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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts in ‘Things to do in Africa’

Cabaret but not as we know it in Marrakech

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The traditionally Islamic city of Marrakech would be the last place you would find a European style extravaganza like Les Folies de Marrakech.

But Claude Thomas” cabaret revue show in Morocco”s "Red City" has been artistically redesigned to remove the possibility of offending patrons.

Launched in May 2008, Les Folies de Marrakech is an unusual and refreshing marriage of western decadence and Islam.

The 49-year-old entrepreneur arrived in Marrakech in 2006 after selling his cabaret in France and with some help from his cousin he bought a sizeable plot of land.

According to News 24, construction then began on a 2,000 square metre hall capable of hosting 1,100 for a dinner-show costing 550 dirhams (£39).

Thomas auditioned over 300 people from across Morocco before picking 47 performers – of which 12 were women aged 17 to 32 – to take part in the production which lasts around 90 minutes and includes acrobats, magicians, acrobats, dance, music and comedy.

The troupe also serve as consultants giving important suggestions as to what is acceptable and what to avoid but on the issue of gender equality, Thomas had a clear opinion and refused a directive to have only women clear the tables.

"I respect your religion. I”ve created a prayer room. But here everyone is an artist regardless of their gender," he said.

The end result is 100 per cent Folies and 100 per cent Moroccan.

Marrakech – Be entertained by snake charmers in the old Medina or take a day to explore the Atlas Mountains.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18773105-ADNFCR

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Peddlers barred from Giza pyramids

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The pyramids are now protected by a 13-foot high wallEgyptian authorities have erected a 12-mile fence around the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx in order to keep out hawkers and peddlers.

Hawkers hanging around the site have grown notorious for hassling tourists to buy their goods, sometimes aggressively.

They sell everything from souvenirs to trinkets to T-shirts.

"It was a zoo," said Zahi Hawass, Egypt”s chief archaeologist.

"Now we are protecting both the tourists and the ancient monuments."

While previously just a low stone wall protected the only surviving member of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the new 13 foot-high barrier is complete with alarms, sensors and CCTV cameras.

Visitors enter the fence through a brick entrance building, with half a dozen gates equipped with metal detectors and X-ray machines.

Once inside, they are closely watched by nearly 200 cameras whose footage goes back to the control room, where guards monitor a bank of 24 screens around the clock.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.

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PERFECT HOLIDAY CONTEST FINALISTS

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Thanks to those who participated in the 2008 isango! ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest! We were overwhelmed with enthusiastic responses and sincerely apologize for the delay in posting the finalists. But we’ve finally done it! Hooray! The top 5 entries have been selected, and it’s time to VOTE!

FYI: though we could only select 5 finalists, we truly enjoyed reviewing your (100!) entries. We admire your imaginative efforts; thus, the majority of this blog is dedicated to the bulk of entries that did not make it through to the shortlist. We have explained why certain types of entries were not selected and have included some relevant travel tips to assist you in actualizing your dream getaways!

If this sounds boring to you ( – it’s not, actually!), you can skip straight to the action, and:

CLICK HERE to VOTE for one of the TOP FIVE ENTRIES

…as selected by our team of travel writers and product specialists. Go ahead, do it! But remember, you can vote once, and once only!

SOME TRENDS AND TIPS:

(By the way, we’ve listed the finalists at the bottom of this blog in hopes that you will actually read the rest of what we have to say!)

…right, so we learned a great deal about your travel desires and needs from reading your entries—namely that most of you are in need of a good, long holiday! There were also some recurring themes:

1. “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are with…”
A large number you would prefer to spend your precious time away from the office on a romantic getaway with your significant other. Your descriptions of destinations were often very imaginative, but also quite vague, as you focused on the experience that you would have with the love of your life—just the two of you—isolated in paradise. These entries were fantastic (and heartwarming) but were also, unfortunately, more difficult to judge as sometimes we were not sure where, exactly, you aimed to go on your holiday! We suggest visiting the Romantic Retreats section of the isango! website to transform your, ahem, ‘daydreams’ (wink!) into reality.

2. Family First.
A large percentage of you have young children and thus face difficulties with planning to please multiple parties. For you, the ‘perfect holiday’ is one that is free of logistical nightmares: your entries thus tended to be long lists of things that you wanted to avoid (long queues, large crowds, flight delays), rather than of things you actually wanted to do. Though we can do nothing about rubbish airlines (except to complain right alongside you) we can help you to avoid ‘on the ground’ family feuds by encouraging you to plan a detailed itinerary prior to departing. Start with our list of Family Tours under the Activities section of our website, which can be narrowed down, for example, to theme parks and self drive tours.

Others of you focused on the needs of your parents and grandparents, wishing to fulfill their dreams by taking them to parts of the world that they have always wanted to see. We suggest starting with our Seniors category and narrowing your options down by country, or city, from there. (You can also always contact one of our friendly customer service reps if you have any questions!)

3. Some of you are, well, CRAZY…
Really, wow. You submitted some fantastically wild travel ‘plots’ (- you know who you are!). Check out some of our quirkier blogs for more unconventional ideas and inspiration.

Now, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

THE FINALISTS:

1. Hanlie Burger, ‘Shipwrecks, Sand Dunes and Desert Elephants’.

2. Louise Brown, ‘Northern Solitude’

3. Sarah Berl, ‘Spelunk!!’

4. Marian Redmond, ‘Campania Felix’, and

5. Sarah Stocks, ‘Tropical Rainforest? Or is it?’

A huge CONGRATS to Hanlie, Louise, Sarah, Marian and Sarah—and all of our participants—for dreaming up such fabulous ‘perfect holidays’! We cannot thank you enough.

Please vote here, and to pass this email along to all of your family and friends!

You can also check out more blog coverage of the contest here.

Thanks again for participating!

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Diving breaks near Sharm al Sheikh

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The diving spots in Sharm al Sheikh are said to be some of the best in the world If you”re going on holiday to Sharm al Sheikh, you must try diving in the beautiful Ras Mahommed National Park which is just 30km away.

Located at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, where the Gulf of Aqaba meets the Gulf of Suez, the diving sites at Ras Mohammed are said to be some of the best in the world.

So it”s definitely worth having a try no matter whether you are a seasoned veteran or a complete novice.

If you prefer to keep your feet dry, however, then there is no doubt that you will be amazed by the wild beauty of the beaches, the surrounding desert, the wildlife inhabiting it, as well as the different types of plants that grow here, including the ancient mangrove trees.

Due to its position, strong currents prevail throughout the year here which makes the waters around it very rich in nutrients.

This attracts huge numbers of schools of pelagic and reef fish, somewhere in the range of 1,000 different species.

Active and Adventure – Air Activities – Enjoy an exhilarating helicopter ride over New York or a serene hot air balloon ride over the Australian outback.

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Have a laugh in Cape Town

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Enjoy a fortnight of comedy in Cape TownThe Cape Town International Comedy Festival will run from September 7th to 21st.

Now in its 12th year, the festival once again incorporates a number of unique features – with six separate programmes there is something to cater for everyone”s taste.

As usual the festival takes place in the Main Arena at the Baxter Concert Hall, while a special-edition Danger Zone (used for controversial, adult-themed or rude humour) runs concurrently at the Baxter Theatre.

New this year is the launch of an exciting comedy competition programme that includes stand-up contests and Air Guitar play-offs.

In addition, a host of the world”s top street performers will once again amaze and amuse Capetonians as well as visitors to the city at the V+A Waterfront.

"For those of you not familiar with the festival, I hope that a look at this year”s line-up of national and international talent will convince you to give it a try," urges the Mayor of Cape Town, Helen Zille.

"It is the best opportunity you will get to lighten up your winter with some good laughs."

Cape Town – From the wine route to the game parks there is so much to see and do in Cape Town.

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Go to Mount Sinai from Sharm al-Sheikh

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Walk up the mountain to watch an incredible sunriseMount Sinai, where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments, is just a three-hour drive from Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt.

Moses is mentioned to have been here once in the Qu”ran, while the Bible says he has been here twice (the first time meeting his wife Zippora and receiving his mission, the second time leading the Israelites to the Promised Land and receiving the Ten Commandments).

Mount Sinai is also the location of the Burning Bush, the Monks” Garden and the Ossuary (Monastery of St. Catherine), a Greek Orthodox monastery founded in the 6th century, and one of the longest-running monasteries in the world.

Walking up this mountain is an unforgettable experience – visitors can decide whether to do so early in the morning, around midday, or late at night.

The last option is the most recommended – and the most popular amongst tourists – because the sun rising over Sinai is a fantastic view that will never be forgotten.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.
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Globe trotters unite: a journey with a purpose.

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Our ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest entries have been rolling in! A few of you got very creative with your responses, crafting globe trotting itineraries with inventive themes. Here are some of our favourites thus far:

1. ‘Southern Music Odyssey’, by Greg Davies

A road trip with a difference—i.e. not your usual ‘Route 66’ or ‘Coast to Coast’ American Dream. Due to my late grandfather’s musical obsession that he passed onto me, my dream holiday would be to drive the southern United States, visiting and enjoying some of the famous sights and sounds of Country music—the Grand Ol’ Opry, Memphis, Tupelo, Austin, Nashville—all in an old convertible…staying at old-style motels along the way and enjoying southern hospitality and good ol’ time music, the way it’s meant to be enjoyed!

2. ‘A Taste for Travel’, by Lydia Houghton

I’d have lobster in Cancun, cocktails in New York, A balti in Bombay, A Guinness in County Cork, coq au vin in Paris, a pizza in fair Rome, a chop suey in Beijing, and Swedish meatballs in Stockholm.

It would be such a treat to take a break from all the cooking, but the only problem is… my tummy might need tucking!

3. ‘Natural World Wonders’, by Chris Woodroofe

My Perfect Holiday would be a tour around all of the natural world wonders: Serengeti Migration, Galápagos Islands, Grand Canyon, Iguazu Falls, Amazon Rainforest, Ngorongoro Crater, Great Barrier Reef, Bora Bora Cappadocia and Victoria Falls. All I would need would be a backpack, a diary, and a camera…this would be my perfect holiday—very simple, but very rewarding, as the natural world wonders are being destroyed…

That’s all for now!

The official shortlist will be posted on the isango! website very soon. Be sure to vote!

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Museums of Morocco

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Museums in Morocco are doubly appealing Museums in Morocco are doubly appealing: not only will you admire the collections on display, but you will also be stunned by the ancient palaces that house them and the richly decorated exhibition rooms that are works of art themselves.

Do not miss the Dar Batha of Fez, installed in a magnificent Arabo-Andalusian palace – make sure you visit the beautiful room dedicated to literature and books.

In Rabat, the Oudaia museum presents several rare pieces that trace the history of Morocco from prehistoric times to the Islamic era, while in Marrakech, the museum located in the heart of the medina, you will see several illuminated copies of the Koran, illustrating the riches of Arab calligraphy.

This museum also exhibits ceramics, jewellery and rare coins.

And in Meknes, the Jamai palace is an architectural marvel that houses the Dar Jamai museum where you will discover magnificent examples of Moroccan arts and crafts.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.
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Transform Your Dream Holiday into Reality…

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It’s FAMILY TIME!

We’ve gotten some fantastic Perfect Holiday contest entries so far—do keep ‘em coming!

And, after further perusing your travel whims and fantasies, I’ve discovered that many of you dream not simply about secluded, romantic getaways as discussed in a previous blog: you want to get your entire families on board. What a task…

I know it seems difficult to fathom actually leading your family on an Arctic fishing trip…or guiding them through a bustling north African market. So many things to worry about: the cost, transportation logistics, and accommodation… your daughter’s current vegetarian phase…your son’s incredibly fair skin…your mother’s bouts with vertigo…

But have you ever actually tried to translate one of your visions of paradise into a real-life family holiday? Why not give it a try? Just cast all of the logistical details aside for a moment, and focus on the actual on-the-ground experiences that you desire: you can do this by first compiling a concrete, feasible list of tours and activities.

To assist you in this process, I have pasted some descriptive and imaginative Perfect Holiday contest entries below, responding with some suggestions.

1. Debbie’s Arctic Adventure:

“I’d take the family to Iceland for the most exhilarating holiday ever. We’d go whale watching in Husavik where humpbacks, minke, orcas, sperm whales white-nosed dolphins and harbour porpoises leap in the waters of the North Atlantic. We could go snowmobiling on the Solheimajokull glacier. We’d visit spouting geysers, bubbling mud baths and bizarre rock formations and bubbling lava flows in the Golden Circle. I want to tee off at 3am in the Arctic Open where amateurs and professional golfers compete through the night under a spectacular orange night sky. My kids could swim in the sea at the geothermally heated beach at Nautholsvik Bay, and I could ease my bad back in the pure, mineral-rich geothermal waters of the blue lagoon, a bright blue pool in the middle of a lava field which is world renowned for it’s healing properties. On September 20th is the Summer Solstice, the apex of a month of 24 hour daylight when the country celebrates the magic of the midnight sun. (Of course they also experience an equivalent month of darkness so everyone makes the most of the spectacle and parties through the night.)”

Debbie, thanks so much for that insightful description of Iceland! There are plenty of structured, guided tours of these places that you could sign up for to keep your family happy and busy—most of them from Reykjavik. I suggest checking out the following:

1. The Golden Circle Tour

2. Excursion to Snæfellsjökull National Park (Snæfellsjökull Glacier).

3. Blue Lagoon Experience, Reykjavik.

Good luck, Debbie!

2. Karen’s Paradise:

“My perfect holiday is landing in a place where the views and the heat take your breath away from the moment you arrive. I stay in a place where the walls are white, the floors terracotta and the flowers, red. I throw cases on the bed, take out all I need and head out to the pool. I smooth sunscreen on my son and watch, smiling, while he plays and explores and squeals excitedly over the lizards he finds. I lie with my eyes closed behind my sunglasses, sipping a chilled cocktail while the sun makes my skin tingle. My little boy calls from the pool, so I get up, walk to the edge, take a breath and dive into ice cold, ice blue water that in that second makes me feel more exhilarated than I have ever felt before. Later, we visit hot, exotic, noisy markets and walk round, holding hands, buying fabulous things we’ve never seen before. We visit a restaurant and eat delicious, local seafood with velvety wines from a table that faces the ocean as the sun sets. Beautiful people in traditional dress play music and dance while night draws in on the first day of our holiday…”

Well, Karen, this could be a number of places! A few destinations come to mind…have you ever considered visiting the Strait of Gibraltar? You could stay on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain to get your dose of sun, sand and relaxation… and take an excursion to Tangier, Morocco for the ultimate, colourful and cultural experience.

Some organised tours that your son might enjoy:

Kayaking Excursion in Nerja (Costa del Sol, Spain)

5-Day Morocco Sightseeing Tour from Costa Del Sol (from Spain to Morocco)

Strait of Gibraltar and Tangier Sightseeing Tour (Daytrip from Spain to Morocco)

Thanks again, Debbie and Karen!

May your holiday wishes come true!

Happy planning!

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More than 2m Brits escaping this weekend

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Egypt has seen a 28 per cent growth in bookings since this time last yearWith the majority of schools breaking up today (July 18th), this weekend is expected to see more than two million Britons heading overseas, the Association for British Travel Agents (Abta) has said.

Despite the strength of the euro, Spain is expected to remain popular, along with France, Malta and the Caribbean.

However the biggest growth of all has been recorded in bookings for Egypt which has seen a 28 per cent year-on-year increase in reservations.

Turkey and the US have also been strong at 20 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "With a changing economic climate, many existing trends have become more pronounced. Spain for example, is still the top destination this year, but as a mature destination, and with the strong euro, greater growth is being experienced in the mid- to long-haul destinations outside of the eurozone."

He added: "Conversely, there is no surprise that with the weak dollar, the US is doing well and forward bookings for the US look strong."

Family – Theme Parks – Treat the family to a day at one of the Disney resorts or to a splashing day out at a Spanish waterpark.
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