Posts Tagged With: Africa


AGA while back, while travelling through the desert of Egypt, I stopped in a vibrant little sea-side town, Hurghada, hosted by Mondi, the man to show the things you need to see. Including this snorkeling excursion to the reefs of the Red Sea, now live at Africa Geographic.

Thanks for the awesome experience, Mondi!

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Thimg_1463e art of clay-making in Sudan, Fuhar, What to know more? Read  my words in Africa Geographic.

Special thanks to the Mo’ crew of Khartoum for showing me this not-very-well known ancient art.

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This adventure made possible with the amazing folk at ETT for this incredible experience. And thanks to Africa Geographic for the platform to tell it.

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Before I left Kenya I spent a week in Sagana doing some long awaited white water activities that included a near drowning. With special thanks to Savage Wilderness, read about it here:

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A guest post by the wonderful Gypsy Queen who opened her mind and heart to the ways of a bartering nomad. She showed me love, art, inspiration, creation and fed me words of wisdom which I adhere to every day (well, most days).

She comforted me during every hospital visit where I was at the whim of the doctors. She introduced me to a bounty of awesome friends. And she provided a patient ear to chew on whenever my heart and soul needed unraveling

If you’ve ever met her, then you know she truly is an Unbound Gypsy Queen.

Check out her amazing talent on Facebook:  Unbound Ether Photography.


From the Gypsy Queen:

Please note, I don’t call or refer to myself as the Gypsy Queen but do so here because the Nomad King has generously given me this title in his memoirs and for continuity’s sake, I must respect that in this missive.

It is necessary to admit that I never thought I’d be looking at the opposite side of the Indian Ocean before me. The same trade winds that blew north along the eastern-facing Kenyan coast one year ago, are the ones that are blowing along the western-facing Indian coast, where I am sitting now, one year later, in the little seaside village of Ashvem in Goa, India.

It has been several months now with this testimonial on my plate of things to devour, process and respond to. From day one with the Nomad King, timing has been everything and this missive to The Universe is no different.

Milestone Moments in one’s life have to be patiently awaited for, and even then, it’s only in hindsight do we realise the beauty in those moments. All the pieces of the puzzle needed to fall into place to bring you to that Milestone Moment. When that last dot joins the rest, completing the circle and finally, realisation sets in.

I think of it as Resolution.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. Almost one year ago the Nomad King and I first collided on our paths in Kilifi Creek along the Kenyan coast. I was living and helping build Musafir the boat, and grow the community that surrounded it.

Little did I know that this scruffy, ruggedly handsome Nomad that washed up on our shores was about to jump start my life and put it straight into high gear. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he was exactly who I had asked The Universe for, just two weeks prior to our meeting.

Ro and I

© Aleks Leigh, 2016

But that’s a different story.

Freedom has always been a major theme in my life but never once did I imagine that I was about to be exposed to a new kind of freedom, one I only vaguely knew existed, let alone imagine my own journey taking a radical twist the day the Nomad King and the Gypsy Queen met.

I have the spirit of a gypsy, one who must simultaneously follow the wind and intuition, the stars and the dusty road, the fires of the heart and rhythm of the earth, for they are all one and cannot work alone, in order to truly be happy and healthy in life.

The day we hit the road for the first time a new kind of adrenaline became known to me. My whole being was vibrating with a sensation, a whisper almost, of a whole new world tingling at my fingertips. Each physical step forward, packs and tents and camera equipment included, was a step towards the Unknown.

And what greater high than the Unknown?

Every facet of bartering and hitch hiking reminded me of a way of life that addresses the need for living simply that is almost entirely lost to us today – in theory and in practice. Traveling without money, relying on the kindness of strangers to voluntarily take us to the next destination and then, conjuring faith in humanity, all the while constantly renewing this personal relationship with the earth’s geography, space and time.

All vital aspects of bettering one’s connection to the pulse of Life and The Universe.

I thought I was already pretty well connected, so imagine my surprise when I discovered I had only just scratched the surface, that below sat a locked box of life’s mysteries and the Nomad King held the key.

And open that box I did! Quickly. For the road has many teachers, and one must keep up! Every lesson learned on the road with the Nomad King made up for every wasted day that I spent trying to get an education in formal schooling.

He showed me then, and continues to show me a thousand different ways how a person can give and collect love and kindness. Every barter was a gift that we received and a gift we gave in return; a pure exchange of respect and compassion. Every story swapped, every song, every article, every photo, every second of footage, every peal of laughter, every meal, every sanctuary, every kilometer, hug, handshake and ‘hello’ is given and received in gratitude. Very quickly this cup of gratitude spills over, washing over one’s being like a glorious swell.

A surfer’s wet dream.

Though I have bartered many things in my life, I never fully realised the power that lay in an exchange devoid of anything that even remotely smells like money. I’ve always loved to barter, little keepsakes and presents sent out and returned into the world; reminders of a kindred spirit’s touch.

Sometimes leaving something behind in a place that you may never return to again is like leaving a piece of your legacy. It has always felt like that for me with every installation the Nomad and I created together. A part of our story, not just a barter, but a mark that we were once there. That we loved, laughed and created something beautiful . Something that place inspired in us. Our response to the world in the form of beautiful artwork, song, written word.

Through the life of a Gypsy and a Nomad many kilometers are traversed, many souls encountered, many connections welded together on a string, like beads, each individual but essential in completing the Whole.

So from place to place we travelled, each time making a mere outline, allowing the dots to complete themselves, not worrying about plan B (at least not the Nomad. I, on the other hand, had to learn that there is never a plan B), and simply trust in the process.

Many a time the Nomad gently tossed my philosophical ideas about The Universe back at me – The Universe will never give you more than you can handle, being a favourite. An undeniable truth (among others) that would always bring me back to my centre and the moment I’d let go of fear and doubt, the road would magically open up again, sending us just the right ride, or just the right barter, right when we needed it the most.

For example, 70kms shy of our day’s final destination at the lakeside town of Kisumu, Kenya, while waiting for almost an hour by the roadside with barely a car stopping for us and with the sun setting, I frustratingly asked the Nomad what plan B is.

And he looks at me simply and says, “There is no plan B. Just plan A – we get to Kisumu.”

It took a while, but the moment I resigned myself to whatever fate befell us, a pick-up truck slowed down and the kindest driver the road has ever sent me (I say ‘me’ because I know the Nomad has met many a kind driver and I don’t want to take anything away from them), not only took us to Kisumu, but paid for our bed and a couple of meals for our bellies.

On the latter half of our Ugandan trip in Mbale, the Nomad fell terribly ill and between a dozen bathroom calls had to be rushed to the hospital with a horrendous ear infection.

The kind souls of Sukali Hostel where we were being hosted, let us stay for days without insisting that he perform. Insisting he get better first, feeding and providing us shelter without question.

Cut to yesterday:

This Gypsy is in limbo at the moment, hanging out along the coast while my new roomy and I await our monsoon retreat to begin in our new home in the hills of Goa. My friends Adrien, Justine and Emma left on their mini-vacation to the big, bad city of Bombay, leaving me to my own devices.

Having been back in India almost a month now, I’ve had to shift gears once again and adapt to a more conventional way of life here. Namely, paying for transportation, accommodation and meals.

Earlier this week I found some distant relatives in a wonderful creative space called Vaayu where artists, travellers and surfers flock to during the cooler, busy seasons. The end of the season is upon us, most places have shut and the majority of people have begun heading for the Himalayan foothills where life is much cooler.

On Thursday morning I made a sincere intention, took a leap of faith and approached the Vaayu tribe to see if I could barter work – any type of work – for a bed. Though there are many people out there who are doing this, it was the first time I was approaching a community/business to let me in, without having any money to offer, alone and in India.

They have never been approached in this way either, although they do host an artist residency program which attracts a very colourful group of people, which has made them open to the barter way of life and those that live it.

Needless to say, they accepted my offer and even offered me three meals a day. So here I am now, working on this piece, reflecting on my life and watching the last dot connect itself to all the other dots that have led me to this moment, closing the circle – a Milestone Moment that marks the end of one chapter in my life and the prophetic beginning of another.

As the Nomad King likes to say, “The end is the power of the beginning.

And I have all this because one year ago, a scruffy, ruggedly handsome Nomad washed up on Kilifi’s shores and I followed my gypsy heart.

I’ll call this, Resolution.


Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Hitch Hiking, Kenya, Uganda | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



“Would headphones work?” I asked Mohamed, Cairo host.

I was about to head out to see the wonder of the ancient world, the great pyramids of Egypt, in Giza, a city that is part of many that make up Cairo.

“They might,” he answered. “But you’ll still get harassed. And because tourism is low, the harassments are quite aggressive now.”


I did some online research about the level of harassment at the pyramids by guys trying to get you to ride a horse, a camel, both, a caleche (horse ‘n’ buggy) with a camel tied onto the back. Whatever combo they could come up with.

So my counter-harrassment weapon of choice? A pair of headphones and doing the unthinkable as an open-minded traveller – ignore everyone.

The pyramids were a short microbus (minivan) ride across the Nile. I was dropped under a bridge and told to walk towards Haram street (‘Haram’ means ‘pyramid’). The signal to get a ride to the pyramids was an upside-down victory sign  creating a triangular shape between the index and middle finger. That way, you get the right ride.

I signaled a passing microbus who stopped and picked me up.

And then dropped me two meters later.

“Last stop,” said the driver.

“I just got on,” I said. “I could’ve walked.”

“Come, I’ll show you,” a young local offered to help.

“You’re an asshole,” I said blatantly to the driver as I hopped off. “A fuckin’ asshole.”

The kid lead me to the main street where he flagged down a VW Combie which acts as the minivan bus services in Giza.


I thanked the kid even though I was on my guard in case of dodgy activity. But he walked off to his destination, just happy to help out a foreigner. I was still pissed at the other driver as the Combie drove along Haram street but when I caught a glimpse of The Great Pyramid of Giza the anger washed away. I was let off at the entrance to the complex where I plugged headphones into my ears.

I don’t have a player of sorts to plug into and I don’t usually wear headphones unless I’m watching something on my laptop before I go to bed. So I just shoved the jack into my pocket and pretended to be deaf to the world.

As soon as I stepped off the Combie I was approached. I could hear the, “Excuse me, sir, which country? Camel ride? Do you know how much? Horse ride? Do you have a sister I can marry? Ticket to see the pyramids?”

One guy got a little cocky and tried to grab my arm.I whipped around and detached him from me and without speaking wagged my finger in his face to indicate that he should avoid doing that for the safety of his immediate future.

I ignored everyone, acting the right prick, pointing at my headphones. Surprisingly, it worked and the harrassers let me be.

Not before reaching screaming levels and then cursing in Arabic.

I suppressed my grins.

I was happy that there won’t many tourists aside the local ones. It made for easier photos without anyone in the frame doing the ol’ ‘finger atop the pyramid’ shot which takes up half an hour as I witnessed a Korean couple taking about a hundred shots.

I walked around upbeat, focusing on the 4,000 year-old energy of a civilisation so advanced that it still boggles minds as to how they built this structures.img_2055

The Great Pyramid – the Pyramid of Khufu – a Pharaoh in the third dynasty, took 23 years to complete and weighs in at 6.5 million tons. It’s said to be built from 2.5 million blocks. The blocks were precisely fit to a margin of error of only 58 mm. It was regarded the tallest structure in the world for 3,800 years (until the spire of the Lincoln Cathedral was completed in 1311 in Lincoln, England), standing at 481 feet.

img_2070-bwNext to it is the Pyramid of Khafre, tomb to Pharaoh Khafre of the fourth dynasty. It’s also the only pyramid where the top is still covered by the casing stones. The other structures had there’s stripped off to build roads, bridges and mosques somewhere in the 15th century.

The smallest structure, the Pyramid of Menkaure, was the first in line to be demolished by the hands of al-Malek al-Aziz Othman ben Yusuf (1171-1198), Egypt’s second Sultan at the end of the 12th century.


He ordered for the pyramids to be taken apart and it took workers eight months to wedge out a small vertical gash img_2073before the idea was given up due to costs that were higher than building the actual structures.

Looking up I couldn’t help but wonder how? How the hell did they even come up with the idea of a pyramid let alone position them astronomically aligned with Orion’s Belt, according to Robert Bauval’s theory from 1983 (published in 1989 in Discussions in Egyptology, Volume XIII).

And then came the Sphinx. I was a bit disappointed. It looks so much bigger in photos and documentaries. What I saw appeared to be the house-sphinx version.

Where’s the real one? I asked myself, ignoring the hawkers trying to get me to ride a camel that had a look on its face that said, ‘Shoot me. Please, just shoot me’ (if you ever find yourself at the pyramids, make sure the animal you ride is well-treated).

img_2082The sphinx is a mythological creature that acts as the guardian of the gateway to the after world. In Greek mythology it is a woman with lion haunches and wings with the head of a human. The most famous is the one featured in the story of Oedipus.

The Egyptian sphinx is regarded usually as male, although Queen Hatshepsut had one made with her face. The sphinxes of Egypt are benevolent as opposed to Greek’s malevolent. The one in Giza, Abu al-Haul (Father of the Dread) is thought to have had the face of Pharaoh Khafra but that has long disintegrated.

In fact, it’s yet to be proven if the Great Sphinx of Egypt is associated with Khafra. But what is known is that it’s the largest monolith statue in the world standing at 20 meters height and 73 meters in length (19 meters wide), it’s still not known what its creators called it. In the New Kingdom, it was called Hor-em-akhet, which means ‘Horus of the Horizon’. The word ‘Sphinx’ is Greek and was given to the statue in Giza 2,000 years after its construction.img_2083

As I posed Animal in front of it with the pyramids behind for a photo, a police officer said that I couldn’t take the shot with my mascot.

“Why not?” I frowned.

“No photo,” he said. “I take camera.”

I scoffed and, as I usually do when it comes to people with a power trip because of uniform, I turned my back on him, took my photo, thanked him and walked off as he tried to ponder whether it was really worth chasing his belly after me in this heat to play to his ego which just took a beating.

img_2078I walked out and wondered how the government allowed the city of Cairo and Giza to be built right up to this most historical of places of the ancient world. I mean, there’s a golf links at the bottom of the complex.

A golf links!

It might explain how the Sphinx lost its face.

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Although this one happened a few months ago, it took me some time to come to terms with it. Here’s a short account of my climb up Nelion Peak on Mt Kenya with the awesome folks at African Ascents as published in Africa Geographic:

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“Take a microbus to Ramses then take another microbus towards Helwan,” Mohammed explained over the phone. “Tell the driver you need to get off at the First Engineers  building.”

My host, graciously volunteered through Sherif, a good friend of the Gypsy Queen’s,  who I had yet to met, lived somewhere in Cairo. I had no idea where and also no idea how  big Cairo was.

The night bus ride from Hurghada to Egypt’s capital was an uneventful seven hours through what I assume to be desert landscape. I managed sleep until the sun rise which I caught through the crack of a good eye. The other eye submitted and it too opened up and I was fully awake to watch the desert take on the day. A couple of hours later, Cairo appeared on the horizon.


And how could it not? It took up the entire horizon. In fact, Cairo should be its own planet. It’s the biggest city I’ve ever been to. It diminishes Bangkok to suburb status. A concrete jungle of overpasses and high-rises, Cairo is a collective of cities like Giza, the 6th of October City and Nasr City to name but three.

The bus-ticket, earned by playing two nights at the awesome and friendly Jolly Café in Hurghada, passed the revolutionary Trahir Square where 2011’s revolt helped spark revolutions across the Arab world (just like the one in 1952 lead by Nasser) was quiet in the early morning hours.

We pulled into the GoBus station somewhere nearby and from here I followed Mohammed’s – and anyone who could speak English that I came across – instructions. I took a microbus –a mini-van (known as matatu in East Africa) – to Ramses. From there I hopped on another microbus under a huge overpass.

The driver charged me for a 3-row seat because of my bags.

“I can put them on the roof,” I said, pointing at the roof rack.

He refused, seeing the opportunity to cash up a bit.

I then piled my packs on top of me. “No problem, see?” I pointed thorough the packs at the easily accessible and empty seats beside me.

He still refused.


Grumbling, I hopped on and we drove – right past the GoBus station where I had entered Cairo.


For at least an hour we rode through the empty, concrete streets. As it was Friday, the Muslim holy day, everything was shut down and empty before I was told by the only guy on the bus who spoke English that I needed to get off  and ask around for the address.

Finding myself on the banks of the Nile, the longest river in the world that I had been following from Sudan, I crossed the highway like Frogger and asked to use phones and get directions. Finally, I made it to the building where a groggy-eyed Ahmed, Mohammed’s housemate, opened the door for me and returned to his room.

I set my packs down and piled up some cushions on the living room floor and promptly fell asleep. I awoke in surprise when the house-cat jumped on my chest and began to use it as a claw-sharpening post.

“Jesus!” I delicately removed the feline and wagged my finger at her.

I’m not a cat person. Sure, I’m into my lions, tigers, leopards and other apex predators. But house-cats? Just not my thing.

I resumed sleep and awoke in time to greet Ahmed. “I see you in the night,” he said and he headed out the door.

It was stifling hot outside and noisy. Traffic had picked up and with traffic comes that melodic tunes of horns blaring. I took a walk outside to try and call Hadeel, another local volunteer that Sherif had found to show me around this planet-sized city.

My aim was to stay for two days, see the pyramids, play for a ticket to Dahab in Sinai and head off to absorb the Red Sea and its bounties before reaching Taba. But Hadeel’s phone was off for the majority of the day so I ended up chatting with the building’s security guard who invited me to a lunch of falafel.

I returned home to escape the heat and lounged about, getting clawed on occasion by the cat. Which, turns out, was a mama cat with five kittens stashed in the darkest corners of the apartment. I fell asleep and awoke the next morning as mama cat pounced on her new hairy claw-sharpening post – me.

As the apartment was empty (Mohammed was away on a business trip) I headed out to try and get Hadeel on a phone but it was still turned off. So I got some falafel which I took home to eat while fending off mama cat.

After a catnap I finally managed to get Hadeel and we arranged to meet the next day somewhere in the city.

“I’ll send you the details on Facebook,” she offered.

Ahmed returned, said, “Hello,” and disappeared into his room.  And then something moved inside of me and I knew it wasn’t the good movement say, of a bubble of gas that needs to be released. This was something else. Something that had me going for the next 24 hours. The bathroom and I became well acquainted. I blame the falafel. And mama cat. Why the cat? Cause I can.

I was feeling a touch better the next day when Mohammed arrived.

“Where have you been sleeping?” he asked.

“Right here,” I wallowed on the cushions. My body ached like I was getting the flu.

“It’s a three-bedroom apartment,” he looked confused. “You have your own room. The cat’s room.”

The cat’s room. Oh this will be fun. Use me as a clawing post? How’d ya like to be roomless? “Oh,” I scratched my head. “Well, I wasn’t aware.”

Ahmed the ghost wasn’t exactly communicative. I was shown my new dwellings. Some kittens were relocated from the bed and I moved my packs into the room.

“There’s an air-conditioner too,” he pointed to the heat-destroying machine on the wall.

Mohammed was heading to the same area I was to meet Hadeel with another friend – and Ahmed – so I got a ride into town even though my body-ached and I felt that I was running a fever.

I sure hope it wasn’t malaria. For the two years I’ve spent in Africa, everybody around me had been taken down by one of Africa’s biggest killers (not died. As in, gettin’ hit by malaria and then taking two weeks to recover). And I was quite chuffed not to have succumbed to the mosquito-injecting parasite.

Until now.

I think.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Egypt | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment


A few months back, I headed up 4,985 meters on Mt Kenya’s Point Lenana, third highest peak in Africa. It was one of the toughest, physical and mental moments I have ever been through.

Thanks to Julian and Tom of African Ascents and to Stocky, Face and Turkish for the great company and Jacob the machine and Joffery the camp cook.

Click here to read about the experience.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Kenya | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment



© Abdallah Sayed, 2016

Jolly Café sits on Hurghada’s most famous stרeet, Sheraton, so named as it was the first hotel to be built in the specifically-built resort town on Egypt’s Red Sea coast line.

It has  outdoor seating as well as plush indoor seating and carters to every need. They don’t serve alcohol but you don’t need to booze it up when they provide a great vibe, whether it’s through the nightly live music with a traditional Egyptian singer, the occasional belly-dancer and the once-in-awhile performance by yours truly.

The guys that run the place are incredibly friendly and just give off the nice-guy vibe. Almost everyone who comes to Jolly’s knows them and goes out of their way to greet them – the regulars and the newcomers.

The crowds are mainly locals and once in awhile you’ll get a few foreigners. They offer shisha pipes to smoke (water pipes), a Playstation area to kick your friend’s ass at football, serve the best milkshakes in town and great dishes like charcoal chicken on a bed of fresh dill – Egyptian style – with a side of rice. The pizza is also highly recommended as are the freshly squeezed juices.

The outdoor stage has lights and a mixer with the street right behind the performer to seduce potential patrons.

I played two nights in a row and left with new friendships and a feeling of an extended family.


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