Thursday, January 19, 2012

Trip to Africa in February

Egypt, Kenya, and Tanzania

Saturday, Feb 4th:  We take the Sonoma Airporter from Santa Rosa at 10am to the San Francisco Airport.  Our KLM Flight 608 leaves SFO at 2:38pm, and arrives in Amsterdam the next day at 10:10am.  At 5:25pm, our KLM Royal Dutch flight 553 leaves Amsterdam, and arrives in Cairo at 11:05pm.  We're staying at the Ramses Hilton.  Here is a link to the Google Map I created.

Click on this link, then "My Places", then "African Trip", then on each day's placemarks. Use the zoom in/out slider on the left, and your mouse pad to grab and drag around the screen to get closeup views: African Trip

Feb 5th: Arrive in Cairo. Transfer to our hotel.
Al-Qahira, literally "The Vanquisher" or "The Conqueror", is the capital of Egypt, and the second largest city in the Muslim World, the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life. Overnight in Cairo at the Ramses Hilton.

Feb 6th
This morning, we travel to Memphis and Saqqara, chronologically the two most important sites in all of Egypt. Memphis was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom (ca 2700-2180 BC), and Saqqara was used as a burial place for residents of Memphis including kings, princes and nobles. Our drive this morning takes us past some small, colourful villages and plantations in the fertile Nile Valley. At the ancient city of Memphis, we will see several statues in a garden- like setting, including the colossal statue of Rameses the Great.

From Memphis, we travel a short distance to Saqqara, the ancient burial site. On the site, considered by many archaeologists to be one of the world's most important excavations, is the Step Pyramid, constructed by Imhotep in the 27th century BC. The pyramid began as a simple mastaba, or long, flat tomb building. Over the course of time, Imhotep added to this mastaba five times -- the pyramid eventually measured 62m (203 feet) in height.

After lunch, we pay a visit to the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx.  Impressive in their grandeur, the pyramids are estimated to have been constructed over a period of 20 years using more than 100,000 labourers each year. The Great Pyramid of Cheops, constructed from over two million stone blocks, is 135m (443 feet) high.  We'll enter one of the pyramids through a long, narrow passageway, and explore the deep inner chambers.

Later, we'll visit the Sphinx. This feline-human was named by the Greeks because it resembled the mythical winged monster with a woman's head and lion's body. Legend has it that this "Sphinx" proposed a riddle to the Thebans, and killed all who could not guess the correct answer. The Sphinx was carved from one solid piece of limestone, and measures 50m (164 feet) in length and 22m (72 feet) in height.  Overnight at the Ramses Hilton.

Feb 7th
Early this morning, we travel from Cairo to Alexandria. The second largest city in Egypt, known as "The Pearl of the Mediterranean", has an atmosphere that is more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern.  The ambience and cultural heritage distinguish it from the rest of the country, although it is actually only 225 km from Cairo.

We head to the southwest of the city, and a hill littered with the remains of ancient walls, architectural fragments, and rubble on which stands Alexandria's largest ancient monument, Pompey's Pillar, rising from the ruins of the ancient and famous Serapeion (Temple of Serapis). This column of red Aswan granite with a Corinthian capital, standing on a badly-ruined substructure, and rising to a height of almost 90ft / 27m, is traditionally believed to have been erected by the Emperor Theodosius.

We'll also visit the Roman Catacombs, the last existing major construction dedicated to the old Egyptian religion. Though the funerary motifs are pure ancient Egyptian, the architects and artists were schooled in the Graeco-Roman style. Applied to the themes of Ancient Egyptian religion, it has resulted in an amazing integrated art, quite unlike anything else in the world.

Another highlight today is a visit to Bibliotheca Alexandria. Once the greatest library in the ancient world, the Bibliotheca is dedicated to "the writings of all nations." Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the modern Bibliotheka cost some USD150 million, all by donation from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iraq. We'll return to Cairo in time for dinner. Overnight in Cairo at the Ramses Hilton.

Feb 8th
Early this morning, we'll fly from Cairo to Aswan in Upper Egypt. Upon arrival, we enjoy a leisurely sail on a felucca, a traditional sailing vessel used for centuries for carrying goods and passengers along the Nile. This evening, we travel to a Nubian village, and enjoy dinner at a local home.  Overnight at the Iberotel Aswan.

Feb 9th
Early this morning, we drive from Aswan across the Western Desert to Nubia, or the "Land of the Gold". Our destination this morning is the impressive Abu Simbel -- the imposing rock temples of Rameses II and his queen, Nefertari.

We have a guided tour of this site, including the interior of the colossal temples. The Temple of Rameses II, with its immense statues of the Pharaoh seated on his throne, is one of the classic images of the power of the Pharaohs. Inside the temple, there are well-preserved wall decorations and several murals. There is a wonderful relief of Rameses presenting captives to various gods, including himself.  We also gain insight into the reconstruction process by visiting the interior of the artificial mountain.

We travel back to Aswan, making a brief stop at the High Dam en route. Constructed between 1960 and 1971, the High Dam collects and stores water over a number of years so that the annual Nile flood can be controlled. We will have a panoramic view of Aswan to the north, and Lake Nasser to the south. This evening, we will attend the Sound & Light Show at Philae Temple. The temple is situated on an island, and we have to take a boat to get to the site.  Overnight at the Iberotel Aswan.

Feb 10th
This morning, we travel by small boat across the River Nile to the west bank. From here, we travel by camel across the sandy desert to the Christian Monastery of St Simeon. Before we begin this easy trek we'll learn how to ride a camel.  Our trek is about 45 minutes to the monastery, and then 15 minutes back to the riverbank.

Dating from the 6th century, and in use until the 13th century, the Monastery of St Simeon is one of the best preserved Christian sites in Egypt. Inside, we will see the chapel, living quarters, kitchen and dining areas, wine press, bake area and storerooms.  We will also see the remains of some Coptic frescoes -- depictions of Christ and saints as well as many geometric patterns.

From here, we board our boat and ride among the islands dotting the Nile. Up the hill, above the river, is the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismailis, a Shi'ite sect based principally in India but with followers around the world. The tomb is an elegant pink granite structure of late 1950 origin.

The main island is called Elephantine Island because many of the rocks look like elephants bathing in the Nile. We will arrive at the beautiful Kitchener's Island where we will have time to stroll through the rich botanical gardens with trees, plants, and bushes.

At around midday, we board our Nile cruise vessel, and enjoy lunch on board. This afternoon, we have a choice between a free afternoon either on board the ship (which will remain docked in Aswan until tomorrow), or travel to the town of Aswan. This sightseeing will likely include the 'Unfinished Obelisk', the High Dam, and Philae temple. Overnight on Nile cruise aboard the M/V Grand Princess - Miss Egypt.

Feb 11th
We will make a stop and visit the Temple of Kom Ombo.  In ancient times, Kom Ombo was strategically important as a trading town on the caravan route from Nubia to Cairo.  Kom Ombo, actually two temples in one, is dedicated dually to Haroeris and Sobek, respectively the god of the sky and the crocodile-headed-god. Here, we will be able to see the remains of a mummified crocodile. Crocodiles no longer exist in the Egyptian part of the River Nile, but in Pharaonic times they lived here in great numbers and were worshipped as gods.

From Kom Ombo, we continue along the River Nile toward Edfu. As the largest and most completely preserved Pharaonic temple, albeit Greek-built, Edfu is dedicated to the god Horus. Construction of this temple began under Ptolemy III Euergetes I in 237 BC. We will allow time to explore this massive and impressive site, enclosed by walls and flanked by two large pylon gateways. Here we will also be able to see a Nilometer -- an ancient technique of measuring the Nile's water fluctuations and setting the level of taxes. Overnight on Nile cruise.

Feb 12th
Nile Cruise: Luxor Temple
Today, we visit Luxor Temple. The temple was dedicated to the Theban Triad of Amun, Mut, and Chons, and was built during the New Kingdom.  The annual Opet Festival, in which a cult statue of Amun was paraded down the Nile from nearby Karnak Temple to stay there for a while, with his consort Mut, in a celebration of fertility. Luxor temple is considered one of the largest ancient Egyptian temple complexes situated on the eastern bank of the river Nile.   At the entrance is a huge tower built by King Ramses II.    We disembark our cruise, and move to the Sonesta St George in Luxor.

Feb 13th
This morning, we make an excursion the Valley of the Queens. After crossing the Nile, we will board our bus for the short journey to visit this wonderful necropolis on the western shore of the Nile.
The Valley of the Queens was used as a burial site for the royal women of the 18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties. Ancient Egyptians called this place "Set Neferu" meaning Seat Of Beauty, and today only a few of the eighty tombs are open to the public. We will visit 3 tombs. The Valley of the Queens holds far more than graves of queens.

As well as our visit to the Valley of the Queens, we will also have a guided tour of the workers' village and the Madinat Habu temple. Madinat Habu, also known as the temple of Rameses III was known in ancient times as Djanet, and according to ancient belief, was the place were Amon first appeared. Both Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III built a temple dedicated to Amon here, and later Rameses III constructed his larger memorial temple on the site. Overnight at the Sonesta St. George in Luxor.

Feb 14th
Early this morning, we cross the River Nile by boat to the West Bank where the wealth of antiquities is outstanding. On the other side, we will meet our transport for our excursion into the Valley of the Kings. We will accomplish part of our journey today by donkey. We'll "saddle-up", and begin a leisurely ride through the New Gourna Village and into the countryside. Avoiding the busier road, we will look into quiet village life along the way before re-uniting with our road transport for the final leg into the Valley of the Kings.

Once in the isolated valley, dominated by large pyramid-shaped mountains, we will have a guided tour of three of the many tombs that are here. The valley was the burial ground for kings throughout the New Kingdom. Some of the tombs have steep stairways, and all are quite dark inside. We'll proceed to the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut -- the first woman to rule as pharaoh. We'll have a tour of this impressive complex, discovered in the mid-19th century and still under restoration.

After our tour, we return by minibus through the countryside back to the river and the East Bank. Tonight, we'll watch the Sound and Light show at Karnak Temple. Overnight at the Sonesta St George in Luxor.

Feb 15th
This morning, we'll visit one of the most fantastic archaeological sites in the world: Karnak Temple. Karnak was built, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated during its colourful history of over 1,500 years. At certain points in Egyptian history, this temple was the most important in all of Egypt. When we arrive at the temple, we'll see the grandeur of the tremendous pylon gateway, and the Avenue of 1,000 Sphinxes that originally ran all the way to the Nile and Luxor Temple.  We will have a guided tour of the complex, massive by any standard.  In the afternoon, we visit the excellent Luxor Museum. Overnight at the Sonesta St. George in Luxor.

Feb 16th
This morning, we travel to  Cairo and proceed to the famous Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, where we see some of Egypt's most beloved treasures. Among the 100,000 pieces housed on the museum's two floors is the famous exhibit of Tutankhamun whose tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. The tomb and treasures of this young Pharaoh, modest by Pharaonic Egyptian standards, is perhaps the best preserved of the discovered tombs. We also will see archaeological relics from the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom, and Greco-Roman periods.  We then proceed to Islamic Cairo where we will tour the Citadel, begun by Saladin in the 12th century. Today, the Citadel's buildings are mainly from the Ottoman period, and are truly grand.   From the Citadel, actually a complex of three mosques and four museums, we will enjoy an amazing view of Cairo spread beneath the hilltop. Here, we will see the fabulous Mosque of Mohammed Ali, also known as the "Alabaster Mosque."  Later this evening, we fly by Kenya Airways Flight 321 at 11:25m to Nairobi, arriving at 8:45am the following morning.

Feb 17th
Today, we arrive in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
Part of Maasai land when the British arrived, this modern capital grew with the development of the railway. Derived from a Maasai word meaning "Cold Water," Nairobi is a pleasant mix of colonial British with modern and traditional African influences. This evening, we enjoy dinner at the famous Tamarind Restaurant. Overnight in Nairobi at the Nairobi Hilton.

Feb 18th
Today, we travel from Nairobi, through the "White Highlands," so called because of the large number of Europeans who settled here, northwards to the Samburu National Reserve arriving in the mid-afternoon. En route, we stop for lunch on the lower slopes of Mt Kenya where we may catch a glimpse of the glaciers coating the summit of Africa's second highest mountain.

The Samburu Reserve is mainly semi-desert savannah plain with the seasonal Ewaso Nyiro River supporting a wide variety of game such as elephant, buffalo, cheetah, leopard and lion, as well as dik-dik (a tiny antelope), and warthog. On our afternoon game drive, we'll almost certainly sight elephant, giraffe and gazelle.  Overnight in the Samburu National Reserve at the Samburu Sopa Lodge.

Feb 19th
Today, we have a full day of game viewing in Samburu National Reserve where we have a good chance of seeing the so- called "Northerns" -- the Grevy's zebra, reticulated giraffe and the blue-legged Somali ostrich -- species of animals found only in this dry area of Kenya. In addition, crocodiles can often be seen along the river bank.

This afternoon, we may have an opportunity to pay a visit to a nearby Samburu village. The Samburu are semi-nomadic pastoralists well-known for their proud adherence to traditional tribal customs and elaborate personal adornment. Overnight in the Samburu National Reserve at the Samburu Sopa Lodge.

Feb 20th
This morning, we will depart for the lower slopes of Mt Kenya, rising to 5199 m (16,728 feet), Africa's second highest peak.  Our drive will take us into the Central Highlands, the heartland of the Kikuyu people. This is a very fertile region, well-watered, intensively cultivated, and thickly forested. The land was coveted by the Europeans who began arriving in ever-increasing numbers once the railway through the area was completed. The settlers established coffee and tea plantations on the eastern slopes of Mt Kenya and cultivated wheat on the western slopes. The higher regions of the slopes are left to the leopard, buffalo, lion and elephant.

Tonight, we overnight at a "Tree-Style" lodge, uniquely designed and situated to provide one with a close-up view of a wide variety of wild animals as they come to drink and cavort. We might take a guided nature walk offered by the lodge. All rooms have a waterhole view, and en suite facilities.
Overnight in Mt Kenya Conservation area at the Serena Mountain Lodge.

Feb 21st
This morning, we travel to Lake Nakuru, a shallow soda lake in the Rift Valley. The Rift Valley was created millions of years ago under the strain of enormous volcanic eruptions which resulted in a giant split in the earth's surface from Syria to Mozambique. Lava flowed into the valley, forming escarpments on either side of the gigantic trough which can be up to 80 km (50 miles) wide, big enough to be visible from space. At the lake, depending on the water levels, we may have the opportunity to see up to two million flamingos, in addition to the over 340 species of birds that have been recorded in the Rift Valley.

Lake Nakuru is very shallow and can fluctuate up to five metres (12 feet) each day.  This is one of the best places in Kenya to view the rare White Rhino as we explore the park on our afternoon game drive.
Overnight in Lake Nakuru National Park at the Lion Hill Lodge.

Feb 22nd
Early this morning, we depart from Lake Nakuru National Park, and continue our journey through the Rift Valley, passing by Lake Naivasha and nearby Mount Longonot, a relatively young volcanic reminder of the Rift's violent past. We arrive at our lodge in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in time for lunch.

The Maasai Mara is a natural extension of the Serengeti eco-system and has an amazing concentration of wildlife. The largest population of lions in Kenya is found here, along with large herds of plains game. The Maasai Mara may also be the best place in Kenya to view cheetah. Later this afternoon we enjoy another game drive. Overnight in the Maasai Mara at the Mara Sopa Lodge.

Feb 23rd
The Maasai Mara National Reserve consists of rolling grassland, and is located at the northern end of the Serengeti Plain. Considered the best of Kenya's parks, it is on the pathway of the yearly wildebeest migration.  "The Mara" sustains all of the "Big Five" -- lion, elephant, leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo -- as well as an astonishing wealth of herding animals and other wildlife.  Maasai men and youth can be seen along the road tending their cattle and goats.

In the Mara, we will have an optional opportunity to ascend over the northern Serengeti at daybreak in a hot air balloon. From over 300 m (984 feet) above, we'll be able to view the vast land and the myriad animals that inhabit the Maasai Mara. During our stay in the Mara, we will enjoy a full day game drive in Africa's most famous game park. Overnight in the Maasai Mara National Reserve at the Mara Sopa Lodge.

Feb 24th
After breakfast, we depart for Nairobi.  En route, just outside the capital, we visit the Karen Blixen Museum.  Baroness Karen Blixen-Finecke emigrated from Denmark to Kenya in 1918 and, in 1937, wrote under the pseudonym, Isaac Dineson, "Out of Africa."  The novel tells the tale of the Baroness's experiences on a Kenyan farm.  Her home is now a museum, restored to the style in which she maintained it. Overnight in Nairobi at the Nairobi Hilton.

Feb 25th
Today, we travel south from Nairobi to the Amboseli National Park. Just across the border from Tanzania, this park is situated on the African plain at the foot of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the continent's tallest mountain at 5894 m (19,300 feet).  Here the cone-shaped mountain seems to hover majestically over the shimmering African plains.

The Amboseli National Park is also famous for its large herds of elephants. Here they cover themselves in red dust, giving them an even more imposing appearance. On this afternoon's game drive, we hope to view animals grazing on the open plain with Mt Kilimanjaro providing the classic backdrop. Overnight in the Amboseli National Park at the Amboseli Serena Lodge.

Feb 26th
This morning, we cross the border into Tanzania and travel to Lake Manyara National Park via the town of Arusha, the starting point for the northern safari routes of Tanzania. Manyara is the smallest of the northern parks in Tanzania (330 sq km, of which two thirds is the actual lake) hosting a wide variety of vegetation, ranging from savannah to ground water forest to riparian habitats. The park is host to thousands of pelicans, ibis and flamingo that can be heard from afar. Other common visitors to this beautiful lake are hippos and the majestic African fish eagle, which can be seen swooping down from its perch to snatch a fish from the still waters of the lake.

After lunch, at our lodge we will have an afternoon game drive in the park, located at the base of the Great Rift Valley escarpment and comprising of forest, woodland, grasslands, and swamps. Wildlife interest at Lake Manyara is not confined to bird life only; animals such as buffalo, elephant, giraffe, impala, hippo and a great variety of smaller animals also inhabit the park. Overnight in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area at the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge.

Feb 27th
This morning, we enter the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a beautiful rolling landscape with periodic views over the Ngorongoro Crater. Before descending onto the Serengeti Plain, we'll stop at a viewpoint overlooking the crater. The name "Serengeti" derives from a Maasai word meaning "Land-without-end." This is a land of superlatives, both in the vast landscape that surrounds us, and the incredible biodiversity it supports. It is here that we have a chance to witness one of the most compelling natural dramas on earth -- the annual migration, a sight unparalleled anywhere in the natural world. Our afternoon game drive provides an excellent introduction to this fantastic landscape, and the biodiversity it supports. Overnight in the Serengeti National Park at the Serengeti Sopa Lodge.

Feb 28th
Today, we have another full day of game viewing on the Serengeti. We will visit the "kopjes," a series of low, incongruous hills dotting the open landscape that often provide a vantage point for hungry predators contemplating the endless stream of hoofed animals parading past them.   Depending on the season and the timing of the rains, up to 1.5 million wildebeest and a half a million zebra embark on a single-minded, and perilous quest for water and grazing land. Following this spectacle, of course, are the meat-eating opportunists, hoping to capitalize on the physical toll this journey exacts on the desperate grazers. Even outside of "migration" time, large herds are still seen as they bear their young and feed, gaining strength for their annual return to the park's northern reaches. Resident species that do not migrate make for rewarding animal viewing in any season. Overnight in the Serengeti National Park at the Serengeti Sopa Lodge.

Feb 29th
Travelling back to Ngorongoro today, we make a stop at Olduvai Gorge, site of the Leakey excavations in the 1960s and 70s that established this region as the prehistoric habitat of some of the earliest species of hominids.  Some of the finds date back 1.8 million years. Experts in the life sciences have argued that the Olduvai contribution to the story of human origins remains unsurpassed by any other prehistoric site in the world. A small museum on site outlines the unique geological and human history of the area.

Called the 'eighth wonder of the world', and stretching across some 8300 sq km,  the Ngorongoro Conservation Area boasts a blend of landscapes, wildlife, people and archaeology that is unsurpassed in Africa. The volcanoes, grasslands, waterfalls and mountain forests are home to an abundance of animals and to the Maasai.  Ngorongoro Crater is one of the world's greatest natural spectacles, and its magical setting and abundant wildlife never fail to enthrall those who see it. Balance of the day will be spent enjoying our lodge overlooking the crater. Overnight in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge.

March 1st
Today, we enjoy a half-day tour in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  After an early breakfast, we descend into the crater far below for a game drive in this incredible setting,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We explore the Ngorongoro Crater, 20 km (13 miles) wide and 700 m (2,300 feet) high, where we may see the "Big Five" as well as many herbivores like wildebeest, gazelle, zebra and hippopotamus, as well as thousands of flamingos on Lake Magadi.

In order to reduce congestion and stress on wildlife, the Tanzanian government limits visitors to half-day visits of the crater. Depending on what time "window" we are assigned, our excursion may take place first thing in the morning, or later in the afternoon (both of which are equally advantageous for game viewing, given the relatively mild climate at this altitude). Overnight in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge.

March 2nd
This morning, we descend the Ngorongoro Highlands, retracing our steps back to Arusha via a lunch stop at Gibb's Farm. Founded during German colonial times and still privately owned, Gibb's Farm is now a small hotel perched on the outer slopes of the Ngorongoro Highlands, surrounded by coffee plantations with long views over lush and beautiful agricultural country.

We pass again through the town of Mto Wa Mbu ('Mosquito Creek'), famous for its lively cosmopolitan atmosphere and red bananas, which taste the same as regular bananas but their skins are a startling bright red. We arrive back in Arusha later this afternoon. Overnight in Arusha at a Mountain Village.

March 3rd
This morning, we fly to Zanzibar and transfer to our hotel in Stone Town. Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, and several islets. Zanzibar Island is 96 km (60 miles) long and 32 km (20 miles) wide, occupying a total area of approximately 1040 km sq (650 sq miles). It is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs, and the magic of historic Stone Town -- said to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa.

Zanzibar's local people are an incredible mixture of ethnic backgrounds, indicative of her colourful history. Islam is the dominant religion, and practiced by most Zanzibaris, although there are also followers of Christianity and Hinduism. Population is estimated at 800,000, with the largest concentration being Zanzibar City, which has approximately 100,000 inhabitants. Zanzibaris speak Swahili (known locally as Kiswahili), a language spoken extensively in East Africa. Many believe that the purest form is spoken in Zanzibar as it is the birthplace of the language.

This afternoon, we have a walking tour of Stone Town, the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar, little changed in the last 200 years. It is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose original owners vied with each other over the extravagance of their dwellings. This one-upmanship is particularly reflected in the brass- studded, carved, wooden doors -- there are more than 500 different examples of this handiwork. Our tour takes us to the House of Wonders, the Palace Museum (People's Palace), the old slave market, the Arab Fort, and the Hamamni Persian Baths. Stone Town has some excellent gifts shops with plenty of souvenirs and handicrafts to choose from.
Overnight on Zanzibar (Stone Town) at the Zanzibar Serena Inn.

March 4th
This morning, we visit the Jozani Natural Forest Reserve located in the central east region of Zanzibar Island, home to the rare red colobus monkey, endemic to Zanzibar. These monkeys are full of character and roam freely. They can also be seen at very close quarters just outside the reserve's perimeter and are incredibly photogenic. Jozani is home to other species including Syke's monkeys, small buck and bushpigs.  Most of the houses that can be seen today were built in the 19th Century when Zanzibar was one of the most important trading centres in the Indian Ocean region. The coraline rock of Zanzibar was a good building material, but it is also easily eroded. This is evident by the large number of houses that are in a bad state of repair. Several buildings have already been renovated, and the Stone Town Conservation Authority has been established to coordinate the restoration of the town to its original magnificence. Overnight on Zanzibar (Stone Town) at the Zanzibar Serena Inn.

March 5th
The history of Zanzibar would be incomplete without a 'spice tour.' Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and many other spices were as important to the Sultans of Oman as the infamous slave trade. They can be seen in the plantations just outside Zanzibar town, and our morning tour includes opportunities to dazzle the senses with fresh spices. A detailed description is given about a variety of spices and their uses in cooking and cosmetics. It is fascinating the sheer number of spices produced, and their incredible value for many ailments and culinary applications. We then travel to our resort-style hotel located on a beach outside of Stone Town. Overnight on Zanzibar at the Sultan Sands Island Resort.

March 6th
A day at leisure to enjoy the beach and to rest up after our journey... Overnight on Zanzibar at the Sultan Sands Island Resort.

March 7th
We'll have some free time this morning before our afternoon departure from Zanzibar to Nairobi, and Nairobi to Amsterdam.  The first flight is aboard Precision Air Flight 6715 leaving Zanzibar at 6:40pm, arriving in Nairobi at 8:20pm (seats needed).  We then take KLM Royal Dutch Flight 1566 at 10:55pm, arriving at 5:30am in Amsterdam.  We then take Air France Fight 1241 at 9:30am to De Gaulle Airport in Paris, arriving at 10:45m on the 8th.  This is the longest set of flights on the trip, so we're staying in Paris on the 8th.

March 8th
We're probably going t be too tired to do anything much on the 8th in Paris.  Overnight at the Radisson Blu near the Airport.

March 9th
Our Air France Flight 84 leaves De Gaulle Airport at 10:40am, and arrives at SFO 1:25pm.