The Grand Tour
Adventure, wonderment and friendship laid ahead as we embarked on our Grand Tour across the Middle East to Africa. A circular route that spanned 12,000 miles between all destinations, with a return-journey stopover at Tomorrowland in Belgium to conclude the entire experience, everything about the world famous music festival's slogan of 'Live Today, Love Tomorrow, Unite Forever' seemed all the more apt.
Hoping to discover the most eye-watering views that all the lands (and seas) have to offer, the inclusion of Africa into the plans seemed only too obvious, but a mid-way detour excursion across the Middle East was sure to increase our culture-seeking, adrenaline and excitement levels. A wayfarer's dream, the Grand Tour certainly delivered expectations.
With some of the deserts along the Grand Tour's way known to reach upward of 45-50 Degrees Celcius, no temperatures are ever too much for an essential ANCHOR & CREW accessory to be styled. Matching the White Noir Talbot Silver and Rope Bracelet with a Reynolds Element Midi Geometric Silver Bangle, the peacefulness of the still (though not always) sand dunes reminded us that less is more; in fact, less is always more.
Israel, Jordan & Abu Dhabi
Beginning in Tel Aviv and exploring all of the city's markets, beaches and parties, the charm of Old Jaffa and it's winding alleys that were full of Ottoman-era landmarks was an early highlight. Through to Jerusalem and onwards to Masada - the last Jewish fortress against the Roman Empire - such a UNESCO World Heritage site was everything amazing and gave witness to the most spectacular of sunrise experiences. With the Dead Sea in the distance, where do you even begin to look?
Boasting stunning panoramic views no matter which high point you visit, venturing down to the Dead Sea became an excursion for some well-earned relaxation and yes, all of the 'you can actually float on water' rumours are true. Complete with an over-whelming amount of salt crystals, such a natural occurrence was equalled by the climbing to the summit of Machtesch Ramon, the largest erosion crater in the world at 30 miles (40 kilometres) wide. Here we felt we were standing on top of the world (pretty much).
Wadi Rum. The Martian
Crossing the international border of Israel to Jordan was certainly a mild experience compared to all those Visa tales-told, but upon successful entry, Wadi Rum was the first destination. Having experienced driving skills are certainly advised with only bumpy broken roads present, and you would be totally forgiven for thinking that you had somehow driven to some extra-terrestrial location. The location of filming The Martian, amongst other Hollywood movies, the protected desert wilderness and all it's dramatic sandstone mountains and rocky caverns were full of curious wonder.
With little more than fellow tourists for company, it was the local camels and their silhouettes against the mountainous backdrops that became most interesting as the dust settled through the day. Never wanting to sacrifice style at any moment of this journey, the Classic Grey Liverpool Silver and Rope Bracelet and Faris Square Midi Wayfarer Silver Bangle also paired well together and particularly complemented a dark chino / casual shirt / Panama hat combo very nicely - too hot for much else, to be honest.
New Wonder Of The World
Camping overnight in a local Bedouin camp and with excellent food cooked Bedouin style, temperatures dropped quickly as the stunning nightsky came alive; the milky way was visible all night long. Completing the visit to Jordan with an escape to the famous Petra site, an insider tip would be to arrive exceedingly early to have the whole place to yourself; standing alone with one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in front of you, how do you think you'd feel? Fact of the day, the other six New Wonders of the World include: Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt), The Colosseum (Italy), Chichen Itza (Mexico), Machu Picchu (Peru), Great Wall of China (err, China), The Taj Mahal (India) and Christ the Redeemer (Brazil).
Next, a quick pit stop in Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates ensued after an even briefer visit to Amman (the capital of Jordan) and Jerash. Totally mesmerised at how wonderful Abu Dhabi was, a particular highlight here was that of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the country. Let's first appreciate the floral pattern on the mosque's floor for one moment as the largest marble mosaic in the world, but secondly, with a total capacity of over 40,000 people, we bet that you're now wondering how did we manage to capture a photo - styling an ever-popular Delta Anchor Silver and Leather Bracelet of course) - all alone. We'll keep this secret to ourselves...
Tanzania & Zanzibar
Not a conventional route by any means, East Africa was the next destination of the Grand Tour. With some fantastic 'bucket list' adventures ticked off already, what is often regarded as 'true Africa' was next to be witnessed. Sadly abundant with poor families, taxi Mafia, tourism scamming - the lot - Zanzibar was a sight to behold. Famous for all it's exotic beaches, it was the instant friendship with local children that was particularly overwhelming. With so few possessions, but so large a smile.
An island perfect for any diving, surfing, cycling (even on the sandy beaches!) and relaxation desires, the East coast provided much more excitement than any of the typical tourism hot spots. Do keep in mind at all times though, the sea tides can reach up to a maximum length of 1.2 miles (2 kilometres) and this should be considered very dangerous; suchlike extremities are more than evident beneath the Insta-famous Zanzibar Rock Restaurant. Standing amongst the special colours of all the eroded beach rocks and sea water, the Grape Purple Delta Anchor Silver and Braided Leather Bracelet and Faris Square Midi Wayfarer Silver Bangle did their best to be an ever-essential Grand Tour accessory. A restaurant accessible by boat when the tide is high, Zanzibar is a true recommendation.
Next venturing the Serengeti National Park and towards the Ngorongoro Crater, such land areas had never been explored by any Europeans until the late 1800s. An air of mystery and wonderlust of the vast landscapes were both ever present as the endless Serengeti plains kept on being, well, endless!
Boasting an abundance of biodiversity and wildlife, the travelled paths went through areas with the densest populations of lions in the world, not to mention the bush elephants, buffalo and cheetahs. The Ngorongoro Crater in particular gave the experience of meeting hartebeasts (African antelopes), spotted hyenas and jackals. Touring with Oltumuture Tours and Safari, such an operator is very local and ethically managed, and are well worth a shout-out recommendation from us.
Continuing safaris - as you'd might have guessed - into Tanzania's neighbouring country, Kenya's communities and wildlife were all very spectacular. Wanting to contribute to the local communities via the Naboisho Conservancy, an education about all the animal species, national parks and conservancies' work was all included. Able to capture extremely intimate moments with the wildlife given a conservancy's strict monitoring of any inbound tourism, having alone time with the animals was the Grand Tour's most magical highlight. A solitary female cheetah with her cubs, it is so unfortunate that they have a 1 in 6 survival rate given the competition for food between lions and hyenas. The Circle of Life, we regrettably guess.
Barely 10 Degrees Celsius at night, the Naboisho Conservancy's campsite was full of animal-related noises, but don't be too scared, a lion's roar can be heard up to 8 miles away and so their proximity is largely unknown. Safety first though. Insane landscapes with even better sunsets and night skies, do you notice the hyena stalking it's prey?
Tomorrowland. Live Today
Beyond all the wildlife and everything that nature has to give, a local primary school filled us with a healthy amount of feel-good wholesomeness. Even there, the locals were super-excited by any Football World Cup and so the question remains: did we infact witness a future football star amongst the playground? Only time will tell.
A return home via Belgium's Tomorrowland extended the Grand Tour's magic, and as mentioned at the beginning of this documentary, the festival's slogan of 'Live Today, Love Tomorrow, Unite Forever' really could not be more appropriate.