We left home sometime early or mid-afternoon for the airport. We said our goodbyes to our family and headed toward the gate for our flight. It took us 7-8 hours to get to Rome and about 3 more to Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv. Since it was the holidays and a Sunday afternoon, we were stuck in serious northbound traffic. Some few hours later, we arrived at our little, cosy AirBnB in Haifa. The travel was, of course, fun but Israel had much more in store for the three of us.
One of the first places we went to was Jerusalem, the beautiful old city. I had been there before, and it was still just as amazing as the first time. The first thing we did there was not too surprising. We went to get some kanafa, a Middle Eastern dish made of cheese and a sweet and crumbly coating on top*. Very tasty. Then after our pit stop, we ventured through the narrow market streets, heading toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We had stopped to take some pictures and appreciate the exterior. And then the sound of Church bells filled our ears as we entered (which made the experience even better). Gorgeous art work, objects, and more filled the various levels of the Church.
*If you're looking for one of the best and friendliest places to have kanafa in Jerusalem, from the Damascus gate, take the first right and the restaurant will be blue and tiled and open (taking up two stalls).
Later on during the trip we went to the Baha’i Gardens in Akko. Like Jerusalem, I had been there before but it is a stunning place. The moment I walked into the garden, I felt at peace. It was gorgeous, very calming and aesthetically pleasing. Of course we had to take pictures (and knowing me I took lots of “artsy” photos). We walked through the gardens admiring the (extremely) well taken care of greenery and other plants. We had spent maybe half hour to an hour at the gardens, then left to explore more of the ancient prison town by the Mediterranean Sea. We went into the old city and walked around for a bit then decided to get some food at a cafe with a FANTASTIC view of the water (and not to mention the food was delicious)*. After the delicious meal, we walked to the walls that separated the town from the sea; we continued onward down to the beach and did some awesome parkour and adventuring. Then we left Akko--leaving behind the sea and sunset.
*Speaking of Akko, one amazing place to grab a bite is Cafe Neto in Akko, which has a gorgeous view of the water (you are right on the water if you sit outside... literally) and the food is delicious as well as their shakes and smoothies. Another great place to eat is Rothschild which is not in Akko but in Nahariya. It is a nice and quiet restaurant right on the boardwalk. From the welcoming atmosphere to the good eats, Rothschild is probably one of my favorite restaurants in Israel so far -- it is right up there with the Cafe Cafe restaurants which always have great food, friendly service and a cool atmosphere.
We also spent some time in Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, but more exciting was our road trip to Masada and the Dead Sea. The whole experience felt like I was in a movie. The music playing in the car, long desert roads, and my favorite part... CAMELS. This was like nothing I had experienced before. The drive was long but worth it. As we got closer to Masada, immense dunes and canyons came into view. As we continued to twist and turn down the road, we came upon a (very random) oasis. We decided to stop by and see what it was. And this is where the camels come in. There was a camel riding area (but we unfortunately weren’t able to ride the camels). We later found out that it was a Bedouin inn. After our brief pit stop, we continued to Masada. Once we arrived, we “trekked” up the stairs and reached the old ruins. Not only was Masada beautiful, but the story of the community who chose to 'make themselves extinct' (to put it in a not as graphic way) was truly interesting. We walked around, took pictures and spent several moments looking at the extraordinary views that included the Dead Sea flats.
After Masada, we drove onward to the Dead Sea. I had no idea what to expect, especially given the views of the area from the top of Masada. As we drove into the area, we kept reading the sea level markers with excitement and feeling ourselves descending downward for kilometers on end. Once we approached the same level with the water, all we could were hotels, more hotels, and the water. We had bought some Dead Sea mud from a nearby shop to lather on ourselves before getting into the water, as it was supposed to be good for the skin and protective (it felt pretty nice as well). When I took my first step into the salty water, it felt normal. It wasn't until I had immersed all of my body (except my head) that I started to feel different. All my body wanted to do was float. So I let it be and laughed while doing so. The only hard part was getting back upright without getting the salty water getting into my eyes or mouth, especially given the warning to avoid it on my face or in my eyes or mouth at all costs. Boy did I fail. One drop of water splashed into my eye and I immediately felt the burning. And some water also found its way into my mouth which was not fun either as it was so bitter and sour -- like nothing I had ever tasted or want to taste again. So I was led to the shower as I kept my eye closed. I took a few minutes to desalinate myself and then I hopped (figuratively) back into the water to float some more and enjoy the experience with my family and friends. Overall, Masada and the Dead Sea were unforgettable experiences.
My friends always ask why I go to Israel when I could go anywhere else in the world, and all I tell them is that (besides having family friends there), "If you have the chance to go you should..." Israel will forever have my heart, that much I know.
Written by edk | Lovingly edited by nnk
All photos are copyrighted to edk, rc, nnk and n.a. (2017). Please ask before using or reproducing any elements or photos used and linked to in this post; any use should be attributed appropriately.
From Lilongwe to Lusaka to Livingstone and back.
Let me just say that was a long and fun-filled journey to get to Zambia. We would spend the next few days in the car chatting, listening to music and clearly a favorite of some more than others…sleeping (clearly a favorite of some more than others).
We (four of us) left our Agogo’s (grandfather’s) home in Lilongwe mid-morning, and I took the first driving shift. Within an hour, we reached the Mchinji border. Getting ourselves approved to cross was no problem; getting money changed was also no problem; of all things, getting the car approved to cross took forever. We spent a considerable amount of time (read here: hours) at the border, mostly on the Zambian side. We went back and forth between the office buildings before the car could be driven in Zambia. Then, we finally got to start the real part of our journey (and yes, I was still the chauffeuse extraordinaire).
Along the way we stopped to take pictures of the stunningly green and quiet (compared to Malawi) countryside. When my driving shift was over several hours later, I was able to relax and join in on the intermittent sleeping. We arrived in Lusaka late in the night. All things considered, it was a roughly 10-hour journey.
When we reached our cousin’s house, we were warmly greeted by family, food and drinks. We stayed up and chatted for as long as our tired bodies would let us.
The several days we spent in Lusaka were filled with football matches, conversation and laughter. My sister, Enya, and our cousin’s children had a wonderful time together playing basketball, running around, and even going shopping.
Then the day came when we had to make another long journey by road to Livingstone to see the magnificent Vic Falls. The journey to southern Zambia felt just as long as our drive from Lilongwe to Lusaka (but it was significantly shorter!). However, if you ask a Zambian how far Livingstone is from Lusaka, you get mixed results: some say it is only 3 or 4 hours, others say it is closer to 8 hours. Those who said 3 or 4 hours were (f)lying...it is about a 6 hour drive due to road conditions and large trucks on the two-lane traffic road.
We eventually made it to Livingstone and felt the difference before we even arrived -- it was nice and warm with lots of mosquitoes. Once checked in at the Protea Hotel, my younger sister and I made our way to the pool while the boys stayed in their room. The next day was what we had all been waiting for…Victoria Falls!
We drove down the road and stopped at a baobab tree to appreciate the thundering falls from high-above. We then continued down the road and started to feel the mist. When we entered the car park, we were crowded by vendors selling their crafts and warning us to beware of the baboons. As we made our way to the trails, the baboons were indeed there and in full force. We continued our walk across dirt covered rocks and through trees before seeing the Falls.
We walked around the area, had photoshoots and asked our paparazzi all sorts of questions about the Falls and its history. It was an absolutely fabulous and memorable day. We ventured back to the hotel and got ready to head to Lusaka and then head back to Lilongwe the next day. It was bittersweet to leave Livingstone (or as I would incorrectly call it Livingstonia because of a place in Malawi) and Zambia overall. Driving down the long, straight roads, listening to music while everyone else was sleeping (of course), we made our way back home to Malawi with loving memories from Lusaka and ‘Livingstonia’.
This post was written by nnk with support from edk. All photos are copyrighted to nnk, edk, nh and an and anonymous paparazzi (2016, 2017). Please ask before using or reproducing; any use should be attributed appropriately.
According to the rules of the universe...
And above all, (borrowing from Justin Timberlake) "what goes around comes back around"...It's been a while, but I'm back and hopefully posting more regularly!
I recently took a brief trip to NYC and stopped by the Met to see the exhibition on Photography in West Africa called In and Out of the Studio. Just outside of the Met, on 83rd and 5th Ave (if facing the steps, go towards the right), I came across Eric Ajama and his artwork. Based on his sketches, Eric remixes iconic images through the use of paint and textiles. His work is definitely worth checking out...or even better...including in your own art collection!
The word, beatitude, has its origin from the Latin word for happiness. Many years ago, Jesus spoke to a crowd in Galilee about the beatitudes, and this speech or sermon became known as the Sermon on the Mount. Presently, there is a church that claims to be built on the very location that Jesus held his sermon.
I was able to join my bestie and her colleagues on a day trip to Galilee (or Kinneret), Tiberius and a Baha'i site. Whilst in the area, we visited the Church of Beatitudes and swam in the Sea of Galilee (a.k.a. Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret or Lake Tiberias). It was hot (>35C) but the water was welcoming. In true wonderful Israeli style, some folks were perched on plastic chairs in the shallow water and others enjoyed the comfort of rafts (read here: air mattresses). It was a fabulous time.
Here are some pictures of the day trip. In those swimming photos (sample below), there is a lone raft as its occupants were tipped over by the waves.
I was connected to a friend of a friend in Israel. I felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend. He and I became fast friends and had quite the adventure and discussion as he took me on a midnight tour of northern Israel, and together, we watched meteor sprinkles (I hesitate to call them showers) under the Israeli sky. More details about our adventures and his work can be found on the +972 website under part 6 of the "Seven Nights" series.
The Baha'i Gardens in Haifa and Akko are among the most beautiful places I have been in the world, especially the Akko/Bahji Gardens. When you first see the gardens, even from a distance, they stand out from the rest of the landscape. There is a holy presence, and rightfully so, as the gardens surround Baha'i holy sites. I was taken on a tour of both gardens and provided with a history that connects the two sites -- which face one another across the Haifa Bay. The gardens are meticulously maintained. Many hours of hard labor go not only in to maintaining the gardens, but also logistics and innovation (for plants to use in the desert). My deepest gratitude goes out to those who help keep these slices of heaven on Earth amazing.
May these pictures of the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa and Bahji provide you with a taste of the extra-ordinary. There are also some pictures of the Old Town of Akko and one or two Baha'i locations therein, as well. A small sample of the photos are below.
Not all of the photo credits are mine. M.N. and random, kind strangers are also responsible for some of the pictures.
My bestie and I basically went to Lebanon when we visited the beach town of Naharriya. It was in Naharriya that I came to appreciate Israeli ingenuity -- plastic chairs are perfect for sitting in shallow water and appreciating the waves and lounging! Who would have thought? Now, I will practice what I have learnt more regularly.
The photo credits are not all mine, they include M.N. and a random waitress.
Guy: What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Me: I dunno. I don't really see the things that I do as crazy or ridiculous...but other people might.
Guy: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I'm not sure. I guess I mean that the risks I take, I don't see them as being crazy. BUT something cool, and I guess, daring, that I've done recently is skydive.
Guy: What?! Really?!
Me: Yes, here's the proof.
Massada. Where do I begin? Massada, by far, was my favorite spot in Haifa, let alone Israel. I understand it is where all the hipsters go. It is an artsy street. I guess some folks looked the part. But I felt that the street spoke to me. It told me it was a street full of life, intrigue, imperfections and beauty. It was all there.
Massada Street is just plain cool. There is street art -- murals, small pieces of work, messages; there are cafes and restaurants; there are shops; there are people bustling around; there is life. Yes, there is life on Massada. Humans old and young, dogs, cats, etc. They are all there, hanging out on Massada Street. Massada is where I went to enjoy solitude, light meals, tea breaks, people watching, shisha and music. Maybe, just maybe, when I am old and am looking for a place to settle down, I will go to Massada Street.
To check out Massada Street's cool street art, along with some street art from Tel Aviv that I also found quite neat, click here!
I am like a breeze -- you can find me...