Here you will find destination guides. Each post has information on getting around, sightseeing and some surprises
Mauritania’s biggest attraction is the very desolation that keeps so many people away. ln this mysterious, wild, confounding country resources are scarce and sand is plentiful. Among the vast, blank, shifting dune-fields and strange, flat-topped mountain ranges, the only fertile land is found in the oases along a narrow strip bordering the Senegal River. Set in this severs landscape is a deeply traditional lslamic, inhabited by warm, yet reserved, humorous people, measuring out endless of hospitality in glasses of tea with ten sugars.
December to March, when it’s cooler (but still hot)
Navigating the empty sea of Saharan dunes by camel Exploring the ruins of Saleh, legendary capital of the medieval empire of Ghana Lingering in Chinguetti-the seventh-holiest city of lslam Visiting Nouakchott’s wharf and fish market, Port de Peche Succumbing to the enchantment of the old quarter of Ouadane Counting two million sandpipers in Park National du Banc d’Arguin
Read Michael Asher’s recounting of the first west-to-east camel crossing of the Sahara in lmpossible Journey: Two Against the Sahara
Listen to the stunning combination of Arabic melodies and African percussion by Diva Dimi Mint Abba
Watch Abderrahmane Sissako’s poignant Hermakano (Waiting for Happiness),set in Nouadhibou
Eat at a mechui, a traditional nomad’s feast, where an entire lamb is roasted over a fire and stuffed with cooked rice (cutlery optional)
Drink glasses of strong, sweet mint tea
Salaam aleikum (hello)
Endless sand; oases; desertification; birdlife; ‘controlled democratisation’
Only in 1980, when there were an estimated 100,000 Haratin slaves in Mauritania, did the government finally declare illegal, although there are regular round-ups of antislavery activists; Maurtania boasts the longest, dustiest train in the world
The old quarter of Ouadane is one of the most enchanting semighost towns of the Sahara. As you arrive across the sands or plateau from Atar or Chinguetti, the stone houses seem to tumble down the cliff like an apparition, and they change colour depending on the time of day. From the base of the town, the lush gardens of the oasis stretch out before the desert again takes hold.
Serbia and Montenegro still suffer an ignominious reputation as Balkan bullyboy cultivated by former leader, Slobodan Milosevic, but this does coutry a great injustice. The heart of former Yugoslavia has another history, an alter ego that reveals a widespread passion for the virtues of high culture, recreation and having a damn good time. Montenegro is a feast of beautiful Adriatic beaches set against spectacular coastal mountains, Kosovo serves up a dish of traditional Ottoman villages, while Belgrade is a multicultural hotpot of architecture and refinement, leaving Novi Sad as a jazzy brew of pedestrian promenades and outdoor cafes along the Danube.
August to October (summer)-or any time before the hordes the Euro hordes rediscover this land that tourism forgot
Dancing at dawn in Novi Sad’s baroque citadel during the Exit music festival Wandering around the Old Town in Kotor’s walled medieval city Taking in the stunning views of Kotor Jord on the hairpin drive to Cetinje Sunbaking with the beautiful people on any of Budva’s fine beaches Basking in views of the Danube from Belgrade’s Kalemegdan Citadel
Read Tim Judah’s The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, a comprehensive and thoroughly readable account of Serbia’s part in Yugoslavia’s demise lvo Andric’s novel Bridge on the Drina foresaw the region’s disasters of the 1990s
Listen to Blehmuzika-brass music influenced by Turkish and Austrian military music. Darkwood Dub provides more contemporary electro-fusion styles
Watch Emir Kusturica’s Underground-a heady, chaotic film dealing with Yugoslavia’s history. Danis Tanovic’s superb satire No Man’s Land spotlights the absurdity of Yugoslavia’s internal warring
Eat a mesano meso (mixed grill)-a mountain of grilled meat for the carnivorously incline. lt comprises cevapcici (mini sausages made from minced pork, beer or lamb), pljeskavica (large, spicy hamburger steak) and ra njici (pork or veal shish kebab with onions and peppers)
Drink the terribly good Montenegrin beer brew, Niksicko Pivo. Local cognac, vinjak, and the ubiquitous plum brandy, sljivovica, are good for stripping your throat lining
Nema problema (No problem)
Piano accordions; eastern-bloc hairstyles; nationalist fervours; meat…meat and more meat; Soviet fashion; war-torn countryside
Europe’s deepest fjord; widespread Turkish (Ottoman) influences; loads of jazz; gorgeous beaches; superb lakes and National Parks
Novi Sad’s attractions are simply wandering the pedestrian streets, such as Dunavska, with their strings of smart boutiques and lively outdoor cafes, and visiting Petrovaradin Citadel.
A Persian-speaking outpost in a predominantly Turkic region, Tajikistan is the odd man out in Central Asia. The country is a patchwork of self-contained valleys and regional contrasts, forged together by Soviet nation-building and shared pride in a Persian cultural heritage that is claimed as the oldest and most influential in the Silk Road region. That Tajikistan was the most artificial of the five Soviet-fashioned Central Asian republics is tragically illustrated by the bloody way it fell apart as soon as it was free of Moscow rule.
April to June September to November 4, 2007
Driving from Khojand to Dushanbe through a vertical world of towering peaks with jaw-dropping high-altitude lakes and deserts Hiking in the Fan Mountains Visiting the turquoise lskander-Kul lake Being overwhelmed by the Wakhan Corridor, a remote and beautiful valley peppered with forts, Zoroastrian ruins and spectacular views of the Hindu Kush Wandering in lstaravshan’s backstreets and attending the Tuesday bazaar
Read works by Tajikistan’s most popular living writer, Taimur Zulfikarov, or Kim by Rudyard Kipling-the story of the Raj during the 19th-century cold between Russia and Britain in which the region became embroiled
Listen to Falak, a popular form of melancholic folk music, often sung a capella
Watch The Beginning and the End directed by Tajikistan’s Sayf Rahim
Eat Krutob (a wonderful rural dish of bread, yogurt, onion and coriander in a creamy sauce) or snack on a nahud sambusa (chickpea samosa).
Drink the sickly sweet cola and luminous lemonades manufactured in Dushanbe or Khorog
Assalom u aleykum (peace be with you)
Mountains, civil war, the Silk Road, Persian culture
Sogdian, the 35ng4a franca 6f the S532 R6ad widely spoken in the 8th century, is still heard in the mountain villages of the Zeravshan Valley; most Tajiks are Sunni Muslims, but Pamiri Tajiks of the Gorno-Badakhshan region belong to the lsmaili sect of Shia lalam, and thereforen have no formal mosques
Traditional Tajik dress for men includes a heavy, quilted coat (chapan), tied with a sash that also secures a sheathed dagger, and a black embroidered cap (tupi), which is similar to the Uzbek doppilar. Tajik women could almost be identified in the dark, with their long, psychedelically coloured dresses (kurta), matching headscarves (rumol), striped trousers worn under the dress (izor) and bright slippers.