PLANNING YOUR OWN SAFARI

Unless you’re fortunate enough to know someone who can arrange your safari, you will find that safari brokers are as elusive as the safari outfitters themselves. There are only a few safari brokers and they tend not to advertise. A conventional travel agent is unlikely to be able to help unless you ask only for travel barcelona.

Before a broker can advise you on the best destination, time of year, type of safari and safari outfitter, he will need to know you and the other members of your party quite well. He should try to discover your motivation, what experience you have had, what you hope to do and discover – both about Africa and yourself. This sounds rather like a professional consultation – and it is exactly that. The old-style safari is hard to find in a tour operator’s glossy brochure.

Camel Caravan

AFRICA TODAY

It is unfortunate that some commentators are already beginning to refer to ‘Vanishing Africa’ when only eighty years ago, it was the ‘Dark Continent’. There’s an old saying – ‘in Africa, we have time’ for the wildlife this is now in some doubt.

Although the face of Africa has changed considerably since the early days of exploration, in the unspoilt bush the country’s heart still beats as strongly as ever. This is the Africa of the story books, one of the most fascinating places on earth, filled with magic and mystery to be discovered on an old-style safari.

Pilgrimage to Kairouan

Kairouan means “caravan”. Imagine a caravan of camels, loaded with the carpets for which Kairouan is famous, driven by enigmatically-hooded Berbers closely wrapped against the pervasive sands, crossing the Sahara to the fabled city. Second only to Mecca as a place of pilgrimage for Muslims, it is said that seven visits to Kairouan are equivalent to one to the Holy of Holies.

Kairouan, Tunisia

Kairouan is a monument to faith, built out of religious ardour in 670 AD and intended by the Muslims as a base for expansion into the west. Later it was to be the glorious Arab capital, famous throughout the Muslim world for its exquisite mosques, as a centre of learning and literature with its Koranic schools and court poets, its sumptuous palaces and its vast Aghlabite pools, constructed in the ninth century to provide water for the flourishing city – an oasis in the Sahara.

Nowadays you don’t need to ride a camel to get to Kairouan. An air-conditioned coach on an excursion from your hotel in Tunis, 156 kilometres north, will spirit you there in a few hours. You can also hire a car, use one of the nine buses that depart daily from the Square Bab Alioua in Tunis, or you can share a five-passenger taxi from No. 71 Avenue Farhat Hachet, which depart throughout the day as they are filled.

The first sign of Kairouan after you have crossed the miles of the Sebkhat Sidi el-Hari’s saltdesolation is the minaretof its Great Mosque, distinctive above a welcome band of cypress trees.

kairouan mosque Tunisia

Make no mistake, it is very hot in Kairouan, and this plus its distance deters the tourist, protecting the city from crowds. It is a unique, sensitively-preserved and restored walled Islamic city and whether you are Muslim or not it is a perfect place of pilgrimage for anyone interested in history, art, architecture or religion.

Kairouan lies on important caravan routes, and on their third incursion in the seventh century into what is now Tunisian territory, then called lfriqyia, the Muslim conquerors chose the site for their capital. It was equidistant from their coastal enemies, the Byzantines, and those in the hills, the Berbers. The Muslims raided again in 670, and this time stayed. As their leader, Oqba bin Nafi, arrived, a spring opened at his feet and in it he found a gold cup lost years before in Mecca. The sanctity of Kairouan Mosque established.

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