the eastern side. For fried fish and calamari, pull up a pew at stall 14. Look for a lovely woman named Aicha who runs stall 1 in the southwestern corner for brochettes (kebabs), tajines and harira (a cheap, hearty soup made of tomatoes, onions, saffron and coriander with lentils and chickpeas).After dinner, join locals at the row of copper tea urns on the southern edge of the stalls. The speciality here is warming ginger tea called khoudenjal with cinnamon, mace and cardamom, served with a dense, sticky and similarly spicy scoop of cake. Apit stop at No 71 Chez Mohammed's is the perfect way to round out your meal.Tips for exploring Djemaa El FnaWhile wandering around Djemaa at any time of day, stay alert to cars, motorbikes and horse-drawn-carriage traffic, which whizz around the perimeter of the plaza (cars are banned after 2pm).Be on guard against pickpockets and rogue gropers who are known to work the crowds, particularly after sunset.To nab prime seats on makeshift stools around musician circles (women and elders get preference), arrive early in the evening.Keep a stock of Dh1 coins on hand for tipping the performers. A few dirhams (a little more if you took photos) is all that’s necessary when the hat comes around.Be warned that you will see chained monkeys dressed in sports jerseys paraded for tourists, and the practices of the snake charmers are ethically questionable. We advise avoiding both.Where to stay near Djemaa El FnaMarrakesh's biggest concentration of budget hotels is in this area, most only a stone's throw from Djemaa El Fna, along Rue Sidi Bouloukat and Rue de la Recette (easy walking distance from both the airport bus and taxi drop-off points). Upmarket riad accommodation is found off Rue Riad Zitoun El Jedid to the southeast.Where to eat near Djemaa El FnaFancy some snail broth? Want to sample mechoui (slow-roasted lamb) or Marrakesh's famed tangy "bachelor's stew"tanjia? Djemaa El Fna and the area directly around it is the best place for adventurous foodies to get stuck in. South of the main square, there are more high-end options.For serious munching, follow your nose to Hadj Mustapha, a basic canteen that dishes up some of the best tanjia in town.The front terraces of the old-timer cafes rimming Djemaa El Fna are the best people-watching spots in town. There are a few places that serve alcohol in this area if you know where to look. If you feel your energy flagging, head to the terrace of Grand Balcon du Café Glacier for a mint tea.How to get to Djemaa El FnaDjemaa El Fna is on the edge of the Marrakesh medina, the ancient walled part of the city. It's a 20-minute walk from Bab Doukkala in the northwest or 15 minutes from Place des Ferblantiers in the south. From central Gueliz, take Bus 1 or 16.

  • Museum

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    Musée Yves Saint Laurent

    This captivating museum, opened in 2017, showcases finely selected collections of haute couture clothing and accessories that span 40 years of creative work by legendary French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The aesthetically warped and wefted building resembles woven fabric and holds a 150-seat auditorium, research library, bookstore and terrace cafe serving light snacks.Architecture ofMusée Yves Saint LaurentUndoubtedly the most thrilling example of contemporary architecture in Marrakesh, Musée Yves Saint Laurent rises from a granito base of Moroccan marble and stone, draped in a lacework of terracotta bricks. The textured arrangement of the bricks is designed to resemble the weft and warp of fabric. Step inside and it's a complete contrast, with a silky smooth finish intended to complement the exterior like the lining of a couture jacket.The museum was designed by Studio KO and was the brainchild of Yves Saint Laurent's partner Pierre Bergé (1930–2017), who wanted to create a repository of the fashion designer's work that was "profoundly Moroccan." To this end, the building was designed without external-facing windows, to emulate Marrakesh's traditional riads. The terracotta color of the exterior brickwork mirrors the dominant hue of Morocco's "Red City."Like a traditional house of the medina, internal patios are an integral design feature of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent. The first is a striking circular walk-through that segues between the museum entrance and internal exhibition spaces. Here a series of stained-glass windows echoes the work of French artist Henri Matisse, who greatly influenced YSL's designs. The second patio forms the heart of the building, a square chamber covered with zellige (colorful geometric mosaic tilework) with a giant circular dish that catches the rain. The use of green here is significant, as it's highly prized in both Amazigh and Islamic cultures.Main exhibition at Musée Yves Saint LaurentThe core of the museum is the Yves Saint Laurent Hall, a permanent display of his sketches, rotating haute-couture fashions and color-themed accessories. The backdrop is entirely black – a key color in YSL's designs – creating a cavernous cocoon pierced only by audiovisuals of the designer's catwalk shows and recordings of him speaking.On the right-hand wall as you enter, the exhibition starts with a biography of Yves Saint Laurent constructed from personal artifacts, including a letter sent by YSL to French Vogue's editor-in-chief Michel de Brunhoff in June 1954 at the age of 17.Top-quality temporary exhibitions, which change two or three times a year, are held in a smaller adjacent room.YSL's TheaterYves Saint Laurent's attention-grabbing fashion designs owe more than a little to his reverence of the stage and screen. Tapping into this theme, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent incorporates a 150-seat auditorium with state-of-the-art acoustics. It is designed for the projection of films, live performances and broadcasts of theatrical performances from around the world; check the website for the schedule. Outside the auditorium entrance, don't miss the "Costumiere,"a fascinating display of YSL's sketches of costumes he made for cinema and the theater.Museum libraryBy appointment, visitors can access Musée Yves Saint Laurent's 1st-floor library and study room, an important repository of 5000 books on botany, fashion, and Amazigh and Arab-Andalusian culture. Much of it is the personal collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé.History of YSL in MarrakeshYves Saint Laurent's love affair with Marrakesh began in 1966 – by the end of his first visit, he'd acquired the deeds to a house in the medina. The Algerian-born French fashion designer (1936–2008) was fascinated by the artistry and palette of Morocco. This museum opened as a homage to his work and the inspiration he drew from his second home.YSL found career-defining inspiration in the beauty of Morocco, with all its raw forms and pure colors. He marveled at the gardens of Marrakesh, where nature parades on overdrive, and the brightly hued caftans of women in the medina. He found inspiration in the stark blue skies, the earthen architecture and the dramatic waving dunes of the southern deserts. Nomadic fashions for cuffs and collars are hinted at in his iconic accessory designs.Tips for visitingMusée Yves Saint LaurentJardin Majorelle is next door to the museum. If you plan to visit both, buy a combined ticket and see them on the same day.Combined tickets covering Jardin Majorelle, Musée Berbère and Musée Yves Saint Laurent can be bought directly from the Musée Yves Saint Laurent ticket counter, avoiding the lengthy lines at Jardin Majorelle. Note that you must start your visit at Musée Yves Saint Laurent if you buy your ticket here.Tickets can be bought online.Where to stay near Musée Yves Saint LaurentMusée Yves Saint Laurent is in the Ville Nouvelle neighborhood of Marrakesh, the "new town" with modern amenities. Hotels in the medina beat those in the Ville Nouvelle hands down for atmosphere, but if you prefer a more contemporary sleep, the Ville Nouvelle and Gueliz area has plenty of options. In this neighborhood, you'll find the international hotels aimed at the package-holiday market. It's no better value to stay here, but most hotels have on-site bars and larger pools than you'll find in the medina.Where to eat near Musée Yves Saint LaurentThe museum's light-filled Le Studio is an upmarket canteen where stylistas linger over traditional Moroccan and French dishes. Down the street from the museum, comfy Pause Gourmande has a more local flavor and serves bastillas (savory-sweet pies), tajines and European classics.How to get to Musée Yves Saint LaurentBus12 from Bab Doukkala heads past the museum.From Djemaa El Fna, a taxi should cost no more than Dh20 ($2.25), but you'll be lucky to get one for less than Dh50 ($5.60). Haggle hard.

  • Palace

    Bahia Palace

    La Bahia (The Beautiful) is an 8000-sq-metre,floor-to-ceiling extravagance of intricate marquetry, plasterwork and zouak (painted wood), and certainlyone of Marrakesh's most eye-popping sights.The salons of both the Petit RiadandGrand Riadhost intricate marquetry and zouak ceilings, but theCour d'Honneur, a grand courtyard, with its 1500 sq metre floor of Italian Carrara marble, is the undisputed highlight.Despite the vast area on show, only a portion of the palace’s eight hectares and 150 rooms is open to the public. Its grand spaces sometimes play host to important cultural events.HistoryBuilt by Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s, the palacewas later expanded and embellished from 1894 to 1900 by his son and successor Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed. The Cour d'Honneur (courtyard) was converted into a harem by Bou Ahmed after he became Grand Vizier in 1894. Indeed, the expansion and beautification of Bahia Palace was driven by Bou Ahmed's desire to accommodate his four wives and 24 concubines.Bou Ahmed died in 1900, and in 1908 the palace's beguiling charms attracted warlord Pasha Glaoui, who claimed it as a suitable venue to entertain French guests. They, in turn, were so impressed that they booted out their host in 1912, installing the protectorate’s resident-general in his place.When Morocco gained independence from France in 1956, the palace was used as a royal residence, until King Hassan II transferredit to the custodyof the Moroccan Ministry of Culture,so the buildingcould serve as a cultural icon and tourist attraction.Touring the palacePetit RiadClosest to the entrance, the single-storey Petit Riad is similar in layout and size to traditional houses of the medina, but it's notable for the ornamentation of its salons. Its walls of intensely elaborate white plasterwork are inscribed with verses from the Quran. In the 19th century when it was originally decorated, this plaster would have been carved in situ while wet – just imagine the artisan skill required to work so swiftly and accurately.Cour d'HonneurSandwiched between the Petit Riad and the Grand Riad, you'll pass through two courtyards. The first is relatively plain, but the second, called the Grand Cour or Cour d'Honneur, is the undisputed heart of the palace and one of the most spectacular open spaces ever to be conceived in Morocco. It is 1500 sq metres in size and was restored to its original brilliance in 2018. The floor is a vast expanse of Italian Carrara marble, encircled by a gallery uniquely coloured with bright blue and yellow plaster and woodwork.Grand RiadStep through the doorway from the Cour d'Honneur into the large courtyard of the Grand Riad, studded with fountains and lush foliage and sound-tracked by birdsong. This is the oldest part of the palace complex, completed in 1867 by Si Moussa, a former slave who rose through the ranks to become one of Sultan Hassan I's most important aides. The riad's salon is bedecked with carved wood lintels, zouak artistry and stained-glass detailing – Bahia Palace was thought to be the first building in North Africa to use stained glass as a decorative feature.Tickets and other practicalitiesEntrance fees areDh70 for adults and Dh30 for children. Aim to arrive early to dodge the large tour groups that regularly descend on the building.

  • Mosque

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    Koutoubia Mosque

    Five times a day, one voice rises above the din of Djemaa El Fna as the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer from the Koutoubia Mosque.The mosque's minaret has been standing guard over the old city since the Almohads erected it in the 12th century. Today it's Marrakesh's most famous landmark. The tower is a monumental cheat sheet of Moorish ornament: scalloped keystone arches, jagged merlon crenelations and mathematically pleasing proportions.Koutoubia Mosque architectureThey say imitation is the greatest compliment, and the 12th-century 250ft-high minarethas quite the reputation as an architectural muse. It’s the prototype for the Giralda in Seville, Spain, and Le Tour Hassan in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Unlike Middle Eastern mosques, which have domed minarets, the Koutoubia's square design is an Amazigh trademark.There are no stairs inside the minaret, only a ramp that the muezzin would have once ridden up on horseback to give the call to prayer.Legends of Koutoubia MosqueThe Koutoubia Mosque minaret is topped by a spire of brass balls. Once made from gold, local legend tells that the balls were "gifted"to the mosque by the wife of Almohad sultan Yacoub Al Mansour, who melted down her jewelry as punishment after being spotted eating during Ramadan fasting hours.Today, the balls are filled with special mineral salt from the High Atlas Mountains, which includes nitrate and magnesium that prevents the spire from oxidizing. The salt is changed once a year, during Ramadan, to maintain the golden glint. In front of the spire, the wooden stick points towards Mecca (all mosques in the Marrakesh medina have this feature) and is also used to bear flags on religious holidays.Another Marrakshi legend tells that the pious Almohads had the original mosque felled halfway through buildingbecause it wasn’t properly aligned with Mecca.Exact dates of construction are murky.Ruins of the Koutoubia Mosque prayer hallOn the northwestern side of the Koutoubia Mosque minaret are the ruins of the original prayer hall. One story goes that it collapsed during the massive 1755 Lisbon earthquake, killing hundreds of people as it crumbled. Research suggests this could be plausible. To the north of the Koutoubia minaret, the original doorway still stands. On the far wall of the ruins the remains of the arches that would have held up the ceiling are visible. The stumps on the floor are the hall's columns, and they stay in situ as a memorial.In Arabic, djemaa means congregation as well as gathering, and one theory is that the true translation of Djemaa El Fna, the famous square in Marrakesh that's near Koutoubia Mosque, is not "assembly of the dead," but "mosque of the dead," a legacy of the tragic event that occurred here.Meaning of Koutoubia MosqueIn the 19th century, as many as 100 booksellers clustered around the Koutoubia Mosque's base – hence the name, from kutubiyyin (meaning booksellers in Arabic). Before that time, it was simply called the Almohad Mosque, after its founders.Koutoubia GardensStretching out behind the Koutoubia Mosque, the palm-tree-dotted green swath of Koutoubia Gardens is a favorite Marrakshi spot for strolling, relaxing on park benches and generally taking a quiet break. If you need some downtime after dodging motorbikes amid the medina's skinny alleyways, take the locals' lead and head here for a peaceful meander. Koutoubia Gardens are one of the best parks in Marrakesh, and there are great views of the Koutoubia Mosque's minaret.Visiting Koutoubia MosqueNon-Muslims can’t go inside the Koutoubia Mosque or minaret but are most likely to get a glimpse insideon a Friday when the doors are open for prayers. The best spot from which to photograph the Koutoubia's minaret – framed by old stone and date palms – is under the archway to the left of the main entrance.Where to stay near Koutoubia MosqueKoutoubia Mosque is just outside of the Marrakesh medina walls, a short walk from Djemaa El Fna square.Marrakesh's biggest concentration of budget hotels is in this area, most only a stone's throw from the square, along Rue Sidi Bouloukat and Rue de la Recette (easy walking distance from both the airport bus and taxi drop-off points). Upmarket riad accommodation is found off Rue Riad Zitoun El Jedid.Where to eat near Koutoubia MosqueRefuel with a sugar fix at Pâtisserie des Princes, lauded for its pastries (though the ice cream is delicious too). For a refreshing mint tea with a view of the Koutoubia Mosque minaret, head across the road to lovely old-fashioned Café El Koutoubia.How to get to Koutoubia MosqueBus 16 from the Gueliz neighborhood drops you directly opposite the mosque. Koutoubia Mosque is aone-minute stroll west of Djemaa El Fna, and a 25-minute walk from Gueliz, straight down Avenue Mohammed V.

  • Historic Site

    Saadian Tombs

    SaadianSultan Ahmed Al Mansour Ed Dahbi was just as extravagant in death as he was in life. After the "golden king" built Badia Palace in the 16th century, he transformed an existing necropolis into this lavish tomb complex, sparing no expense and importing Italian Carrara marble and gilding honeycomb muqarnas (decorative plasterwork) with pure gold. Al Mansour died in splendour in 1603, but a few decades later, Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail walled up the Saadian Tombs to keep his predecessors out of sight and mind. The mausoleum lay forgotten until aerial photography exposed it in 1917.Chamber of the 12 PillarsThe tomb complex's main chamber is to the left of the site entrance – just look for the line of people. At the time of writing, it could only be admired through an arched viewing door, though plans are afoot to build a viewing platform circling the chamber to help ease congestion.Elaborate zellige (geometric tilework) and gilded honeycomb muqarnas abound in this hall, which gets its name from the fact that its cupola ceiling is supported by three groups of four pillars of marble. Two of these columns are noticeably older – plundered loot from the ancient Roman city of Volubilis. This chamber, the most luxurious part of the tomb, is the final resting place of Al Mansour and his sons.Chamber of Three Niches andPrayer RoomSurrounding the central Chamber of 12 Pillars are two other tomb rooms. Alpha princes were buried in the Chamber of the Three Niches, while the room to the left was originally a prayer room, though it later became a secondary tomb for favored members of the royal court. The intricately carved, pentagon-shaped feature in the back wall is the mihrab (prayer niche indicating the direction of Mecca).Lalla Massouda's TombIn the courtyard cemetery, the secondary mausoleum was erected by an earlier sultan in 1557 and predates the rest of the tomb complex. Carved with blessings and vigilantly guarded by stray cats and the odd tortoise, the tomb was embellished by Al Mansour who claimed it for his mother, Lalla Massouda. Hers is the singular tomb recessed in a niche at the back of the mausoleum; the rest belong to other important women of the court.Next to this structure you can still see the original main entrance to the tombs, blocked up by Moulay Ismail and never reopened. Accessible for centuries only through a small passage in the Kasbah Mosque, the tombs were neglected by all except the storks until the French discovered them and built the alleyway in the southwestern corner through which visitors now enter.Garden TombsNot an alpha prince during Al Mansour’s reign? Then you were relegated to the garden plot along with royal household members and some 170 chancellors. Rumor has it that one of these tombs belongs to the sultan's most trusted Jewish adviser – see if you can spy one that looks subtly different to the rest.Tips for visiting the Saadian TombsThe site is busy with tour groups from about 9:30am to 1pm, and a long line can form to view Al Mansour’s chamber. Either get here right atopening time to admire the tombs in peace or come later in the day.Late afternoon is the best time for photography as the marble work takes on a golden hue in the light.Where to stay near the Saadian TombsThe Saadian Tombs are located in the Kasbah area of the Marrakesh medina.This area is less popular than Mouassine and Djemaa El Fna for accommodations, but the neighborhood can actually be a far more pleasant option because it's a little quieter and tourists receive less hassle here than in the northern souqs (markets).Where to eat near the Saadian TombsConveniently just across the road from the entrance to the Saadian Tombs, Kasbah Café is a top spot to recharge your sightseeing batteries. For camel burgers, date milkshakes and a fun, friendly vibe, head down Rue de la Kasbah to Cafe Clock.How to get to the Saadian TombsRue de la Kasbah is outside the entrance to the Saadian Tombs, so it's easy for taxis to drop off passengers. If you're walking, follow the main roads heading west from Place des Ferblantiers until the Kasbah Mosque turnoff.The entrance to the Saadian Tombs is unmarked. Walk to the southern end of the Kasbah Mosque, with the Kasbah Café directly across the road, and head down the skinny alleyway.

  • Temple

    (Video) Lonely Planet - South Africa

    Amun Temple Enclosure

    Amun-Ra was the local god of Karnak (Luxor) and during the New Kingdom, when the princes of Thebes ruled Egypt, he became the preeminent state god, with a temple that reflected his status. At the height of its power, the temple owned 421,000 head of cattle, 65 cities, 83 ships and 276,400 hectares of agricultural land and had 81,000 people working for it. The shell that remains, sacked by Assyrians and Persians, is still one of the world's great archaeological sites, grand, beautiful and inspiring.

  • Roman Site

    Timgad

    One of the finest Roman sites in existence, the ruins of Timgad stretch almost as far as the eye can see over a plain that in winter is cold and desolate and in summer hot and tinder-dry. Its perfect preservation has made it a Unesco World Heritage Site – take the time to walk around slowly, inhabit the place and Timgad will spring to life.

  • Monastery

    (Video) Lonely Planet - East Africa with Ian wright

    St Catherine's Monastery

    This ancient monastery traces its founding to about AD 330, when Byzantine empress Helena had a small chapel and a fortified refuge for local hermits built beside what was believed to be the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses. Today St Catherine’s is considered one of the oldest continually functioning monastic communities in the world. If the monastery museum is locked, ask at the Church of the Transfiguration for the key.

Discover more sights

FAQs

What is the best month to visit Africa? ›

The best time to visit Africa to see the large southern game reserves is from May to September, during the drier winter months. The vegetation thins out and wildlife congregates around remaining water sources. The best time to visit Africa for birdwatching is during the green season, from November to April.

What should you not do when visiting Africa? ›

11 Things Tourists Should Never Do in South Africa
  1. Don't pronounce Zebra wrong.
  2. Don't underestimate the vastness of the country.
  3. Don't expect to see wild animals everywhere you go.
  4. Don't forget to tip.
  5. Don't flash expensive electronics and jewellery.
  6. Don't feed or touch the animals.
6 Nov 2017

How many days should I spend in Africa? ›

From most other locations journeys of at least 15 hours are commonplace. For most people this long journey will mean that a trip needs to spend at least 10-13 nights in Africa to make the travel worthwhile, more ideally 14-18 nights if possible.

Is Africa good for tourists? ›

The African continent is one of the world's most mesmerizing destinations. There are so many diverse adventures to be had on this amazing continent, home to more than 50 different countries, that it's hard to narrow them down for a best places list, but we have tried here.

What is the safest country in Africa for tourists? ›

Top 10 Safest Countries in Africa (2022 GPI):
  • Gambia — 1.792.
  • Botswana — 1.801.
  • Sierra Leone — 1.803.
  • Zambia — 1.841.
  • Equatorial Guinea — 1.8638.
  • Malawi — 1.895.
  • Namibia — 1.908.
  • Senegal — 1.916.

What is the nicest country in Africa? ›

Whether you are into history or nature, Kenya has it all in one package and is usually considered the best country in Africa.

What is considered rude in Africa? ›

In Africa, pointing at someone or something is generally considered rude and offensive, so if you don't want to get on the wrong side of the Africans it's best not to wave that finger around.

What do I need to know before traveling to Africa? ›

What to know and do before a trip to Africa as a first-time visitor
  • Check the visa requirements for each country. ...
  • Pick your destinations and make an itinerary. ...
  • Do extensive research on the specific countries you're planning to visit. ...
  • Don't try to see everything in Africa. ...
  • Pack everything you need for your African safari.
18 Apr 2019

Is it expensive to visit Africa? ›

Africa is a travel destination that can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. If you're willing to take local transport, eat local foods, and camp, Africa is one of the cheapest places on the planet. After all, millions of people survive on the continent on less than $1 per day.

Why is travel to Africa so expensive? ›

There are two major factors that are responsible for high costs of Safaris and other outdoor activities across not only Tanzania, but the entire continent of Africa: high prices of fuel and high park fees .

How much does a week in Africa cost? ›

The average price of a 7-day trip to South Africa is $1,814 for a solo traveler, $3,138 for a couple, and $1,891 for a family of 4.

What African country should I visit first? ›

South Africa has excellent destinations to visit, starting with its developed cities. A tour to the mountain city of Cape Town will give one a great experience of both the Indian Ocean beaches and great weather. The country is also well-known for its outstanding natural wonders and wildlife.

Is Africa safe for Westerners? ›

Africa remains a safe holiday destination, especially for safari. Unlike train travel, a resort or cruise vacation, you will not come into close contact with large numbers of travellers – social distancing is inherent in the African bush.

Where is the most peaceful country in Africa? ›

Mauritius retained its spot as the most peaceful country in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the 2022 Global Peace Index (GPI). The research pointed out that rising costs have increased food insecurity and political instability across Africa.

Which country in Africa has the least tourists visit each year? ›

Equatorial Guinea (6,000 international visitors every year)

Equatorial Guinea has the distinction of being Africa's least visited country! Despite efforts to increase tourism by granting visa-free admission to US/American Samoan nationals, the country has not attracted many visitors.

Which country in Africa has beautiful ladies? ›

Ethiopia is considered by many a country with most beautiful women in Africa. Women in Ethiopia are very beautiful, charming, and gorgeous. Someone who has never seen the beauty of Ethiopian women before may be amazed at their extraordinary features at first sight.

What is the most beautiful city in Africa? ›

South Africa's Cape Town, for instance, is often considered one of the world's most beautiful cities for its mix of natural beauty - there's a 6,000-foot table-shaped mountain in the center and a string of white-sand beaches - and buzzy atmosphere.

What are some taboos in Africa? ›

Having sex with one's relative is a taboo considered as the worst form of sin in most African communities. As such, people that were known to have engaged in this act are usually outcast. The level of modernization in many communities have not stopped this practice.

Why do Africans say ma? ›

'Mrs'; 'Mother'; 'Ma' (prefixed to the woman's surname or clan name). b. (Also in the Sotho languages.) 'Mother of', prefixed to the first name of one of the woman's children (especially of her first-born son).

How do Africans greet? ›

The most common greeting is a handshake accompanied with eye contact and a smile. This is appropriate among most South Africans. Handshakes may be light or firm depending on the person you are greeting. People from rural villages may use two hands to shake/greet.

What is the warmest month in Africa? ›

Different Countries in Africa

December through March (what most people think of winter) is the hottest period in the country, whereas July through October is the coolest.

What is the hottest month in Africa? ›

February. Summer in South Africa continues in February, which is usually the hottest month of the year with daytime temperatures reaching the mid-80s F.

What is the coldest month in Africa? ›

The cool season lasts for 2.2 months, from May 28 to August 2, with an average daily high temperature below 65°F. The coldest month of the year in Johannesburg is July, with an average low of 37°F and high of 62°F.

Which is better to visit Cape Town or Johannesburg? ›

Johannesburg offers more when it comes to game reserves and inner city entertainment, whereas Cape Town offers wondrous coastal walks and mountain treks that are impossible to experience anywhere else.

What is the driest month in Africa? ›

The summer months (June to August) constitute North Africa's driest season, and are characterized by almost non-existent rainfall and sky-high temperatures.

How cold does it get in Africa at night? ›

That's because temperatures in the Sahara can plummet once the sun sets, from an average high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) during the day to an average low of 25 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 4 degrees Celsius) during the night, according to NASA.

Which safari is best in Africa? ›

Best safaris in Africa
  1. Okavango Delta, Botswana. ...
  2. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. ...
  3. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. ...
  4. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. ...
  5. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. ...
  6. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. ...
  7. Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve), Tanzania. ...
  8. Kruger National Park, South Africa.
12 Jul 2022

What is the best time of year to go on safari in Africa? ›

When is the best time for a safari? The best time to go on safari is between June and October, during the dry season. This is a cooler time of the year and you are more likely to see animals, who are searching for water sources. During these months, you can also catch the iconic Masai Mara migration.

What do you wear on a safari in South Africa? ›

Clothes that blend in
  • Clothes in khaki, green, beige and neutral colours.
  • T-shirts.
  • Shorts or a light skirt.
  • Jeans or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days.
  • Jackets, windbreaker, fleece, sweaters for early morning and late afternoon game drives.
  • A lightweight waterproof jacket in case of rain.
  • Swim and beachwear.

What African country should I visit first? ›

South Africa has excellent destinations to visit, starting with its developed cities. A tour to the mountain city of Cape Town will give one a great experience of both the Indian Ocean beaches and great weather. The country is also well-known for its outstanding natural wonders and wildlife.

Why is Africa so cold at night? ›

As explained in the Science Times, the main reason for stark temperature changes in deserts is the dryness of the air and arid deserts such as the Atacama Desert and the Sahara Desert have virtually zero humidity thus the amount of water vapor in the air and water has more capacity to trap heat than sand.

Does Africa get snow? ›

Additionally, snow regularly falls in the Atlas Mountains in the Maghreb. Snowfall is also a regular occurrence at Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. There have been permanent glaciers on the Rwenzori Mountains, on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Is Africa hot all year round? ›

Africa's islands enjoy warm weather all year round, with winter months experiencing less humidity and pleasant warmth. In Mauritius, winter is considered as June to September, where temperatures are an average of 20 degrees Celsius, and experiences between 5 and 7 hours of sunlight.

Videos

1. Exploring the Sahara Desert, Morocco - Lonely Planet travel video
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2. African Israelites - Lonely Planet travel video
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3. Cape Town City Guide - Lonely Planet travel videos
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4. Lonely Planet - West Africa and Mali
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5. Lonely Planet- Mozambique with Ian wright
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6. Introducing Cape Town & the Garden Route
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