Once you’re done with this trip, you might be looking for a carpet-cleaning franchise or similar business opportunities. North Africa is a haven for rug lovers, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if you bring home plenty with you. But that’s not the only thing it offers. Its culture is as diverse as it’s languages are enigmatic.
You’ve wanted to visit the region for some time now. You’ve heard of the stories about the food, the culture, the religion, and of course, the desert. As a Star Wars fan, you know that Tatooine isn’t just a fictional desert planet where we first got acquainted with young Luke Skywalker.
And what about Bogart’s and Bergman’s Casablanca? How will time go by when you come for a visit? But North Africa is a vast region, and you neither have the time nor the money to visit all the countries from Morocco to the west to Egypt to the east. You’ve decided on three countries: Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. What can you expect for this trip? What are the places that you must visit?
Understanding the Region
The region is divided into what is called the Maghreb and the Mashrek. At the center of this geopolitical dichotomy is Egypt. The Maghreb is simply the western part of this Arab world and all territories to the west of Egypt. Mashrek refers to where sunlight emanates, thus the east, and, more specifically, all Arab countries to the east of Egypt, including Egypt itself.
Arabic is the common language, but the styles and vocabulary vary as you go from one country to another. North Africa, just like most countries in western and southwestern Africa, is a former French colony. Thus, French is the second language or is widely spoken.
Make this your first stop. It’s listed as one of the top ten destinations in North Africa. Tunisia is the birthplace of what is called the Arab Spring, a series of social and political protests in the Arab world that toppled autocratic regimes. Tunis is the capital, and the places you must see include the Medina or the marketplace of the city, where you will find items from spices to rugs to jewelry. The city is also proud of its Bardo National Museum, where you will find displays of ancient Roman, Greek, and Islamic mosaics.
If you want more amazing Medinas, Marrakech and Fes are the places to be. Start imagining yourself as Indiana Jones being chased by sword-wielding villains in the narrow streets of the Medina. Fancy the beach? Visit Tangier, Agadir, or El Jadida beaches that stretch on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
Academic debates may rage on, but many travelers still idealize Egypt as the cradle of civilization. The pyramids of Giza are, of course, a natural stop for you. But if you’re after understanding the culture more deeply, visit the mosques in Islamic Cairo and talk to people. Visit Marsa Alam or Hurghada to explore the depths of the Red Sea.
Food is one of the things you should enjoy on this trip. Explore the differences between Moroccan and Tunisian couscous and find out what a real Egyptian breakfast is all about. You will not only leave with rugs and trinkets when you’re done with North Africa. You will leave with a full heart.