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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Give back and get stylish for summer with LaLESSOs designs

Give back and get stylish for summer with LaLESSO's designs

One thing that I loved about being abroad was the fashion! So many clothes…so little time…and SOOO much cheaper than the U.S.

I received a few e-mails asking where I got the skirt I was wearing on my post about Newburyport’s Farmer’s Market the other day (here)…so here is a little piece about that skirt…my oh-so-favorite skirt!

sadly, my version of this skirt did not come with a pet a camel...

sadly, my version of this skirt did not come with a pet camel...

In a boutique store in Rondebosch, just outside of Cape Town, I discovered these fabulous  printed garments, that were all hand-made and gorgeously African.

A closer look brought me to realize that all of the fabrics were hand painted and contained traditional Indian and Kenyan “handkerchief” patterns and even incorporated Swahili sayings on the prints.

The prints are then hand sewn by local Kenyan women into these wonderfully unique dress, skirts…even bathing suits and ballet flats!!

ballet flats by laLESSO

ballet flats by laLESSO

Because the fabric is hand painted, every piece of clothing is 100% unique! The company was started by two young, fresh out of University women (one from Kenya and one from South Africa) who wanted to bring African style to the fashion forward world while giving back!

The company helps support the Eastern African cotton industries and local women financially.

They have been featured in every major fashion magazine, including Elle and Vogue…

Runway show: laLESSO

Runway show: laLESSO

Here are some pics from a fashion show on the British Vogue website of LalESSO…

For an interview with the owners on their design and style philosophy…click here

IMG_3882

wearing my favorite skirt...over one year old, and after tens of washes and wears...it's still as good as new!

I walked away the first day with this wonderful Kenyan skirt (above) that is soooo comfortable.My friend Lucy, and some other friends, also fell in love with their printed dresses and splurged as well!

I literally have worn that skirt at least once a week (minus the winter) since i bought it last Spring, and it has survived TONS of washes and being bleached by the African sun on an outdoor line while abroad…

I actually have the dress on the right and in a similarly colored pattern...the Salama dress...its the perfect beach coverup or dress for evening cocktails on the ocean/beach! I wear it ALL the time!

I actually have the dress on the right and in a similarly colored pattern...the Salama dress...it's the perfect beach cover-up or dress for evening cocktails on the ocean/beach! I wear it ALL the time!

I also purchased a short, kind of sassy darker colored skirt that is black and purple, while I purchased a a halter dress that is purple, cream and black. I actually wore the dress yesterday to Rockport, MA with my family for lunch, and received a bunch of compliments on it!

They even make these adorable terry cloth beach shorts!

They even make these adorable terry cloth beach shorts!

mix and match LaLESSO bikinis (for women and babies!) with other African inspired sustainable style items...

mix and match LaLESSO bikinis and dresses (for women and babies!) with other African inspired sustainable style items...

Here’s a little blurb about the company from their web page…

All Lalesso clothing is manufactured under strict and extremely conscious ethical conditions in our self owned workshop in Kenya, East Africa. All our employees are paid well above the average wage and are already benefiting not only their lives but the lives of their families and have been able to increase their standard of living considerably. Each ‘lesso’ or ‘khanga’ is hand washed in the Indian Ocean before being transformed into a Lalesso creation; this is an age old method of aiding the stay fastness of the dyes.

Please note that the colours and pattern designs on the ‘khanga’ or ‘lesso’ are all unique, the manufacturers produce five designs each week and after that the design is never produced again. What this means is that each piece of fabric in it’s respective print will most likely never be found in the same garment twice so please understand that if you like a certain print but it’s in the wrong size, I’m afraid it is not possible to order it in your size. The colours/designs shown are ONLY available in the sizes given.”

read more about laLESSO or purchase their garments at the link below...

read more about laLESSO or purchase their garments at the link below...

Buy clothes from laLESSO here

Note: shipping to the U.S. will probably take about 4-10 days, so practice a little patience! Of course buying clothing in South Africa for me was much less expensive and I even got my Salama dress on sale for the equivalent of $30. However, the dresses and other clothing usually run from about $40 to around $100, which still isn’t too bad considering it is handmade and goes to a good a cause…I suggest waiting for a sale, though!

Update: LaLESSO is actually launching at TOP SHOP in the Oxford Circus… hopefully they will be here soon!..check out their Facebook group here

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namibia jolie-pitt

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt put Namibia on the pop-travel and sustainable travel radar when they visited a few years ago to adopt

We all remember the media frenzy that was the adoption saga of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Namibia a few years back, bringing a large, seemingly obscure, yet beautiful African country on the radar.

However, most of us are not celebrity philanthropists and therefore cannot enjoy Namibia on their budget. The Jolie-Pitts actually rented an entire hotel in Swakopmund for their stay while enjoying privately chauffeured adventure tours all over the country.

In Namibia you can literally drive for hours and hours without seeing a single soul...which is both disconcerting and liberting...reverting your psyche back to a time when people were not encroaching as much on the planet...Here's a picture of some people we drove past after four hours of seeing no one...they drove off into the distance in a old pick up truck but we had no idea where they were heading...no place in sight

In Namibia you can literally drive for hours and hours without seeing a single soul…which is both disconcerting and liberating…reverting your psyche back to a time when people were not encroaching as much on the planet…Here’s a picture of some people we drove past after four hours of seeing no one…they drove off into the distance in a old pick up truck but we had no idea where they were heading…no place in sight

Ostriches...feels like the African version of Jurassic Park

Ostriches...feels like the African version of Jurassic Park

Because Namibia is such a tremendously large and spread out country, with a population of only  about 1.8 million people, the task of seeing everything is economically and physically daunting, while the airfare to he country is expensive to begin with. The density of people in Namibia i roughly about 6.6 people per square mile…compare that with another vacation destination, Bermuda, which has a density of 3,140 people per square mile. Getting around can get expensive.

I lucked out.

our tents...camped out the night before our hike through the Namib Desert

our tents...camped out the night before our hike through the Namib Desert

I spent the past semester studying at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and when Spring (South Africa’s Fall) break came around, I heard the red deserts of  Namibia calling my name. Because Namibia borders South Africa, I did not have to fly, and to save money, a few friends and i decided to join an “Overland Tour” through Nomad Travel. Yes, one of those camping, roughing it, big bus (well we were forced to call it a truck, not a bus) tours. They do provide tours that are luxury, or accommodated, or camping depending on your budget, age, and type of traveling you want to do.

the overland vehicle, and our guides...making a stop in the middle of no where on the way to Fish River Canyon

the overland vehicle, and our guides...making a stop in the middle of no where on the way to Fish River Canyon

The experience was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. It was more luxurious and laid back than I could have thought, and I was able to travel to so many parts of this beautiful country, but I’ll focus this post mainly just on the “adventure” part that Brangelina explored just outside Swakopmund and the Namib Desert.

One of the first places we visited after crossing the border was Fish River Canyon...unbelievable...my friend Meg took a moment to survey the lands

One of the first places we visited after crossing the border was Fish River Canyon...unbelievable...my friend Meg took a moment to survey the lands

My tour only covered southern Namibia and yet we covered a lot of ground. We started off in Cape Town, naturally and, over the course of about 8 days, we traveled through Springbok, camping at the Namibian border at the Orange River, to Fish River Canyon (the oldest canyon in the world), to Solitaire (the smallest town in Namibia), to Soussesvlei, to the Namib Desert, to Swakopmund, to the capital Windhoek and back down again.

a map from thimbi-safaris.com of a similar route in Namibia we took, minus crossing the border from South Africa

a map from thimbi-safaris.com of a similar route in Namibia we took, minus crossing the border from South Africa

The whole trip, including extras, nights in guest houses, sand-boarding and adventure sports, nights at the pub, and miscellaneous purchases probably cost me a total of $600.

The most expensive part about traveling in Namibia is the initial cost of airfare…however, once you are there, it is extremely cheap, especially if you book hotels and tours once you are there. Also, even there off-season has good weather, so stay flexible in your plans and stay for a long time, at least 2 weeks…there is so much to see!

I couldn’t believe it either…

jumping into the Orange River to cross to Namibia! That's the dock at the Bushwacked facility

A couple friends, the owners son, and I jumping into the Orange River to cross to Namibia! That's the dock at the Bushwacked facility

We stayed the first few nights just south of Namibia and then drove up to the border and camped out there at an adventure travel campsite called “Bushwacked” click here. This place was a blast! It was beautiful, the people were friendly, the facilities were wonderful, and the bar was a party!The camping is also only about $6 per night!!

Bushwacked

Bushwacked

We were able to jump into the Orange river and swim across it literally crossing over from Namibia to South Africa, as well as canoe up to the river on a day trip!

We then drove up to Fish River Canyon (pictured above) which was a trip, literally and figuratively. The drive was long, but it was magical. Fish River Canyon transported us into a different time and place because the Canyon is so incredibly old. For more info…click here

Solitaire...smallest town in Namibia

Solitaire...smallest town in Namibia

We then camped at the smallest town in Namibia…Solitaire. population: ~30 people and the town mayor is also the manager of only store…the General Store…which is famous for its apple pie….weird enough.

Solitaires only hotel- the Country Lodge was actually really nice!

Solitaire's only hotel- the Country Lodge was actually really nice!

You can camp out like we did, or stay at the town’s only hotel: the Country Lodge, complete with a refreshing pool and great little restaurant! (click here)

My friend, Kevin, checking out the waters after hiking down into the Sossusvlei canyon

My friend, Kevin, checking out the waters after hiking down into the Sossusvlei canyon

the boys playing frisbee at dusk at Sossusvlei

the boys playing frisbee at dusk at Sossusvlei

We then made our trek down to Sossusvlei canyon to watch the sunset and camped out nearby at a great lodge and campsite also complete with pool. For info on Sossusvlei click here. There are plenty of camp sites and luxury lodges nearby that offer the ability to self-drive to the canyon, or guided drives that are reasonably priced.

Dawn at Dune 45 - the hike was so much more difficult than we antivipated- but so worth it!

Dawn at Dune 45 - the hike was so much more difficult than we anticipated- but so worth it!

We spotted a movie set in the Namib desert!!

We spotted a movie set in the Namib desert!!

My friend, Lucy, enjoying the solitude of the Namib Desert

My friend, Lucy, enjoying the solitude of the Namib Desert

Eye Spy!- see if you can spot the hot air balloon in the distance- it s areally popular activity to do over the Namib desert at dawn or dusk! we spotted this one in the distance

Eye Spy!- see if you can spot the hot air balloon in the distance- it s areally popular activity to do over the Namib desert at dawn or dusk! we spotted this one in the distance

In the morning we made the highlight of our trip…watching the sunrise at Dune 45 in the Namib desert located in Naukluft park and then touring the desert with a seasoned Bushman. The Dunes are among the highest and oldest in the world, tinted with a brilliant shade of red which we learned is because of the amount of iron in the sand. For more info on the Namib Desert click here

Tree pose in the desert at dawn

Tree pose in the desert at dawn

petrified trees in the Namib desert through my sunglass lenses

petrified trees in the Namib desert through my sunglass lenses

Ariel view of Swakopmund...courtesy of watchingamerican.com

Ariel view of Swakopmund...courtesy of watchingamerican.com

Swakopmund is the largest vacation destination in Namibia. It’s mild weather-wise because it lies on the ocean at the edge of a desert.

Because Namibia was a German colony, the town is filled with German people and its architecture…which is strange in appearance and emotionally disconcerting when considering the implications of the colonization. However, the town is a fantastic place for people looking for a relaxing beach vacation in a serene town, and for adrenaline junkies alike.

There are numerous adventure travel tours…and the one we went on to go sand-boarding was actually the same one celebrities use and is located right outside the center of town! You can customize your own adventure trip which may include skydiving, sandboarding, quad-biking, and anything else you want! I decided to go for the sand-boarding-quad-biking combo and it was amazing. A private tour through the desert with me and two of my girlfriends on quad-bikes and stopping to sand-board! The whole morning ran me about $50 bucks total.

For a great company- use “Desert Explorers”– they were amazing! Click here for their website!

According to their owners, and photos, the Jolie-Pitts used their services over 13 times! While most of us cannot afford that, a day trip is worth the money!

We went quad-biking and sandboarding with "Desert Explorers"- great company! (that's me on the right)

We went quad-biking and sand-boarding with "Desert Explorers"- great company! (that's me on the right)

My tour-mates and I were able to forgo the tents after a few nights in the Namib desert and stay at a fantastic and cheap guest house that was complete with an indoor pool!

The great think about Swakopmund is you can literally walk the entire town.

Stay where the celebs stay in Swakopmund for only $100 dollars per night- The Burning Shore beahc lodge

Stay where the celebs stay in Swakopmund for only $100 dollars per night- The Burning Shore beahc lodge

If you want to stay where Angelina and Brad Pitt stayed during their trip and are looking to splurge in Swakopmund, try The Burning Shore . The Jolie-Pitts actually rented out this entire hotel during their stay, but you can rent a room for only $100 per night!

Stay at the Chameleon Backpackers while in Windhoek...only $12 per night! there are so many unique and creative backpackers lodges for young people and families alike!

Stay at the Chameleon Backpackers while in Windhoek...only $12 per night! there are so many unique and creative backpackers lodges for young people and families alike!

If you decide to travel into Windhoek and want to stay on a budget, even though we didn’t stay overnight while there,  a friend of mine stayed at this unique backpacker’s lodge called the Chameleon for only $12 per night! click here

For more information on the Overland tour that I participated in Nomad Tours,  click here

For more information on traveling to Namibia in general click here

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn

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Great White Shark Cage Diving in South Africa...the sharks that work hard for their food

Great White Shark Cage Diving in South Africa...the sharks that work hard for their food...(photo courtesy of dsc.discovery.com)

So this Wednesday, I wanted to share an experience I have already had, but that I would do again in a heartbeat.

Cage Diving with Great White Sharks off of Seal Island in South Africa.

Do I look scared? Because at that moment...after seeing 3 different Great Whites attack a bunch of seals...I was terrified to get anywhere near them...

Do I look scared? Because at that moment...after seeing 3 different Great Whites attack a bunch of seals...I was terrified to get anywhere near them...

If anyone else watches Shark Week as religiously as I do, then I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this couple…Chris and Monique of Apex Predators in False Bay, South Africa.

They are the foremost experts on South African Great White Sharks and Chris’ photos of the breaching Great Whites have been featured everywhere from newspapers to National Geographic, and their expeditions have been a feature on Shark Week’s segment “Air Jaws” (1 and 2) and BBC’s ‘Planet Earth’.

You can watch a YouTube copy of the BBC ‘Planet Earth: Great White Shark Attack‘ special with Chris Fallows to get an idea of our expedition…here.

Yes, that is a Great White Shark attacking a rubber profile of a seal Chris lowered into the water...right after I captured a video of another Shark attacking about 5 baby seals...

Yes, that is a Great White Shark attacking a rubber profile of a seal Chris lowered into the water...right after I captured a video of another Shark attacking about 5 baby seals...

Chris Fallows of the well-known Apex Predators lowering the steel cage into the cold waters with his team

Chris Fallows of the well-known Apex Predators lowering the steel cage into the cold waters with his team

Basically, these specific Great White  sharks in this region exhibit an extremely rare predatory behavior in which they actually BREACH, lifting their whole body out of the water, to catch their seal prey. A behavior they learned from chasing seals who would jump out of the water to catch fish off of fisherman’s lines.

April through September is prime viewing for this spectacular phenomenon, and I was lucky enough to experience it last April with my dad, another adrenaline junkie with an appreciation for all creatures that are extremely dangerous and majestic.

We decided to go with the best..and chose Apex Predators, which was surprisingly inexpensive for a day long dive with about 5 others excluding Chris himself and his crew.

The trip was roughly $200 per person, and for the experience…it was MORE than worth it.

The trip started at dawn, and included watching sharks attack seals during feeding time, breakfast on the boat, and then the good stuff…

getting into a steel cage and becoming a Great White shark magnet.

On the trip with my dad, the morning started off with a lot of predatory activity. We witnessed two attacks and one on a seal “dummy” in the water (pictured above). Chris was incredibly knowledgeable and entertaining, which made the trip extremely personal.

We then anchored near the island while Chris chummed the water with the largest most disgusting pieces of Tuna I had ever seen, but was careful not to feed the sharks, because then it would become habitual for them.

When Chris asked who wanted to go first into the cage, I jumped at the chance.

My dad and I got into the frigid waters, with the cage top open…something I found extremely disconcerting considering I knew full well these sharks jump out of the water…but Chris didn’t seem so concerned…so I decided not to worry either.

no turning back now

no turning back now

Within a minute, my dad and I saw an enormous, gray, graceful creature emerge out of the abyss…gliding as if without effort through the icy waters right towards our cage.

I grabbed the edge of the cage and then fear for my fingers after seeing the hundreds of sharp teeth, peeking out of the shark’s mouth like stalagmites…

The Shark itself was bigger than a Cape Town Minibus (van), yet it moved so lightly through the water, gliding past us and disappearing back into the dark waters.

We saw three other Great White Sharks within the span of 10 minutes, all coming within 20 feet of our paralyzed, adrenaline filled bodies, suspended in fear….like mice dangling from an entertained young boy for his pet snake to eat…a perfect shark buffet…

Two guys on vacation also got into the cage after us and one shark literally rammed head first into their cage, slamming it into the boat!

Overall, a successful day in Cape Town…

Chris and Monique focus heavily on conservation and the study of Great White Sharks and their predatory habits.

Seal Island at Dawn...feeding time for the Great Whites

Approaching Seal Island at Dawn...feeding time for the Great Whites as the seals leave the sanctuary of the island to seek out breakfast

Click Here for more info on Chris Fallow’s, his work and his expeditions…

For accommodations in  Cape Town….

Some proffessional pictures of The Atlanticview hotel from oceqanviewcampsbay.com

Some professional pictures of The Atlanticview hotel from oceqanviewcampsbay.com

Lounging at the Atlantic view by the infinity pool...my parents had the room on the upper right.

Lounging at the Atlantic view by the infinity pool with some friends ...my parents had the room on the upper right.

I cannot say enough of the place my parents stayed (and I stayed for a few nights)….The Atlanticview hotel in Camps Bay.

View from noe deck over the infinity pool to the Atlantic Ocean at the Atlanticview Hotel

View from one deck over the infinity pool to the Atlantic Ocean at the Atlanticview Hotel

Featured in Fine Living Magazine and even by the Guardian, the Atlantic view is a surprisingly still to be discovered hotel treasure.

The Atlanticview Hotel with the Twelve Apostles Mountan Range in the background

The Atlanticview Hotel with the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range in the background..this view is of only HALF of the hotel

The hotel is a bit of a splurge, but offers 50% off of normal room rates during low season…which is coincidentally prime time for shark viewing!

Camps Bay is the Malibu of Cape Town, and this boutique luxury hotel was a great find. Tucked into the mountain and close to the shops, boulevard, fantastic restaurants and beaches of Camps Bay, the Atlanticview was a personal hotel experience like no other.

With two infinity pools overlooking the Atlantic, views of Table Mountain, amazing suites, a gym, en-suite fully stocked kitchens, free breakfast in bed, included cocktail hour with hors-d’oeurves and a  wine tasting at sunset, free wireless, and AMAZING STAFF…this place was a dream.

View from the Atlantic View during cmoplimentary sunset cocktail hour

View from the Atlantic View during complimentary sunset cocktail hour

The bathroom floors were even heated…sigh…

Unique statue in the Bathroom by the open air shower complete with heated floors and a full length window to view the Atlantic Ocean!

Unique statue in the Bathroom by the open air shower complete with heated floors and a full length window to view the Atlantic Ocean!

My parents were upgraded for free, and they even allowed me to stay there in a room despite the fact it was a couples-oriented hotel. The staff was simply incredible and knowledgeable.

My mom stayed for an extended period of time and really bonded with one of the staffers, Nabil, who went above and beyond the call of duty on every occasion to make sure we had everything at our fingertips, from personal transport by him when necessary, helping us arrange a safari in Sabi Sands, reservations at the best restaurants, and helping us find local spots…he was the bes

The owner, Greg, was incredibly helpful in our travels, while Andrich and Ashley who worked there also made our stay there unforgettable.

For more info on the Atlanticview Boutique Hotel…click here.

Another sunset at the Atlanticview...the sky looks as if it were on fire!

Another sunset at the Atlanticview...the sky looks as if it were on fire!

Rooms at the Atlantic view are furnished with African art made by local artisans...such as this piece over the bed

Rooms at the Atlantic view are furnished with African art made by local artisans...such as this piece over the bed

Another picture of the Atlanticview hotel...the whole top floor to the right was my parents' suite

Another picture of the Atlanticview hotel...the upper Lobby is on the top floor, while there is also a lower dining room/lounge and deck.

Lush and comfortable couches in the lounge area of the Atlanticview...to the right there are floor to cieling glass doors that open up to the Atlantic ocean....and to the left? A bar, of course

Personal touches make the Atlanticview feel like a luxury home rather than a hotel...lush and comfortable couches in the lounge area of the Atlanticview...to the right there are floor to ceiling glass doors that open up to the Atlantic ocean....and to the left? A bar, of course

Dining area at the Atlanticview

Simple, elegant, African-inspired decor in the dining area at the Atlanticview...the colorful painting on the far wall (as well as the on e over the fireplace in the other picture above, and other paintings around the hotel) are made by a local commissioned African artist. You can purchase his paintings, and any other local African furnishings and artwork at the hotel, right off of the walls!

A complimentary appetizer and wine tasting occurs with the staff every evening at sunset out on the deck, or inside at the bar if it is too chilly...

A complimentary appetizer and wine tasting occurs with the staff every evening at sunset out on the deck, or inside at the bar if it is too chilly...

There is so much more to say about South Africa, but I am reserving all the goodies for more Wanderlust Wednesdays…so stay tuned!


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So in addition to my post on how to create a Moroccan-themed spa day at home…I found some enviable Moroccan inspired bathrooms….take a look…

A Truley Moorish masaic  tiled bathub...le sigh

A Truly Moorish mosaic tiled bathtub...le sigh..designed by Sig Bergamin and featured in an Elle decor book

Those antique moroccan doors make you feel liek you are stepping bakc in time...

A bathroom at La Sultana in Morocco...those antique Moroccan doors make you feel like you are stepping back in time...

check out this dusty rose bathroom from

check out this dusty rose bathroom from moroccanarchitetcure.wordpress.com

Heres a modern twist on a Moroccan style bathroom

Here's a modern twist on a Moroccan style bathroom by Delpha designs

Moroccan inspired bathroom from designholeonline.com

Moroccan inspired bathroom from designholeonline.com

this abthroom was deisgned by St.Tropez design company using traditional moroccan style tile-making techniques

This bathroom was designed by St.Tropez Boutique design company using traditional Moroccan style tile-making techniques

Some main elements of the moroccan sesign style are moorish tiles and fountains...

Some main elements of the Moroccan design style are Moorish tiles and fountains...

Even just tiling a normal western shower with Moroccan tiles and adding some North AFrican plants create a Moroccan feel...like in this bathroom designed by TimClarke.com

Even just tiling a normal western shower with Moroccan tiles and adding some North African plants create a Moroccan feel...like in this bathroom designed by TimClarke.com

Here’s a little blurb about Moroccan interior design by the writers at moroccanarchitecture.wordpress.com

“The Moroccan home is a unique blend of African, Berber, and Islamic aesthetics…Interior decor is essential to Islamic architecture. Vaults, cupolas, and arched doorways are principle features which serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. In some village homes, recessed walls and benches set in cement stucco offer simple detail.

More elaborate elements may include geometric and floral motifs carved into wood beams or plaster walls. Ceramic tile, known as zellige, is also used, and may be applied to any and all surfaces, and not limited to walls, floors, roofs, and ceilings. Creative and surprising patterns, molded organic materials, and the intriguing lines of Moroccan structural motifs make the Moroccan home an extraordinary visual playground.”

When it comes to Color in Moroccan design..don’t be shy…if there is a spice or north African natural object/vegetable/fruit/flower in that color…go for it.

Also consider the Moroccan landscape when going for color choice…maybe try some golden hues (to reflect the sand) and some blues and greens to reflect the Mediterranean Sea..

A way to get a Moroccan feel, as stated before is to go for Moorish inspired tiles, Islamic-inspired architectural details and colorful fabrics. To get all three in one…try adding a Moroccan fountain or Moroccan inspired mirror to your bathroom’s interior.

Casablancamarket.com has a fair trade selection of Moroccan decor including tiles!

Also Star of Morocco specializes in Moroccan design (one of their fountains pictured below).

Also, at berbertrading.com you can find Berber furniture and decor…even a Berber bathtub! And it’s all fair trade!

HEres a gorgeous moorish style fountain I found at moroccan-furniture-decor.com...definitely a splurge...sigh

Here's a gorgeous Moorish style fountain I found at Moroccan-furniture-decor.com...definitely a splurge...sigh...can you envision listening to its water's run as you sit in the bathtub surrounded by Moroccan lanterns...candles...ahh heaven

To make your Moroccan bathroom even more eco-friendly, try scouring local flea markets for antique Moroccan-inspired wooden doors, room dividers, mirrors,chairs and tables…one’s with even a hint of arch detail can be transformed using a little paint and some fair-trade mosaic tiles added on top!

HEres a gorgrous girly-chic take on a Moroccan bathroom featured in House Beautiful

Here's a gorgeous feminine and chic take on a Moroccan bathroom featured in House Beautiful... even New England inspired paintings..a perfect West meets North Africa combo...

the other side of the above bathroom...featured in Elle Decor

the other side of the above bathroom...featured in Elle Decor

To purchase a fantastic book on Moroccan interior design called  “Moroccan Interiors”  click here.

Moroccan Interiors...available at amazon.com

Moroccan Interiors...available at amazon.com

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I watched ‘Casablanca’ the other night and my desire to travel to Northern Africa was reignited immediately. I also was in the midst of a girls’-night-in, consisting of homemade summertime facial masks. I thought to myself…hmmm…spa PLUS Morocco would be the ideal….and what do you know? One of the top Eco-Spa’s in the world is located right in Morocco.

Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat

Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat (photo courtesy of http://www.highatlasfoundation.org)

Tucked at the base of North Africa’s  tallest mountain in Morocco is the Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat.

Kasbah du Toubkal

Kasbah du Toubkal...I would love to wake up doing yoga on this patio..followed by some homemade mint tea...(photo courtesy of http://www.sawdays.co.uk)

The hotel is run by the owners and the local Berber community, a naturally eco-friendly culture. The hotel’s philosophy is centered around the preservation of the local National park and a partnership with the local Berber community (all of the employees are Berber as well).The hotel has successfully transitioned from a feudal homestead into a place of warm hospitality.

At the base of Mount Toubkal, your luggage is thrown on a mule and you hike up to your room, passing gorgeous local flora along the way.

The gardens of the resort create a quiet and all-natural oasis in the Berber region...

The gardens of the resort create a quiet and all-natural oasis in the Berber region... (photo: http://www.noflights.com/gallery/original/kasbah_garden_large.jpg click to enlarge)

eat outside...or inside in the hotels romantic restaurant and lounge...

eat outside...or inside in the hotels romantic restaurant and lounge... (photo: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3265/2491179793_2d2ed58bd5.jpg)

Upon arrival you are greeted with mint tea and cleansing rose water while the hotel is lit with candles and wood-burning fires…no wasting electricity here. The candles and fires allow you to enter a  timeless ambiance that many hotels only fantasize about achieving.

simple yet chic and authentic bedroom at the Kasbah

simple yet chic and authentic bedroom at the Kasbah...thatched ceilings, stone floors, linen bedding and Moroccan lamps lit with cream colored candles (photo courtesy of http://lh3.ggpht.com)

The doorway to the resort makes you feel like you are stepping back into a forgotten time and world....

The doorway to the resort makes you feel like you are stepping back into a forgotten time and world.... (photo: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/91/229468518_80b01b1ede.jpg?v=0)

The Spa-resort is famous for its trekking expeditions to the summit of Mount Toubkal and consequential authentic Moroccan spa experience.

The hotel boasts an authentic and yet private hamman experience (a cleansing and rejuvenating plunge pool), steam room and options for many spa treatments.

the authentic hamman at the resort...I could relax in there for hours after a long trek...or a long lunch...

the authentic hamman at the resort...I could relax in there for hours after a long trek...or a long lunch... (photo from media.expedia.com)

The hotel has won many awards due to its efforts to reach out to the local community and reduce its carbon footprint. Every guest is charged a small surcharge (5%) to contribute to a community hamman, irrigation systems and local communication systems. Sustainable and chic…I love it!

The hotel ranges from about $200 to about $700 depending on time of year and type of room.

For more info on trekking Mount Toubkal click here.

For more information on the Kasbah du Toubkal click here.

Now, of course, not all of us can afford to jet off to Morocco for the weekend, so stay tuned for a post on things you can do to create your own Moroccan spa at home this weekend…

fresh organic organges and view greet you each morning at the base of the mountain from a room at the Kasbah...

fresh organic organges and view greet you each morning at the base of the mountain from a room at the Kasbah... (photo http://lh6.ggpht.com)

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Malawi….”the Warm Heart of Africa”…
Kaya Mawa resort in Malawi...an eco-conscious fantasy

Kaya Mawa resort in Malawi...an eco-conscious fantasy

Well, the weather still has not let up and its making me long to go back to the wonderful, and much drier, Africa. One country I have always wanted to visit in Africa is Malawi…in South Eastern Africa nestled in between Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. One may think that because it is landlocked it may not be an ideal paradise, but Lake Malawi (which provides a border between Malawi and Tanzania and Mozambique) makes any resort in that area feel like a beach paradise. It is also called the ‘Calendar Lake’ since it is 365 miles long and 52 miles wide.

The beaches are pristine, the people are warm and energetic, and it is an untapped paradise for water-lovers despite being ‘landlocked’.

To experience Malawi in true luxury form without making a negative dent, but rather a positive one in the environment and culture try staying at one of the top eco-friendly and sustainable resorts in the world….the Kaya Mawa.

Bathtub overlooking those crystal clear waters at the Kaya Mawa...a dream!

Bathtub overlooking those crystal clear waters at the Kaya Mawa...a dream! Every hut has its own bathtub with the same view, a huge mahogany bed and even the 'loo' has a view!

Im ok with this view...Kaya Mawa resort

I'm ok with this view...Kaya Mawa resort

one of Kaya Mawas premium Chalets in the evening

one of Kaya Mawa's premium Chalet's in the evening

spectacualr rooms! uber romantic at the Kaya Mawa

spectacualr rooms! uber romantic at the Kaya Mawa

Located on the Likoma Island of the northern part of Lake Malawi (close to Mozambique), this lodge is a step back into a undeveloped wonderland of flora and fauna. The island is only 17 square kilometers and you will stay in one of 10 stone and teak-framed ‘chalets’.

The huts and resort were built entirely BY HAND (there was no machinery on the island) with help by employment of local people (who speak with the Tonga dialect). The workers used the local landscape and resources (stone and natural cliffs) to build the resort into the island as naturally as possible.

SCUBA is the pristine waters of Lake Malawi...

SCUBA is the pristine waters of Lake Malawi...

The Honeymoon suite is even located on its OWN PRIVATE ISLAND!

get there by small plane...maybe not the most eco-friendly...but certainly makes you feel like youre in Out of Africa...and surprisingly not as expensive as you would anticipte!

get there by small plane...maybe not the most eco-friendly...but certainly makes you feel like you're in "Out of Africa"...and surprisingly not as expensive as you would anticipate!

Get to the resort by air (small planes in Africa are so much fun for a birds-eye view!) or by boat and arrive to pure relaxation or get started with their activities which include snorkeling, SCUBA, sailing, mountain biking, exploration to Mozambique, and visits to the local village of Nkhwazi to the school or even to the local dance bars!

If you want to look into how to offset your travel emissions from flying…click here.

Childrens choir at the local school

Children's choir at the local school

some other local children in front of the school..adorable!

some other local children in front of the school..adorable!

The resorts sustainability initiatives stem from its mantra “Maybe Tomorrow” (in local Tonga dialect). The management works in partnership with the locals to stem overfishing, improve the agricultural scene in the area by planting as much new produce as possible, not using machinery in construction, employing locals, and helping the local village schools with volunteerism and large donations (for purchases of football fields for athletic programs in the schools and other endeavors).

They even started an Island Child program in which one can sponsor a local child’s education, health care, etc.

Likoma means beautiful, from “silikoma” or “sweet land” and it certainly lives up to that name.

Rates range from a semi-affordable (relatively speaking) $180 (US) up to $430 (US) per night (for a the honeymoon suite). Definitely a splurge, but compared to other luxury hotels that aren’t as sustainable, I would say it’s a deal!

Although March is the prime-time for the rainy season, it should be dying down by now! Note: you will want to look into getting some immunizations and some Malaria pills before you head over, and there are many different options for travel/air carriers, so contact a travel agent who specializes in African travel for some advice or check out a “Lonely Planet” guide here from Amazon…or the Lonely Planet’s condensed version of Malawi on their website here.

Malawi was a British colony (many obviously speak English making travel easier) that gained independence back in 1964 but has struggled to develop a market economy and provide the proper health care for its citizens, struggling with infant mortality rates, malaria, HIV/AIDS, agricultural sustainability, improving environmental protection and increasing the quality of education for its densely populated citizenry.

Although celebrities (aka Madonna) have made adopting children from this country popular, I suggest a better way for feeling socially responsible: donate to the local schools when you visit (even just some school supplies we take for granted would help), or maybe spend part of your time on vacation volunteering at a local school if you feel moved to do so. You will be helping more than one child!

An image of the Gule Wamkulu dance (photo courtesy of farm4.status.flickr.com/3556)

An image of the Gule Wamkulu dance (photo courtesy of farm4.status.flickr.com/3556)

One thing that really draws me to Malawi is its cultural heritage and its focus on dance. Since I am a dancer, and have studied some African dance, it would be my dream to go to Malawi and study some of their traditional dances of their Bantu people that are performed at many rituals and traditional ceremonies. Some dances include the Gule Wamkulu of the Chewa people in which the members dance in elaborate costumes and even on stilts, while the vimbuza which is a healing dance performed by witch doctors to help patients of the Timbuka in northern Malawi.The government even founded a National Dance Troupe!

some volunteers from Luzicare (luzicare.com)...the nonprofit utilizes the skills of locals to help those battling HIV/AIDS, even those who are battling it themselves

some volunteers from Luzicare (luzicare.com)...the nonprofit utilizes the skills of locals to help those battling HIV/AIDS, even those who are battling it themselves

A friend from my alma mater, Colby College,  a few years ago began an organization to help children in Malawi called Luzicare. This unprecedented endeavor by a busy college student, Jamie Goldring, has helped to bring aide to thousands of people (particularly children) suffering from HIV/AIDS in the country. It is a remarkable effort that is really making a difference by a remarkable young man…for more information on his efforts click here.

For some more basic facts on Malawi from National Geographic…click here.

sunset over Lake Malawi (courtesy of newsimg.bbc.co.uk)

sunset over Lake Malawi (courtesy of newsimg.bbc.co.uk)

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