What’s coming up?

I have long been wondering how to revamp my website, fan page and other social networking profiles/page. Perhaps, I was too over ambitious and I set the bar too high, that is why it took me so much time to start somewhere. This morning, I decided not to dwell in perfection and to rather strive at being excellent in whatever I do. Though this notion has marked my life before too, but in the process of growing as a fine individual, juggling between work life and personal life, I might have forgotten the essence of being excellent. Better late than never. I am not writing to make any promises or to renew old promises, but rather to experiment the art of being simple in whatever I do.

For years, I wanted to bring back my website to life as it once used to be. Today I have realised why I have been failing: I have been striving to pursue perfection and in clearer words, I always wanted a blog post to contain good pictures, be written in good English and to, as far as possible, meet the reader’s expectation. I am ceasing this now. I do not want to write what the readers wish to read. I want to write what I feel I must pour out from my heart, what I have to share, what I have to give and so on. It should come from me. It’s not always about “what’s in it for them”.

So I am writing my clearest state of mind today. I want to write not only about my travels, but about my ideologies, experiences and experiments. I want to write my thoughts on a variety of subjects: from a day at the beach to good governance. I cannot assure my readers on the frequency of my blog posts but I will try to be as regular as possible.

For now, whoever is reading this, please make sure you are following me on YouTube, Facebook (Fan Page & Personal Profile), Instagram and Twitter. You can easily find me by searching for my name (Kevin Keenoo). I will soon be linking all my social media profiles for better flow of information but if you have not liked/subscribed, you might be missing what’s going on.

That’s all for today. I look forward to read from you.

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Our dwindling purpose in a budding world

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When an elephant goes berserk, one would presume that the poor creature might have stumbled upon an ant unless folklore is a lie. While this article aims not to preserve the mystics of folklore, it does shed light on the so far abstruse anecdote that shall eventually lead to the demystification of our purpose on earth.

Like the elephant walking with his usual nonchalance and gazing at the landscape without bothering much about his steps, humans too are preoccupied in their own affairs and have little or no time to scan their decrepit and vulnerable surroundings in order to mitigate potential risks in their dealings, to avoid  unnecessary and stressful conundrums and to be prepared for the adversities looming around.

Muddled in the pursuance of bountiful dreams, the significance and sign of the little things have lost their value in our eyes. Like the ant, so are the little things of life. They exist around us but we are blind to them. Constant ignorance of the little things render them either nonexistent or toxic to our mind. They strive for acceptance by blooming through the thick layers of human ignorance, an outcome of our dreamful mind, but even their sudden appearances go unnoticed.

One clear example is that of a diligent student whose heart dances with the gleam of his approaching graduation ceremony but who has discarded all his copybooks by burning them to ashes in order to create space for other items on the shelves. The graduation ceremony might last for two or three hours but those copybooks contain an account of his studentship and hide the innocent scribbling of ideas.

The big dreams stir our emotions and instigate our thoughts. The big dreams inveigle us by stirring our emotions and instigating our thoughts in order to march, regardless of the fact that the little things are being forsaken, towards their fulfilment. To me, this is a tragedy because dreaming with intellectual dishonesty, or without rationality, will be tantamount to setting the bar too high. I do not ask you not to dream but dream at no cost to simplicity and humanity.

I dream but not of possessions, of liberation rather. I seek neither to own nor to control, for nothing is mine; not even my own mortal body which will be left behind upon my death. One should similarly not run after those big dreams and focus on living a mindful and free life. Freedom is as sacred as a prayer. Like dignity, it must not be given to any mortal even if it means to part ways from those mortals. You belong not to this earthly abode, but to a heavenly abode. It is time to recall where we come from, why we are here and soon, where we will have to go. Those who fail to recall and dwell in the temporariness and sins of life are those who will be deprived of a real appreciation of freedom. We must not ruin this life by inspiring ourselves from this wicked society, its customs and systems. We must endeavour to question, to be different and to be free.

The Journey to God

Neither is this a confession nor a justification; a mere expression it is.

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Like a vortex, entrenched in illusion and delusion, was this world when as a naive seeker, with knowledge meagre and mind uncertain, I felt the urge to find not just the answers to my uncertainties and doubts, but the questions too. I had this feeling that I was not asking the right questions or perhaps that the questions were not strong enough to lead to the right answers. While it is not my intention to drown you into the pool of philosophy, it is my candid wish to bring you into the mind of a teenager. Unlike profligate teenagers who have every comfort of the world, I was living on the other extreme. Like everyone, I had dreams too. To peek through the window of poverty and gaze at the horizon of success was not enough. While I could not rise beyond that horizon, my thoughts lingered far enough to understand what success was and to my dismay, how difficult it was. When I was eighteen, it all began. I had no idea at the onset that the quest I was about to embark upon would be a life-changing adventure.

In search of gold, I found God. The reader must not read ‘gold’ in its literal sense and rather delve upon its figurative significance. This word indicates, in this context, material possessions. To name but a few, gold would mean land, house, status and rank, ease and comfort, car and fame. The search was for these short-lived possessions but I ended up finding God. Though the meaning of God might be presumed to be a ‘specific’ God based on the reader’s religion but to circumvent this, God in this context refers to an energy that is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.

Those days are still vivid in my mind, when I used to walk through the bustling markets of Port-Louis, from the Royal College of Port-Louis to reach the National Library after school hours. The wide smile of the humble staffs at the reception, the undisturbed atmosphere, the smell emanating from the old books, the wooden shelves and the countless books of all sizes were enough to bring sudden solace in my heart, without searching it within me for hours. I would choose the most isolated area to sit, and load my table with religious and historical books including the sacred Quran and Bible, and accounts of colonisation eras and wars in different countries.

I learned as much as I could during those days and as I grew older, I ceased coming to the library. Though that was to my detriment, at the same time it was not because the spark was already triggered: the spark to question, the spark to find and the spark to become. On the brink of completing my tertiary studies at the University of Mauritius, I grew interested again in the different religions of the world but in the broader sense, the interest was not for religions but for a God within the religions. I turned myself into an avid reader and traveled to different places in quest of God. From the north to the south, and from the east to the west of Mauritius, I visited several temples, churches and even mosques. I visited monasteries, ashrams and meditation houses. I had long conversations with learned sages, spiritual teachers and seekers. I met like-minded people and exchanged my version of truth while listening with great enthusiasm to their version (s).

Eventually, I found no God in religion. I found all religions in God though. I found a God who has no name and no gender. I found a God who has created nothing and has not been created either. I found a God who is far from even the fifth dimension of this multiverse. I found a God who posits duties first, and not emotions. I found a God who advances purity, not lust. I found a God that refutes attachment and encourages detachment. I found a God who has created no religion. I found a God who is part of us and in whom we reside too. I found a God whose abode we can reach too and for this to happen, one has to renounce this material world and its pleasures entirely, strictly and purely. Relationships of bodies and emotions within these relationships have to be forsaken too. Renunciation should not be read in its literal sense in this context. It has a deeper figurative meaning. To renounce is to forsake the relationship with the people and objects, and not the objects and people themselves. One evident example is that of an IT savvy who is so attached to his IPhone. He needs not throw away his IPhone until it is not at his detriment. He can however set his rules and principles clear around the usage of his IPhone but by doing so, one must not be personally motivated with the view to twist the reality in such a way that we pretend to be renouncing but in fact, we are not. By so doing, we fool no else. The practice of renunciation is the sacred of all practices of a spiritual being. It teaches non-dependence on people and objects and fosters the spirit of detachment. It liberates oneself from all sufferings of the world. It lights up the candle of pure bliss in our hearts. Renunciation, from the little to the biggest things in our life, without being untrue in the process brings one closer to God.

I now rest my pen with this popular last idea which shall serve as food for thought for you: We come empty handed and we leave empty handed.

 

Istanbul never lies

Six hours. This is the duration of the flight from Kigali International Airport, Rwanda, to Istanbul Atatürk Airport, Turkey. It all came as a surprise to me that I have to transit via Istanbul to reach my final destination: Mauritius. As an adventurous young man, the surprise was a pleasant one. While Turkish Airlines managed to impress me with the assorted and mouthwatering food they had to offer on board, I was absolutely mesmerized, minutes before landing, by the topography of Istanbul. The plane dived freely into the air space of Asia and Europe, and this was a scene worth dying for. I saw myriads of small boats sailing in the lap of Eurasia’s sea, and gigantic bridges connecting cities. I grew absorbed into my thoughts, nodding to the doleful fact that humans do not create only bridges and boats, but borders too.

Prior to exiting the airport, I made sure to convert some dollars to the local currency of Turkey: the Turkish Lira. As I exited the big and busy airport, I saw many taxis around but I was recommended by one airport officials, to only choose the yellow taxis as they are supposedly the most trustworthy ones. He was right. The driver was humble and respectful, and the taxi had legit meters.

I entered Istanbul carrying many questions in my eyes and the answers were contained in the unplanned meetings with strangers, in the sacred and breathtaking mosques, in the delicious local food, in the serene gardens and in the spirit of Istanbul. The modern infrastructure and exquisite architecture render the city vivid, colorful and contrasting.

I checked in at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, located in Bağcılar, which is around twenty minutes’ drive from the airport. The hotel was comfy, imposing in appearance and affordable.

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After a hot shower, I headed to Bosphorus: a calm and posh area. It took me around thirty minutes from Bağcılar to Bosphorus by car.  I walked for hours on the streets of Bosphorus: clicking pictures and meeting the locals. I checked in at one of the popular restaurants, called The Market, to have a delicious cup of Turkish coffee. It was love at first sip.  

Sultanahmet, a historical district of Istanbul, was glorious and unique. I felt the divine call of its mosques and decided to travel there the next day. Bosphorus and Sultanahmet are separated by the sea. Many passenger boats were sailing back and forth from Bosphorus to Sultanahmet.

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Istanbul welcomed me with smiles and coffee. I spent the first day to understand the culture of the place: from the greeting etiquettes to food habits. I reached the hotel in the evening and penned down the moments of the first day in my travel diary. One important lesson that I learned on this first day in Istanbul is that Istanbul never lies. It speaks of faith but it brings you to its doors too: the mosques. It takes pride in its local food and it offers you umpteen restaurants and cafes.

It is as it is.

It is an open book for travelers to read.

 

Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

Until we open our eyes more to a country’s glories and blind ourselves to its scars, I’m of the view that the art of traveling is nothing else but just a lifeless bucket-list.

I have seen some new mornings in the past couple of months; mornings that are made up of chirping birds, dancing waves of untouched lakes, magma sparks, cold cities, lush green wilderness, endless road trips and unending discoveries. It’s been almost three months that I have packed my luggage with travel diaries, cameras and photographic equipment, traveler’s shoes and outfits and left home to travel the depths and breadths of Africa.

In these three months, I have crossed the Republic of Rwanda, from Kigali to Gisenyi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Goma to Kinshasa. One of the places that has moved me is the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, located in the heart of Kigali.

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Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

I shed teas as I walked inside the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. While traveling into the Rwanda, the posh green forests, the soulful landscapes and the smiles that people wear on their faces would make it impossible to even think that this country has underwent a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi by the members of the Hutu.

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Over 800, 000 Rwandans were killed in less than one year and over 2, 000, 000 were displaced.

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The political leadership of the Honorable Paul Kagame has significantly ended this genocide, when his party took control of the country.  Beside the political will to bring these human tragedies to an end, the Rwandans have demonstrated great strength and faith.

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The country, in the process of rebuilding itself, has come a long way and the rise of Rwanda will continue for their scars are now their reference points that remind them to pursue the construction of a new Rwanda.

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Make coffee, not war

Moshi is the smallest municipality in the Kilimanjaro Region and it is principally inhabited by the Chagga and Pare ethnic groups. This part of the world is still untouched by technology and prides itself for conserving its biodiversity. I was drawn by the solace of nature, the slow pace of life of the place, the peaceful cohabitation between human and animals and the aromatic scent of ground coffee escaping from the countless coffee processing plants.

I had the immense privilege to visit an organic coffee processing plant – Arisi Coffee. Lying in the heart of an undisturbed forest, Arisi Coffee is a small and eco-friendly coffee processing plant run by the locals who hold the candid interest of promoting their local coffee to the world through tourism.

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The people who worked there were full of life. Their cheerful faces showed how much they were in love with their jobs. The lush green surroundings were to die for and the fresh oxygen of the place made me feel even more alive.

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I walked in with an open mind to learn the coffee-making steps – from freshly plucked coffee beans to a hot cup of black coffee.  I was told that the coffee is grown in the volcanic soil around the Kilimanjaro region and as such, the resulting cup of coffee is always incredibly delicious. After harvesting the cherries, the coffee beans are sun-dried.

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Step 1: Harvesting the cherries and sun-drying the beans

The dried beans are then inserted in a wooden pulping machine to roughly separate the parchment layer (endocarp) from the beans. A second round of sorting is then manually performed for a finer result.

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Step 2: The dried beans are crushed to separate the beans from the parchment layer (endocarp).

The beans are inserted in a big wooden mortar and are crushed. While crushing the coffee beans, the persons there clap loudly and sing melodiously until the process is completed. I was told that good music uplifts the soul and fills the body with energy to crush the beans, which is a laborious process. I participated in the process too as, beside learning, I knew I was preparing my own good cup of coffee.

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Step 3: The beans are crushed until they turn into the size of black pepper.

The coffee beans are placed in a recipient over fire and stirred around for a couple of minutes until they turn dark roasted.

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Step 4: The coffee beans are then roasted for some minutes

The scent of the roasted coffee beans proved to be addictive as it dispersed into the air.

One of the fellows explained to me the lightness or darkness of the roasted coffee beans describes the degree and duration of the roasting. The color of the roasted coffee beans also determines, to some extent, the level of caffeine present in them. I smiled when I saw the roasted beans being taken out of the recipient as they turned quite dark; meaning that the coffee would be irresistibly strong.

The coffee beans is then ground thoroughly in the wooden mortar until they turn into powder. As usual, this process was accompanied by some uplifting music.

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Step 5: The beans are crushed into powder

The powder is then filtered for a finer result. I was told that some coffee lovers do prefer the rough coffee powder but to prepare their coffee with it, they have to boil it a little longer compared to the finer powder.

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Step 6: The powder is then filtered for a finer result

Finally, after these six steps, the coffee was made and it was the best coffee I ever tasted so far. In Moshi, we believe in one thing: “Make coffee, not war

If you have decided to explore the lengths and breadths of Tanzania one day, you should certainly not miss one good cup of coffee at Arisi Coffee, in Moshi.

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Inside Zanzibar

In my mid-twenties, when I was sojourning in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a great man told me “Once you drink the water in Africa, you will come back again”. I had little or almost no idea of what those words meant when they were being uttered but on the 3rd of September 2016, those words echoed again in my mind and they began to make sense. I was in Zanzibar – an extraordinary island lying off the coast of Tanzania and teeming with its historic heritage, intricate architectures and rich culture. The boat trip from Dar es Salaam was long but not boring as the endless blue ocean was a real feast to the eyes and a deep source for contemplation. After almost three hours of boat ride, Zanzibar showed itself in vivid detail.

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The moment I walked through the Zanzibar Ferry Terminal, I felt that the island had a unique and artistic character of its own, and this became evident as I explored the island.

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Zanzibar is an island of contrast and art. Some streets were occupied and disorganized while some were devoid of commercial activities and people.

The locals were welcoming and seemed to be proud of their country. They have all the reasons to feel so. I pursued the enriching walk and noticed how people were engrossed in their own activities. I saw a young man immersed in reading the newspaper by the side of the road. Nothing appeared to be disturbing him; neither the noisy horn of vehicles nor the giggles of the college students. Not too far away, I saw three elderly men engaged in a conversation by the side of a calmer road.

The most impressive and distinctive aspect of the island is how well it has kept its history alive through its prominent structures and architectures; boasting themselves in the lap of the Stone Town. The paths between the old buildings were narrow and the cables were hanging loose all over the building. I was flabbergasted by the wooden carved doors. I walked close to one of the doors and placed my hand gently on its surface that has turned rough over the course of time but that still bears testimony of the colonization era by the Arab traders.

I toured around Stone Town for almost an hour until I arrived at the Al Johari hotel. Al Johari is a decent hotel but one should not expect good internet connection in the room as wireless internet connection was available only at the restaurant located on the last floor of the hotel.

But Zanzibar is so breathtaking that having internet connection in room will be just a trivial concern. There’s so much to see on the island. After a long day touring around the island, the view from the hotel’s restaurant soothes the soul.

I spent two unforgettable days of my life on this island. One is bound to fall in love with this piece of heaven resting peacefully in the lap of the Indian Ocean.

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Boat Trip: Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar

From the busy shores of Dar es Salaam, the Zanzibar archipelago is a luring dream in the eyes of insatiable travellers. After sojourning in the heart of Dar es Salaam for a night, I filled my light brownish backpack with a couple of clothes, a travel journal made of recycled paper, a black pen and a compelling book, hanged my Nikon D7000 around my neck, slipped my GoPro into my pocket and headed to the ferry terminal of Dar es Salaam.

It came as a surprise to me that the immigration procedures weren’t lengthy at the ferry terminal in Dar es Salaam in spite of umpteen travellers. As I glanced around to study the surrounding, I saw people of different nationalities; some absorbed in long-lasting conversations, some sleeping on their chairs and others staring emptily around. Beside passengers, I saw few vendors walking around the terminal with baskets filled with assorted snacks and drinks. If you ever travel through this terminal in the future and in the hurry of departure, if you fail to eat your breakfast or lunch, you can rest assured. The assorted snacks and drinks can easily be found outside and inside the terminal, and the prices are reasonable.

In the wait for the boat, I switched on my laptop and exuberantly browsed through some pictures which I took a day before. Meanwhile, dad was filling the entry declaration form for custom processes in Zanzibar.

After an hour’s wait, the cheerful staffs at the terminal began instructing all the passengers to line up for the boarding. I stepped into the line too and gradually walked to the boat. I was struck by the the beauty, size and comfort of the boat. I smiled as I recalled the time spent in choosing the mode of travel from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. At the first glimpse of the boat, I felt a tinge of happiness for having made the right choice: a boat trip instead of an air trip.

 

As we settled in, the boat began sailing off the coast of Dar es Salaam. Two minutes elapsed and I could not move my eyes off the shore; distancing itself from me. I plunged into my thoughts and felt grateful for all that Dar es Salaam taught me.

Two hours. This was the time it took us to reach the Zanzibar archipelago but in these two hours, I learned many things. The boat was spacious and comfortable inside. There weren’t too many activities inside the boat. Some passengers seemed so exhausted that they seized these two hours to sleep and some were tirelessly gushing about the splendour of Zanzibar. I found some passengers on the deck of the boat too; lost in their thoughts and admiring the deep blue ocean.

I  walked to the deck too and after some time, dad joined. I looked around me. There were no boundaries. I saw the horizons where the sky seemed to be kissing the ocean. Everything was so peaceful. Everyone was so absorbed. I saw few small boats sailing in the lap of the ocean. I felt freedom. I felt I was still a child at 28 and I smiled. I felt discovery in my eyes. I felt adventure in my heart.

Gradually, Zanzibar came into view and that moment, I knew everything would be different. I knew some stories were waiting for me at the shore. I knew and I was right.

In the course of my travels, I have been to numerous places; each of them proving me how wrong I was about them. A couple of years ago, I knew nothing about Zanzibar but this trip made it part of me. An important part.

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Glimpses of Dar es Salaam

As a child, I used to walk along the beach and looked at the bare horizon; wondering whether it was the boundary of my world or the beginning of another. I never found the answer until I began travelling in 2011. I thought it would be an exploration of boundaries and an expedition of territories, but it was more. Travelling turned out to be an institution that shapes us in a way or another.

I could feel the burnout after months of intense office works and after competing in the highly challenging law exams. Apart from works and studies, I had few more subtle reasons why I felt the urge to halt everything and to turn more inward. Like every year, I filled my loyal backpack and set out in quest of stories that few would have to share.

But this time, there was something exceptional and meaningful about the voyage: my father was my travel-buddy. Our chosen destinations were the majestic Tanzania and Kenya. It was a dream coming true. Two years have elapsed since I have last travelled to Africa.

We spent few weeks preparing for this trip: from watching a series of revealing documentaries on the colours and contrasts of these countries to getting immersed in devising the most convenient travel plan. Additionally, I made a checklist of the things I should obligatorily carry with me while travelling. I would highly recommend you to prepare a detailed checklist if you are travelling too. Your checklist should be reflective of your destination.

Here are a few things that my checklist included:

  • Travel documents including reservations, tickets and passport
  • Credit cards
  • Contact information of hotels and the tour operator
  • Emergency contacts
  • Creams including sunscreens, organic aloe vera serum and pain-relief cream
  • A basic first-aid kit comprising of bandages, antiseptic ointments, paracetamol and other essential items
  • Medicines including eye drops, ear drops, insect repellant, fever relievers and anti-malaria
  • Book (Mayada: Daughter of Iraq, a book by Jean Sasson)
  • Travel journal and pen
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner; especially to maintain my curly hair 
  • Photography accessories including lenses (70 – 300 mm, 50 mm and 18 – 105 mm), cleaning kit, memory cards, battery grip, spare battery and charger
  • Macbook Pro and headphones 
  • GoPro Hero3
  • Selfie stick
  • Travel watch

As far as possible, I tried to adhere to the checklist but after all I’m human and I tend to forget things too. Can you guess what have I forgotten from the checklist? One of the most important items: the anti-malaria medicine. Consequently, I am strictly using the insect repellant and the mosquito nets to protect myself. Cross fingers.

The most awaited day finally arrived when we had to pursue our adventures on the African territories. We departed from Mauritius at 08:40 a.m. to land in Dar es Salaam at around 11:20 a.m. Our eyes remained glued on the spectacular topography of Dar es Salaam as we looked down through the window of the plane few minutes prior to landing.

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Upon arrival in Dar es Salaam, I walked inside the airport with conscious pride and gratitude. My eyes could not cease to scan the surrounding. I proceeded to the international arrivals concourse and surprisingly, VISA requirement was not imposed on me. The official, at the arrival counter, stamped my passport with a blue entry stamp and said “Jambo” (salutation in Swahili) while wearing a wide smile on her face. No mention of VISA requirement was made. I stood stunned as I remember having been informed by the Consulate of Tanzania of the VISA requirement for Mauritians to enter the country. But I masked my surprise, smiled back at the official and exited the Julius Nyerere International Airport. Everything was new to me. I was walking in a place where no one knew my name and I loved that feeling. Unplugging from the common world and connecting to a quieter inner world was the best gift I could offer myself at this point in time of life.

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I stayed at the Transit Motels, a small but comfy hotel located 400 m from the Julius Nyerere International Airport. If you aren’t carrying heavy luggages, you can easily walk to the hotel. This place is good for an overnight stay. The rooms were simple and clean. Mosquito nets were provided. Free WI-FI was available too. The hotel staffs were friendly and readily responded to my queries. Coffee and tea are freely available at any time. There’s something I would not recommend you though. If you are intending to explore the city, I’ll advise you not to go with the hotel’s drivers. They’ll overcharge you. The best thing to do is catch a bus outside. It’s not only cheap but it’s the most authentic way of living life as a local in Dar es Salaam.

 

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After settling in the hotel, we preferred to have lunch outside as it served as an excuse to explore the city too in the little time we had in Dar es Salaam. The temperature outside was warm but not inconvenient for a walk.

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Our driver recommended us several shopping malls but being quite exhausted after hours of flight, I chose the closest one which was the Quality Centre Mall, one of the popular and highly frequented shopping malls in Dar es Salaam. The mall is situated at Nyerere Road. From entertainment to healthcare services, it is a one-stop shop where you shall find a wide chain of products and services.

We had lunch at an affordable restaurant found on the first storey of the mall. I forgot the name of the restaurant though. We paid 6000 Tanzanian Shillings per person for an open buffet.

I could not leave without meeting people and understanding their stories, as this remains the focus of all my travels. I walked in the compound of the mall and indulged in deep conversations with strangers. They all had to something to share: from their struggles to their dreams. From my experience, people in Dar es Salaam are approachable and good.

In the evening, we took a walk in the surrounding of the Transit Motels and again, our focus was people. We met a lot of strangers and some even invited us to visit their homes. This touched my heart. I was on the brink of accepting one invitation but time was not in my favour; I had to politely decline. If ever you are landing in Dar es Salaam and you have enough time to visit around, then you should not bother about going too far. There are a number of villages around the area. Just walk around, meet people and create stories.

As the night drew to an end, we walked to the Flamingo Restaurant which is found in the Julius Nyerere International Airport and it is open to the public. Though the food was expensive, it was a tasty treat to the stomach.

 

Behind the hustle and bustle of Dar es Salaam, there’s a lot of stories awaiting to be lived. If you are heading to this beautiful part of Planet Earth, I hope this blog post will give you some ideas about where to stay, where to go for lunch and dinner and how to make your stay meaningful.

 

 

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Fatehpur Sikri —meanings behind monuments

The popular “golden triangle” road trip needs no thorough introduction to avid travellers. It remains one of the most pursued, deeply enthralling and highly recommended road-trips in India. It covers the broad geographies of Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. People travel miles away from home to fulfil this goal in their bucket list. In 2015, I set out on these routes too and not too far from the city of Agra lies the Fatehpur Sikri fort, in the city of Fatehpur Sikri.

The Fatehpur Sikri fort is more than just a blend of historical monuments and forts. It features among the World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. It has endless things to reveal if you attentively listen to it but the sad reality is that it has ended up being just an option in travel plans for foreigners. Prior to finalising my itinerary for this road trip, I discussed with numerous travel agencies to understand the options they had to offer. Almost all of them added this place just as a stop over and they expected me to spend roughly an hour there. I was there and I can tell you, it’s not a place to just stop over because you were on the way to another destination. It will be a sheer injustice to the depth of Fatehpur Sikri if you visit this place, just because you were passing by. When you do something, do it well or don’t do it at all. I would recommend you to spend few hours leisurely to explore the length and depth of this breathtaking destination.

The taxis will usually drop you at the downhill area, which is cluttered with hawkers and their stalls. There is no doubt that they will approach you, with the aim to sell their products. I would have advised you to listen to them if the prices were affordable but having been in the shops, I encourage you not to stop by unless you have a budget which you want to waste on items that are sold at cheaper prices in other markets. Pursue your road straightforwardly to the small bus station. Buses are readily available and the fare is very cheap to reach the fort.

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People will generally advise you not to rent a guide when you are journeying to this place. Even I used to think like this but some places cannot fully be understood without a knowledgeable guide. This applies for Fatehpur Sikri too. If you are merely walking around with your camera to get some pictures of the place and tell people that you have been there, then you may choose not to rent a guide; but is it really purposeful? If you are willing to feel the spirit of the place and understand what it once used to be, then a knowledgeable guide can be of great help. If you look closely at the extreme right of this picture, you’ll notice a group of tourists absorbed in the words of the guide. I found that even Indians chose to be guided. They aren’t wrong in doing so; the historical depth of this place requires this.

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Apart from the wisdom of guides, the fort is home to numerous small and open education centres where people are taken back to the Mughal era. Through a series of videos, people are able to grasp the significance of what has happened during those ages.

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I remember walking at a very slow pace, gently placing my hands on the monuments around me and trying to feel what this place might once have been.

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The fine architectures will leave you speechless. Again, do not hurry when you are inside. Explore one place at a time. There’s a lot of meanings behind the monuments.

In the course of my travels, I have come across many people; some carrying countless dreams in their hearts and others wandering vainly to find their dreams but whoever crossed my way had something to give me. They had encounters and experiences to share. They had truths and lies to tell. They had emotions to pour out.

And I was fortunate enough to meet these little angels in the surrounding of the fort. They also had something to give me: their smiles.

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When you are visiting Fatehpur Sikri next time, you now know how to go about it.