Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

It’s been a long time since I did a trip like this…since my last post I have been to many places that deserved a post but sadly I didn’t get around to writing about all of them..it’s on the to do list though!

So..Tanzania…a beautiful East African country that has so much to offer..its motto is ‘Uhuru na Umoja’ in Swahili translated is Freedom and Unity. Over 100 different languages are spoken in the country making it the most linguistically diverse country in East Africa. Tanzania is mountainous and densely forested in the north-east, where Mount Kilimanjaro is located. This was the main purpose of our visit…to Kill the Kili!

Having done Mount Toubkal- North Africa’s highest point in 2015- I have always wanted to reach Africa’s highest point, Mount Kilimanjaro! And as I usually do these activities with groups I had not known before I decided to do this differently and find likeminded friends/clients who are up for an adventure! And boom, before I had known it I had 10 people ready to rock & roll!

Our company Sirikwa Travel was fantastic throughout the whole process of organising the trip, flexible, great communication.

The fun started on 22nd February with Kenya airways, all of us on the same flight to Nairobi and from here we took a smaller plane to Kilimanjaro airport. The first drama started here with 2 suitcases not arriving. But JV and Anna remained calm and collected..what is the worst that can happen? They climb the mountain in a T-shirt and trainers? They wouldn’t be the first ones…sadly some of our porters had very basic clothing for themselves.

We arrived at our hotel in Moshi, and had our first briefing. Met our guides, and went for a wonderful Indian meal.

Oinoth, CEO of Sirikwa did his best to pick up the suitcases next day and bring them close to the gate so that the content can be transferred to a duffel bag and we were all ready to start our adventure. The second drama- my own personal one- was spraying 100% DEET in my right eye on the morning of the climb. Having feared Malaria (we decided with Richard not to take any anti-malaria tablets) my only prevention was mosquito repellent but sadly my aim was not the best. So after washing it a million times and not having been able to open it for 2 hours it got better in the end but not the best start!

In terms of gear for Kilimanjaro this is the recommended list:

Technical gear:

1 – Waterproof Jacket, breathable with hood
1 – Insulated Jacket, synthetic or down
1 – Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell
2 – Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Waterproof Pants, breathable (side-zipper recommended)
2 – Hiking Pants (convertible to shorts recommended)
1 – Fleece Pants
1 – Shorts (optional)
1 – Long Underwear (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
3 – Underwear, briefs (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
2 – Sport Bra (women)
Equipment
1 – Sleeping Bag, warm, four seasons
1 – Sleeping Bag Liner, for added warmth (optional)
1 – Trekking Poles (recommended)
1 – Head lamp, with extra batteries
1 – Duffel bag, (waterproof recommended) for porters to carry your equipment

1 – Daypack, for you to carry your personal gear
Handwear
1 – Gloves, warm (waterproof recommended)
1 – Glove Liners, thin, synthetic, worn under gloves for added warmth (optional)
Footwear
1 – Hiking Boots, warm, waterproof, broken-in, with spare laces
1 – Gym Shoes, to wear at camp (optional)
3 – Socks, thick, wool or synthetic
3 – Sock Liners, tight, thin, synthetic, worn under socks to prevent blisters (optional)
1 – Gaiters, waterproof (optional)
Accessories
1 – Sunglasses or Goggles
1 – Backpack Cover, waterproof (optional)
1 – Poncho, during rainy season (optional)
1 – Water Bottle (Nalgene, 32 oz. recommended)
1 – Water Bladder, Camelbak type (recommended)
1 – Towel, lightweight, quick-dry (optional)
1 – Pee Bottle, to avoid leaving tent at night ( recommended)
Stuff Sacks or Plastic Bags, various sizes, to keep gear dry and separate
Headwear
1 – Brimmed Hat, for sun protection
1 – Knit Hat, for warmth
1 – Balaclava, for face coverage (optional)
1 – Bandana (optional)
Other

Toiletries
Prescriptions
Sunscreen
Lip Balm
Insect Repellent, containing DEET
First Aid Kit
Hand Sanitizer
Toilet Paper
Wet Wipes (recommended)
Snacks, light-weight, high calorie, high energy (optional)
Pencil and Notebook, miniature, for trip log (optional)
Camera, with extra batteries (optional)

There are several routes available to hike but I chose the one that has the highest % of success rate, the Lemosho route. The idea here is to spend a day or two extra between 3-4000m for proper acclimatisation.

The funny thing was that the Comic Relief Team started their trip one day before us so we were on the mountain at the same time as them  but on different routes.

DAY 1

After the registration process started our climb steadily through the forests of the Lemosho glades to reach BigTree camp where we spent the first night.
Distance covered: 7km / 4.3mi
Approx. time taken: 4 hours
By the time we arrived at the camp, our tents were up, our dinner was cooking, we learnt how to use the toilet, and started getting to know each other better. We always gathered in a big mess tent for our meals and the excitement in our eyes when the waiters appeared with the food was indescribable.

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Group hike

DAY 2

Big Tree Camp (2780m) To Shira 2 Camp (3900m)
We trekked across a plateau of grassy moorland and heather scattered with
volcanic rock formations. Our destination for today was meant to be Shira 1 Camp but our guides decided to go to Shira 2 as our pace was good. We gained a reasonable
amount of altitude on this day and parts of the route were fairly steep. As the guides called it…the elephant. Very scenic beautiful walk. This was the first time when some of us got really overwhelmed and emotional with the difficulty of the hike. This was also the time when we first saw the summit. By now we really felt the mountain..the outside world was distant..we were in the bubble. We had a little rain on this day but where there is rain there is also a rainbow!
Distance covered: 15.5km / 9.6mi
Approx. time taken: 10 hours

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DAY 3

Shira 2 Camp (3900m) to Barranco Camp (3960m)
Our trek started with an ascent with far-reaching panoramic views, walking in to the
climatic zone of the upland desert and on the lava ridges beneath the glaciers of the
Western Breach. We reached the distinct pinnacle of the Lava Tower (4640 m), our
high point for the day and a great place to enjoy our lunch. In the afternoon we made
a steep descent to our camp for the night, located in the base of the Great Barranco
Valley (3960 m), sheltered by towering cliffs but with extensive views of the plains
below. Our crew was waiting for us with cheerful songs and dance which immediately made us forget the difficulty of the day.
Distance covered: 10km / 6.2mi
Approx. time taken: 7 hrs

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DAY 4:

Day 6: Barranco Camp (3960m) to Karanga Camp (3963m)

When I woke up this morning I felt sick. Sadly the altitude sickness kicked in and I know exactly why. I didn’t drink 3l water the previous day as we were told to do. I had a very bad sleep during the night, woke up with a headache and felt lightheaded. As we left the camp I started to feel better and I made sure that I drank enough going forward.
Our day started by descending into the start of the Great Barranco, a huge ravine. We
then exited steeply, up the Great Barranco Wall, which divided us from the southeastern
slopes of Kibo. It’s a climb over rock, not technical but long and tiring. Passing
underneath the Heim and Kersten glaciers, we headed towards the Karanga valley. From
here we had a steep climb up from Karanga valley to our night’s camp at Karanga
camp, set at 3963m.  Upon arrival we went for acclimatisation trek up to around 4200m before descending back to camp for the night.
Distance covered: 5.5km / 3.4mi
Approx. time taken: 5 hours

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Day 5: Karanga Camp (3963) to Barafu Camp (4640m)
After a good night’s rest and breakfast, we set off on our walk to Barafu camp at
4640m. The climb took us across desolate scree slopes with no vegetation around
us at all. It was a tough steep walk made more difficult by the altitude. Somehow I was more energised on this day than the previous ones.

On arriving at camp we ate and spent the afternoon resting as we prepared for a long night and day ahead. I wanted to sleep in the afternoon but we just ended up resting. We had an early dinner, briefing about the summit night and then rest again. The group was divided into 2, group one left at 11pm and group 2 at 1am. We had tea and biscuits before.
Distance covered: 3km / 1.9mi
Approx. time taken: 3 hours

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DAY 6:

It was hard to put 6 layers on you because as soon as you moved you felt hot and bulky. We really looked like Michelin men. Before we set off we sang our motivational song:

HIP HIP, HOP HOP

NON STOP, TO THE TOP

ONE TEAM, ONE DREAM

ONE DREAM, ONE TEAM

RAAAAAAAAAAAAA

And here it started a painful 7hour – for some people 9- ascent first to Stella Point (5756m) then to Uhuru Peak (5895m). How could I describe this night…definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Endless line of torches going up…in pitch black, step by step- or in Swahili POLE POLE.

My water froze after 2 hours..my head was exploding…I was hot then cold, then hot, then cold..I was exhausted and I just couldn’t see how I can walk hours more in these conditions. I felt nauseous, just wanted to sit down and have a little rest but we couldn’t. If you spend too much time sitting, you will never get up due to the freezing temperatures. I was on the verge of giving up..several time. But my hero, our Chief Guide Mudi did not let me. He reminded me, as a leader of this group I needed to show example. There was no other option but to get up and go. After 4 hours we reached the first group, Richard and Karen were in that group and that’s when the emotional element came in. All of us in tears..desperate to reach the top..in the end we all made it. At Stella we got a new source of energy. Our guides and summit porters were literally our foundations..the rock solid pillars carrying our bags, carrying hot tea for us and keeping us alive on this gut-wrenching mission to get to the roof of Africa. When the sun came up….that was the moment of hope.

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Throughout the whole climb we were ‘chasing’ the Comic Relief group and we ended up summiting the same time as they did 🙂 BBC crew, Red Nose Day outfits…we all went through the same feelings at the same time. Having watched their programme after arriving home…it didn’t do the climb justice. 

The descent back to base-camp was not a relief, running down in shale was not fun for already tired legs. Incredible that we made it down in just under 2.5h back to Barafu camp. I felt exhausted. Even food could not get me excited. I skipped lunch, went to my tent and slept. But not for long as on the same day we had to leave the base camp and head to Mweka Camp for a long well-earned rest.
Distance covered: 16.4km / 9.6mi
Approx. time taken: 13hours – 15hours
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DAY 7:

A gentle trek took us down through the rainforest to Mweka Gate, where we
completed park formalities. We played some games along the way down, and really felt a sense of achievement (it only took us 24h to finally have this feeling!!!)
Distance covered: 9.1km / 7.5miles
Approx. time taken: 6 hours

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On the way to the hotel…at a random petrol station…3 cars pulled in….and there they were..THE CELEBRITIES! :)) And a selfie with my ultimate favourite Dani Dyer:)

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The climb for me was an incredible experience. It was so much harder than I expected due to a combination of continuous walking every day, lack of sleep, being cold and out in the wind and cold during the night in the tent along with the impact of the high altitude and lack of oxygen. It was wonderful to share the journey with our group and we became excellent friends throughout the week sharing jokes and conversations about topics we would never have raised at home.

As we finished the trek one day before planned we arranged a safari for the day after! Everyone was so enthusiastic and happy as some of us had never been on a safari before and this was a true bonus! So after the well deserved celebratory night at Masailand hotel in Arusha next day we got picked up at 5.30am and went on a fabulous day safari to Tarangiri National Park. We were super fortunate to see a pride of lions devouring a warthog and elephants eating from a tree.

Just a few picks of what we saw….

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In the afternoon we had a pool party in our hotel, and some drinks to celebrate our fantastic trip. Oinoth came and distributed our certificates, we said emotional goodbye to each other and some people flew home the next day, some of us went to Zanzibar and Pemba. So the next 6 days were very different, Richard and I stayed in this beautiful place, paradise on Earth called Manta resort. The journey here is worth to elaborate a little. Kilimanjaro airport- Zanzibar- normal plane, Zanzibar Pemba: a 12 seater little plane. My personal favourite..flies 4500m high and with a little wind could be the worst nightmare of your life….

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A few pictures on our paradise:

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We did some diving but sadly the Manta rays are avoiding Pemba as in the past the locals hunted them down…I’m still upset about this…hopefully an education programme is being prepared for this part of the world on protected sea life!

On this resort you really don’t need to worry about much, all- inclusive, spa treatments included, wonderful meals being served, top service with the local people’s charm. Our fundi was Lucas. We really bonded with him. Always smiling, always funny! Lucas is the BEST! We also met some wonderful people on this resort, an Italian couple who came here for their 25th Wedding Anniversary.

We also used an outdoor gym where the weights were made out of local products including concrete mass in sand buckets.

The real splurge of the trip was staying for one night in the resort’s underwater room. Wow. This was something special. 24h you live in a luxurious aquarium and can enjoy an underwater show! But the beauty was not just this…the sunset dinner, gazing stars at night from the sun deck,  watching the local fishermen’s everyday life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have a trip like this. Take every chance you get in life, because some things only happen once.

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I am organising another trip to Kilimanjaro in 2020. For more information visit:

https://www.lizstyleliving.com/climb-kilimanjaro

 

I looked at my blog the other day and realised that the last post is from April last year! Gone are those days when I posted after every country I visited! But…better late than never.

Let me share with you my adventure last August in Morocco. First of all, this trip and update would not have been written without my dear friend Sasha, who had this amazing idea last January to do a challenge, namely a 4167m mountain, North Africa’s highest peak: Mount Toubkal.

I said without hesitation that I would like to do this with her! It was an  amazing idea, and it sounded like a mini travelling trip. Climbing a mountain with a backpack and a group!

She was surprised herself how many of her friends were interested in doing this summit with her, so we formed a little group of 9 people : Sasha and her friend Nuno, Amanda, Julia with her 18 year old son, Will, Joy with her 12 year old called Hugo, my friend Jodie and myself.

They arrived at Marrakech in the morning of the 27th August, me and Jodie arrived late afternoon. They all waited for us at the airport. As I came out of the plane that tropical heat hit me and I felt I was in paradise…

We got through immigration ok, got a nice stamp in the passport, found Sasha and the others, and drove in 2 cars to the starting point of the trek, Imlil. Imlil is a small Berber village, 1740m above sea level. The Film ‘Seven years in Tibet‘ was partly filmed in the village.

We were greeted with Berber tea in a mansion by one of our guides, Rachid. The architecture in Morocco is stunning!

We got the closest room downstairs with Jodie and Sasha and the others occupied the rest of the mansion..the real paradise opened up when I went up to the terrace at the top, and saw this:DSC_8170

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It was again the same pair as on my travels..the nature and I!!  Bright stars shining up there, light breeze and the smell of a new land, and soon dinner!

We had lovely first meal, lots of small dishes on the table, tagine, chicken, couscous, salads.

We spent the evening chatting to our guides and getting ready mentally for the challenge.

The next morning after breakfast we divided our belongings into 3 groups. One that we did not need for the 3 day trek, one that we did need but only when we arrive at the camp in the afternoon- this was carried by the mules- and the smallest pack was what we needed for the walk. Water, snacks, toilet paper etc.

Some people hired walking sticks. The tent was provided by Jamal’s company, I took my own sleeping bag which I specifically bought for this trip.

When I put on my walking boots I remembered all those miles that they walked on different terrains and lands…sweet memories!

So the first day was superb! Beautiful landscapes with some challenging parts. I think everyone can agree with me when I say that beyond the  scenery and the physical challenge, the ‘al fresco’ lunches and dinners were the  highlights! Absolutely beautiful presentation of food and incredible tastes…and what never missed from the table, the well deserved Moroccan fresh mint tea! The name of the place where we had lunch was Tizi Mizik at 2489m. On the way to Tamsoult refuge (2250m) there were loads of goats. Nuno connected with the goats and learnt their way of communication which still haunts us..that very specific sound effect…’BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’.

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Now the first night’s accommodation is something I will not forget for a while. I think it’s an understatement that we had adverse weather conditions. Strong stormy wind, rain and cold!

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It was Joy’s 50th Birthday so the guides prepared a lovely cake for her and we all sang and celebrated with her. It was a very special moment.

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Nuno, Sasha and Jodie decided to take the challenge that the weather has thrown in front of them and sleep in tents instead of the room that looked rather like a horse stall with some mats on the floor.

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In the morning we shared our stories during the night. I don’t think anyone slept more than 4 hours.

After breakfast we had a morning hike to the waterfalls

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But then we turned around and the guides delivered the bad news that we were unable to continue our way towards Toubkal because of the bad weather. Everyone was disappointed as we all wanted to experience altitude, but instead the guides decided on a more ‘cultural ‘ route.

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The plan was to head to another lodge for lunch.  On the way we passed little villages: Tizi Oussem at 2,350m and Eid Isa at 1700m and stopped for lunch.  Our guide then informed us that he got a call from another tour group that nobody could ascend that day due to bad weather.

This was a bit of a consolation for us and then we all cheered up and the group was very united and content.

By 4:30pm we were close to our next camping spot.  While some rested under the tree, Will, Joy, Hugo, Sasha and I climbed one of the surrounding mountains (2400m) for fun and took photos at the top surrounded by the rest of the atlas mountain range.  The rest of the group went to the camp-site at 2100m.

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Me and Rachid waited for the sun to settle then walked to the camp. The camp site was lovely and open, weather was great and as the sun set, a full moon appeared. It was the best night!

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Next morning..we woke up knowing that it was out last day in the mountains. We packed and started walking towards Imlil where we started the trek.

Going downhill was a lot easier and we played games along the way. As we descended one of our muleteers told us that another group lost a mule off the edge of a cliff due to high winds. This was the breaking news in the mountains! This is when we realised how nice it was being without television, iPad, phone etc. We truly connected with nature on this trip.

We stopped by a creek to have lunch and soak our feet in the stream and I think this made everyone realise how great it would be to have shower after 3 days in the wild! On our way back we stopped by an argan oil co-operative and watched women extract argan oil and various products made from it. I did a bit of shopping I have to admit:)

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Once the lodge was in sight, Amanda was the first to break from the group desperately wanting a shower.

We all then arrived one by one and got cleaned up and went through everyone’s photos to re-live the whole experience again.

Most of the people had their flights next day from Marrakech. Jodie and I  had our hotel booked there from next day as well but I was not ready to leave nature! I managed to convince Jodie to try to do the summit in 2 days, which would have still left us with 2 days in Marrakech. Unfortunately Rachid had another group waiting for him but Omar did take us up for £90 which was an excellent price for the extension.

Sasha left her boots with Jodie which was amazing because otherwise Jodie wouldn’t have had comfortable enough shoes to do the walk, and also like this at least the boots made it to the top even if Sasha couldn’t. We both hired walking sticks and next day we started the walk.

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It was a superb bonding walk for us..time flew as we chatted and we headed along the Mizane Valley, first towards the village of Aremd and then onto the shrine of Sidi Chamarouch.

Built on a moraine spur overlooking the valley floor, Aremd is the largest village in the valley and provides an interesting mix of traditional terraced farming, gites and streets that seem to be permanently gridlocked by goats and cattle. For generations the local Berber villagers have worked these lands, producing corn, potatoes and walnuts from the harsh landscape. Continuing east and crossing the flood plain our route took us along mule tracks and up into the high rocky cliffs above the valley. Crossing the river we eventually came to the pastoral shrine of Sidi Chamarouch, which attracts tourists and pilgrims alike (although only Muslims are allowed to cross the stone bridge to visit the marabout shrine itself). The village sits besides a small waterfall, a jumbled cluster of houses that seem to melt together into an anarchic mass. From here the trail continued to climb steadily, snaking and zigzagging its way up to the
snowline and the Toukbal Refuge (3206m), our stop for the night. Approx 5hrs walking.

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The night was fun! We had a shower which we did not expect at all after the first 3 days’ experience. We also had a very cosy dinner. Only our guide, our cook, Mohammed and a fellow climber, Jodie and I.

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We planned our big next day and set the starting time to 2am! Now this sounds scary but we both thought that getting there for sunrise is the way to go!

I will remember this walk forever! 4-5 different terrains and the only light you have is the moon light. We all decided not to use our little head torch because the moon light was perfectly enough and romantic. After 3 hours walking the altitude kicked in which made some parts difficult.

Finally around 6.15am we found ourselves on the plateau, from where it was a short walk to the summit and the vistas out across the surrounding landscape were quite breathtaking. From here there were unrestricted views in every direction, from the Marrakesh Plain to the High Atlas in the north and as far south as the Anti-Atlas and the Sahara. Pliny, the great Roman scholar, once described the High Atlas Mountains as “the most fabulous mountains in all of Africa” and from our vantage point high above the valley it is easy to understand why.

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It was freezing. Omar did not want to wait 30 minutes for the sunrise but Jodie and I did ..we were the only ones at the top which made the whole experience magical!

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Omar left us there and started making his way down. He waited for us at certain ‘stones’ to show us the way. The descent was hard, slippery and tiring. Once you saw the main attraction you just wanted to be easy on your knees and get down.

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After a few hours of ‘sliding down’ we reached the base camp, had some food, packed our bags and continued descending. We did not go back to Imlil – the transport came to pick us up at a different village. We said goodbye to Omar and Mohammed and made it safe but tired to Marrakech.

Marrakech was a big shock after spending 5 full days in the nature. Motorbikes, mopeds everywhere, the old town was rather a shock as it was not very developed but the hotel was very nice and people there were friendly. I cannot really say the same thing of people in Marrakech working in ‘tourism’ (that includes scammers). If you did not buy from them on the souks they would tell you to go back where you came from and similar nice things.

Of course we met lovely people as well – every country has good and bad people. The souks were amazing. I got lost with Jodie in the world of bargaining, Moroccan lamps, jewellery, tea pots, rugs and other traditional hand made (or made in China) items.

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We visited Yves Saint Lauren’s garden outside the old town which was beautiful.

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We also had a very traditional hammam experience..no pictures to show here:)

Overall the trip was amazing and I’d like to say massive thanks to my friend Sasha for organising it for us. I am very grateful for sharing this experience with all the lovely people in our group. Since the trip we had a catch up in Souk Medina in London and I hope we will keep in touch in future!