When my childhood friend called to let me know she was planning a trip to Africa because her uncle was having a retirement party, I jumped at the opportunity. And because we both LOVE traveling we figured, why not get more bang for our buck and explore as much as we can by looking for flights with layovers that would allow us to go out and explore whatever country we ended up in. Ghana was our main destination, Egypt and Turkey were the cherries on top!
Cairo, Egypt we the first stop in the tour. We landed at night and to our surprise it was a lot colder there than we imagined. During the day it warmed up a little but there was a breeze so a jacket was needed. We stayed in the Conrad Cairo Hotel and our room had a beautiful view of the Nile River. Cairo is very crowded, lots of cars on the road and NO stop lights. I think I counted maybe two traffic lights but traffic just pretty much does what it wants and it works, lol. A day and a half wasn't long enough to explore all Egypt has to offer but because we had a seasoned tour guide that we booked through viator.com and she made sure we got to experience the must sees of Cairo. The tour cost us $60 usd and included a visit to the pyramids of Giza (even got to climbed down into a pyramid), the Sphinx, camel ride, lunch, the Egyptian museum and we walked through the Bazaar. I recommend booking your tours with an accredited site BEFORE you get there because you don't want anyone trying to get over on you and it's just safer. The experience at the pyramids and the Sphinx was SURREAL. I could not believe my dream had finally come true and I was touching and climbing one of the seven wonders of the world (Great Pyramid of Giza)! The Sphinx is blocked off so you can't touch it, so I sat down on the ground and gazed in awe, trying to soak in ALL it's magnificence. While out and about during our tour and even when we checked into the hotel, I noticed the Egyptians would say WELCOME HOME when they greeted us. I finally asked someone what it meant and was told that they love US (Black Americans) and that Africa is our home. That made my heart smile and was a perfect ending to my visit there.
I *heart emoji* Ghana! What a beautiful country, full of history, culture and a SERIOUS hustler/ entrepreneur spirit out there. Everywhere you turn there is a little makeshift convenience store, braid shop, barber shop or just a person walking up and down the major highway balancing a basket selling just about everything that you want or may need. One of the main shopping areas to get absolutely anything you need is called the Art Center and be prepared to be overwhelmed buy the people there wanting you to buy their merchandise. This is where we went to get anything from key chains to hand crafted souvenirs to authentic African cloth. I finally and quickly mastered the art of haggling during my trip there. I had the privilege of visiting the W. E. B. Du Bois museum which is the actual house he lived in when he decided to move to Accra, Ghana in Africa. He and his wife are at rest next to one another in a mausoleum that was built on the property. Another awesome museum memorial I visited was dedicated to Nkrumah Kwame, he led Ghana to independence and became their first president. He too is at rest with his wife by his side on the property. The most emotional part of my trip was my visit to the El Mina slave castle, the largest slave castle in the world. Upon entering the courtyard, I burst into tears thinking of all the men, women and children that passed through that place never to be seen again. If you're a beach bum like me, Bojo beach is the place to be. The water is crystal clear, it wasn't super crowded and they catch you're lunch (fresh red snapper or tilapia) while you wait, it gets no better! I will definitely be visiting Ghana again in the near future.
Last stop on the tour, Istanbul! This was only an 8hr layover, which is all you really need to experience the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, two of the major tourist attractions there. The metro takes you straight there and is conveniently located within the airport, so once we figured out how to buy metro cards we were on our way! It was a beautiful, sunny day, thank God. There is no charge to visit the Blue Mosque and it is absolutely stunning once inside. You have to remove your shoes to go in and women have to cover their heads, shoulders and wear a skirt. The head covers and skirts are supplied at point of entrance. There is a charge to enter the Hagia Sophia but we didn't feel the need to go inside. We had a little time to kill so we stopped for some Turkish coffee then hopped back on the metro and headed back to the airport.
So, there you have it! I definitely recommend visiting Africa for yourself if you're ever presented with the opportunity.
Live, Love, Travel!