We’re heading now to North Africa, a land of vast deserts, ancient cities, and bustling markets. Here, the cultures of Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean all come together.
This is the place where you can find the best of many worlds. That’s if, of course, know where to look!
North Africa, the land stretching from the southern tip of Sudan, up along the Red Sea, and across the Southern Mediterranean coast to Morocco and Western Sahara, on the Pacific.
It can sometimes be a tumultuous place so before heading off check the state department’s website for any travel warnings and advisories.
Now, that’s not to scare you away, some of the most-visited, and most amazing tourist destinations in the world are found right here.
In a class all its own, is Egypt.
For nearly 4000 years, the Pyramids at Giza were the largest buildings on Earth – and they remain an inspiration to as many as 5 thousand visitors every day.
Further south, along the Nile river, sprawling ruins serve as reminders of the grandeur of the Pharaohs.
And some of the sights at the top of your “must-see” list:
Luxor – the capital of ancient Egypt, and home of the sprawling Karnak Temple complex on the Nile’s eastern shore: one of the largest examples of religious architecture in the world.
And, to the west of the river: the Valley of the Kings… where Egypt’s Pharoahs we’re laid to rest for nearly five hundred years.
Many of their tombs are now open the public.
Each offers a spectacular glimpse into the ritual lives of one of humanity’s first great civilizations.
Further south, nearing Egypt’s border with Sudan, are the massive ruins at Abu Simbel.
Built during the reign of the the Pharoah Ramses II, it is thought the massive structures – carved straight into the mountainside - were built here, at least in part, to impress, and to intimidate, ancient Egypt’s southern neighbors, the Nubians.
When you’re ready for more modern sights and sounds, consider a trip to the town centers, markets, and bazaars of North Africa’s magical cities.
Tunis, in Tunisia… And Fes, and Marrakesh… in Morocco.
Here you can bargain in the souks and stalls for trinkets, handicrafts and carpets.
Haggling is part business transaction, part national sport.
Win or lose, you gain a souvenir and a valuable cultural experience.
In Marrakesh, don't miss a cultural highlight: the plaza of Djemaa el Fna.
It’s been showtime here everyday since the 11th century with the city square filled with snake charmers, acrobats and storytellers.
Its carnival atmosphere beckons old and young, local and tourists alike.
When you need a rest, head for the shore.
Coastal areas like Morocco’s Essaouira and Tunisia’s Djerba Island are prime beach spots.
Their relaxed pace and ocean views will get you recharged and ready to go.
All of North Africa shares one common, outstanding feature – the Sahara.
The desert stretches over 3000 miles from coast to coast.
It is one of the hottest, driest, windiest places on Earth.
Despite its desolation, Berber tribes have lived here for thousands of years, plying the ancient trade routes with caravans and camels.
Here, you’ll find that many towns along the edge of the Sahara offer tourists a taste of desert life, a chance to ride across the sands, run along the dunes, and sleep under the stars.
With blazing hot summers and wet cool winters, the best times to visit North Africa are in the spring and fall.
But during Ramadan, keep in mind many restaurants and stores are closed and schedules are disrupted.
Otherwise there are plenty of tourists arriving year round, drawn to some of the most exciting attractions on earth.
When traveling in North Africa, be patient and be polite.
Keep in mind that most signs are in Arabic.
You can probably get by speaking English in most tourist places.
French comes in handy in Morocco and Tunisia but mastering a few phrases in Arabic can make everyday interactions a whole lot easier and a whole lot more fun.
Once you do that, the spirit of North Africa will no doubt seduce you with its ancient charms.