Saturday 30 March 2019

NEPAL: Visit Lumbini But Do Not Climb Onto Statues Or Other Sacred Objects, Dress Respectfully.

Lumbini is the sacred site of the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha. It is located in southern Nepal, near the Indian border.Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Rupandehi District of Province No. 5 in Nepal.

It is the place where, according to Buddhist tradition, Queen Mahamayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BCE. Gautama, who achieved Enlightenment some time around 528 BCE became the Buddha and founded Buddhism.

Lumbini is one of many magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in places pivotal to the life of the Buddha.

Lumbini has a number of older temples, including the Mayadevi Temple, and various new temples, funded by Buddhist organisations from various countries, have been completed or are still under construction.

Many monuments, monasteries and a museum, and the Lumbini International Research Institute are also within the holy site. Also, there is the Puskarini, or Holy Pond, where the Buddha's mother took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he had his first bath.

At other sites near Lumbini, earlier Buddhas were, according to tradition, born, then achieved ultimate Enlightenment and finally relinquished their earthly forms.

Lumbini was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.

In the Buddha's time, Lumbini was situated in east of Kapilavastu and southwest Devadaha of Shakya, an oligarchic republic. According to Buddhist tradition, it was there, that the Buddha was born. A pillar discovered at Rummindei in 1896 is believed to mark the spot of Ashoka's visit to Lumbini.

The site was not known as Lumbini before the pillar was discovered. According to an inscription on the pillar, it was placed there by the people then in charge of the park to commemorate Ashoka visit and gifts. The park was previously known as Rummindei, 3.2 km north of Bhagavanpura.

The Sutta Nipata states that the Buddha was born in a village of the Sakyans in the Lumbineyya Janapada. The Buddha stayed in Lumbinivana during his visit to Devadaha and there preached the Devadaha Sutta.

Pillars of Ashoka, in 1896, General Khadga Samsher Rana and Alois Anton Führer discovered a great stone pillar at Rummindei, according to the crucial historical records made by the ancient Chinese monk-pilgrim Xuanzang in the 7th century CE and by another ancient Chinese monk-pilgrim Faxian in the early 5th century CE.

The Brahmi inscription on the pillar gives evidence that Ashoka, emperor of the Maurya Empire, visited the place in 3rd-century BCE and identified it as the birth-place of the Buddha. The inscription was translated by Paranavitana.

Then King Devanampriya Priyadarsin had been anointed twenty years, he came himself and worshipped at this spot because the Buddha Shakyamuni was born here.

Both caused to be made a stone bearing a horse and caused a stone pillar to be set up, in order to show that the Blessed One was born here. He made the village of Lummini free of taxes, and paying only an eighth share of the produce.

The Rummindei Edict, one of the Minor Pillar Edicts of Ashoka

At the top of the pillar, there is a second inscription by king Ripumalla 13-14th century CE, who is also known from an inscription at the Nigali Sagar pillar:

Om mani padme hum May Prince Ripu Malla be long victorious.

Inscription of King Ripumalla on the Lumbini pillar of Ashoka, 13-14th century.

A second pillar of Ashoka is located about 22 kilometers to the northwest of Lumbini, the Nigali Sagar pillar with inscription, and a third one 24 kilometers to the west, the Gotihawa pillar without inscription.

Excavation at the Mayadevi Temple in 2013 beneath existing brick structures at the Mayadevi Temple at Lumbini provide evidence for an older timber structure beneath the walls of a brick Buddhist shrine built during the Ashokan era, 3rd-century BCE.

The layout of the Ashokan shrine closely follows that of the earlier timber structure, which suggests a continuity of worship at the site. The pre-Mauryan timber structure appears to be an ancient tree shrine.

Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the wooden postholes and optically stimulated luminescence dating of elements in the soil suggests human activity began at Lumbini around 1000 BCE. The site, states Coningham, may be a Buddhist monument from 6th-century BCE.

Other scholars state that the excavations revealed nothing that is Buddhist, and they only confirm that the site predates the Buddha.

Lumbini is 4.8 km (3 mi) in length and 1.6 km (1.0 mi) in width. The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone in which only monasteries can be built, no shops, hotels or restaurants.

It is separated into an eastern and western monastic zone, the eastern having the Theravadin monasteries, the western having Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries.

There is a long water filled canal separating the western and eastern zones, with a series of brick arch bridges joining the two sides along the length. The canal is serviced by simple outboard motor boats at the north end which provides tours.

The holy site of Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Ashokan pillar and the Mayadevi Temple, where the supposed place of birth of Buddha is located.

From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.

Nipponzan Myohoji decided to build a Peace Pagoda in the park in 2001, which is visited by many different cultures and religions every day.

Because some Hindus regard the Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu, thousands of Hindus have begun to come here on pilgrimage during the full moon of the Nepali month of Baisakh which is April–May to worship Queen Mayadevi as Rupa Devi, the mother goddess of Lumbini.

Lumbini was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1997.

Nepal's central bank has introduced a 100-rupee Nepali note featuring Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. The Nepal Rastra Bank said the new note would be accessible only during the Dashain, Nepal's major festival in October 2013.

It displays the portrait of Mayadevi, Gautam Buddha's mother in silver metallic on the front. The note also has a black dot which would help the blind recognise the note.

The name of the central bank in Latin script would be printed on the note along with the date of printing in both the Christian Era and the Bikram Era. The new note is being issued following a cabinet decision 27 August.

Lumbini is a 10-hour drive from Kathmandu and a 30-minute drive from Bhairahawa. The closest airport is Gautam Buddha Airport at Bhairahawa, with flights to and from Kathmandu.

The India border town of Sonauli in Maharajganj district is 1 hour drive from Lumbini and Nautanwa railway stations in India is just few kilometres away and nearest big city is Gorakhpur which is about 100km and is 4 hours drive from Lumbini.

Sights you should visit in Lumbini:

- Maya Devi Temple

- World Peace Pagoda

- Myanmar Golden Temple

- Ashoka Pillar

- Lumbini Crane Sanctuary

The nearest airport to Lumbini, that is, the Gautam Buddha Airport in Bhairahawa, is currently undergoing upgradation work. This small domestic airport is soon expected to become an international airport, with latest deadline set for 2019.

The upgradation work of the airport has also caught the eye of investors and hoteliers, and a series of new hotels are being constructed now in and around Lumbini, hoping to catch in on the expected international tourist boom once the airport upgradation work is complete.
Great Drigung Kagyud lotus Stupa

In the Buddha's time, Lumbini was a park situated in Kapilavastu Nepal. It was in Lumbini that the Buddha was born. A pillar now marks the spot of Asoka's visit to Lumbiní.

According to an inscription on the pillar, it was placed there by the people then in charge of the park to commemorate Asoka's visit and gifts. The park was previously known as Rummindei, two miles north of Bhagavanpura.

In the Sutta Nipata it is stated that the Buddha was born in a village of the Sakyans, in the Lumbineyya Janapada. The Buddha stayed in Lumbinivana during his visit to Devadaha and there preached the Devadaha Sutta.

The closest airport is at Bhairahawa which is also known as Sidhhartha Nagar 22km, where there are flights to and from Kathmandu. Other airports serving more destinations include Gorakhpur and Faizabad in India.

Bhairahawa, is the nearest airport to get Lumbini if you want to fly from Kathmandu.

The closest station is at Nautanwa, India on the Indian Railway network, but passenger trains are infrequent on this line. The alternative of taxi travel from the border crossing at Sunauli to Gorakhpur takes about two hours. From Sunauli, Siddharthanagar is only 3.5 kilometers.

Total travel time is 12 – 18 hours from Dehli and 10 – 12 hours from Kolkata or Calcutta. The Mahaparinirvan Express tourist train stops in Gorakhpur where tourists continue to Lumbini by road.

Buses ply the route between Sunauli from stop across from Hotel Yeti and Lumbini. At Lumbini alight at the main gate.

Alternatively, from the Nepal side of the border one can take a shared jeep to Bhairahawa 4 kilometers followed by a bus to Lumbini. Bhairahawa-Lumbini buses depart every 15 minutes. The last return bus departs at 5 PM.

Buses also run from Kathmandu, Pokhara, Gorakhpur and Varanasi to Sunauli. Gorakhpur to Sunauli state transport buses are reasonably frequent.

Taxis are probably the best option for reaching Lumbini from Sunauli, though you will need to know the going rate to avoid paying well over the odds. As everywhere else in the sub-continent, ensure that the fare has been agreed before heading out. This will save trouble at the destination.

Given that the sights in Lumbini are far across, bicycles and cycle rickshaws offer a good way to get around. Bicycles can be rented at hotels in Lumbini 100 NRs/day, as well as the Korean monastery provided you are staying there.

Bicycles are also available near the main gate next to the cycle rickshaw stand. Make sure of the condition of the tires, as a flat will mean pushing it back over miles. Also check the condition of the seat and the lock.

Ashokan Pillar is an inscribed pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka in 249 BC on the spot of Buddha's birth. The inscription, which is the oldest in Nepal, grants Lumbini a tax-free status in honor of Buddha’s birth.

Buddhist Temples, there are foundations of temples dating from the 2nd century BC to the 9th century AD, and two modern temples: one in Tibetan style, the Dharma Swami Maharaja Buddha Temple, which was built by the king of Mustang, and one Nepalese Theravada style building, the Lumbini Buddha Vihar, which was built by the Nepalese government and contains Tibetan-style frescoes and Newari-style Buddhist images.

Outside the main complex, there are other temples built in the styles of countries where Buddhism is the predominant religion, such as Chinese, Japanese and Burmese.

The Japan Peace Stupa, the 41m imposing structure is situated at the northern end of the gardens.

The Lumbini Museum displays artifacts from the Mauryan and Kushana periods, religious manuscripts and other items discovered at the site. Closed on Tuesdays.

The Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI) is devoted to the study of Buddhism and other religions. It houses an extensive collection of books on religion, art and architecture.

The Golden Temple of Myanmar Oldest structure and beautiful work on temple building.

Soak up the peaceful atmosphere, conducive to meditation and reflection.

Hire a bike, you can barter for any bike for 50 rupees- and bike around the temples. There are a few no bike zones, the best way to get to the majority of temples is to come out of the main tourist road and turn right onto the main road then left through the first main gate to the park.

Lots of trinkets and religious paraphernalia are for sale near the entrance to the complex, including Buddha snow globes and stickers. A couple of shops in the village near the bus stop stock more of the same plus a bit more.

There are a couple of dhabas near the bus stop in the village. They all serve the same fare: puri in the morning, curry during the day, at 20 NRs a portion. Right at the beginning of the of the one street that is Lumbini village there is a rooftop restaurant 3 Foxes.

Close to the bus stop you'll find the 365 Restaurant. A red bulding. Nice cheap restaurant with friendly staff, they serve good asian and western food. Momos Veg with Chilly just 120 Rupees.

Two small shops will sell you local spirits to take out.

Mayadevi guest house, lumbini bazzar in the main market.

New Cottage Lodge (M. Prabin Goswami), cheap lodge suitable for bag packer.

Lumbini Garden Lodge - 300-800 NRs Situated in the main bazaar, east to the Main gate at just about 1 minute walk. The Mayadevi Temple is just 10 minute walk from this hotel, so the location is very good. The rooms at Lumbini Garden Lodge are clean and well maintained.

They have big and nice rooms with attached bath and shared bath as well. Windows have mosquito nets too. They also WIFI connectivity which is fast. It is peaceful to sit in the Balcony and get the view of Lumbini Bazaar.

Korean Monastery: sleep in a dorm for 300 NRs, including 3 meals a day; No smoking outside the gates it is allowed, no music, dancing, card games, etc.

Sri-Lankan Pilgrims' Rest House, about a 15 to 20 minute walk from main site.

The Holy Birth, about a 5 minute walk from Maya Devi temple, behind Yeti Bank.

Gautam Buddha Lodge - 200-400 NRs is situated in A nearby village. The owners are rude and the rooms seem to be infested with mosquitoes, spiders and cockroaches. Far from the main entrance.

Pawan International Hotel, Main Road, Siddtha Nagar.

Hotel Nirvana, Paklihawa rd, Siddtha Nagar.

Hotel Glasgow pvt ltd Bank Road, Siddtha Nagar.

Sunflower Travellers Lodge Buddhanagar Lumbini Nepal, tel: +977 71 580-004. Sunflower Travellers Lodge has A/C and non-A/C rooms. Its ran by very polite and helpful Chinese staff and the rooms are cleaned very frequently. They have laundry service, Wi-fi, message, and vehicle booking.

The lodge's Chinese food is great and also has a western kitchen and wide selection of western deserts.

Buddha Bhoomi Guest House, In front of Lumbini east gate. All rooms have twin beds with attached bathroom, 24 hour running of hot and cold water, A/C and non-A/C rooms + Free wifi. Buddha Bhoomi Guest house also have good restaurant, fresh and hygienic foods.

Buddha Maya Gardens Hotel.

Lumbini Hotel Kasai. Opened in 2009 in the Lumbini Sacred Garden, this Japanese-managed hotel offer rooms with air-con, refrigerator, en-suite bathrooms, and TOTO washlet.

Japanese and Indian cuisine, prepared from fresh organic vegetables direct from hotel's garden, are served in the restaurant. Airport shuttles are available.

Always do the following:

- Wear clothing that expresses respect for the sacred nature of the site.

- Walk or go about or around the stupas and other sacred objects in a clockwise direction.

- Preserve the peace and tranquillity.

- Do not climb onto statues or other sacred objects.

Tourist Busses to Pokhara are for 700 Rupees available. You can buy them directly at the Bus stop or in your hotel.

There is one Tourist Bus to Kathmandu, with A.C for 1200 Rupee.

Tourism Observer

PAKISTAN: Taxila, One Of The Most Important Archaeological Sites In Pakistan

Dharmarajika stupa,Taxila
Taxila is an ancient city in Pakistan, just 30kms north of Islamabad. Taxila is one of the most important archaeological sites in Pakistan and the world. 18 of its sites are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The city dates back to the Ancient GandhAran city of Takshashila or Takkasila or Taxila an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist center of learning from the 6th century BC to the 5th century CE.

This is the region from where Buddhism travelled to the far east - and Persians, Greeks under Alexander the Great, Central Asians and Hindus all subsequently left their mark.

You can watch the sun set from the remains of a Buddhist monastery or wander through the streets of an excavated Persian city in the knowledge that there are two older ones buried below. Today, Taxila is the center of Pakistan's engineering industry.

Taxila meaning City of Cut Stone or Takṣa Rock is an important archaeological site of the ancient Indian subcontinent, located in the city of Taxila in Punjab, Pakistan. It lies about 32 km (20 mi) north-west of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, just off the famous Grand Trunk Road.

Taxila was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 in particular for the ruins of the four settlement sites which reveal the pattern of urban evolution on the Indian subcontinent through more than five centuries.

The serial site includes a number of monuments and other historical places of note in the area besides the four settlements at Bhir, Saraikala, Sirkap, and Sirsukh. They count 18 in all:

- Khanpur Cave

- Saraikala, prehistoric mound

- Bhir Mound

- Sirkap, a fortified city.

- Sirsukh a fortified ruined city.

- Dharmarajika stupa and monastery.

- Khader Mohra or Akhuri.

- Kalawan group of buildings.

- Giri complex of monuments

- Kunala stupa and monastery

- Jandial complex

- Lalchak and Badalpur Buddhist stuppa

- Mohra Moradu stupa and monastery

- Pippala stupa and monastery

- Jaulian stupa and monastery

- Lalchak mounds

- Buddhist remains around Bhallar stupa

- Giri Mosque and tombs

In a 2010 report, Global Heritage Fund identified Taxila as one of 12 worldwide sites most on the Verge of irreparable loss and damage, citing insufficient management, development pressure, looting, and war and conflict as primary threats.

In 2017, it was announced that Thailand would assist in conservation efforts at Taxila, as well as at Buddhist sites in the Swat Valley.

Historically, Takṣasila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes:

The uttarapatha, the northern road—the later Grand Trunk Road or GT Road—the royal road which connected Gandhara in the west to the kingdom of Magadha and its capital Paṭaliputra in the valley of the Ganges in the east.

The northwestern route through Bactria, Kapisa, and Puṣkalavati.

The Sindu or Indus River route from Kashmir and Central Asia, via Srinagar, Mansehra, and the Haripur valley across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south. The Khunjerab passes between Kashmir and Xinjiang—the current Karakoram highway—and was traversed in antiquity.

Taxila is home to a vast network of ancient ruins, connected by road. Unfortunately, the museum there is quite small and without much information aside from a brief timeline. You should read about the site before you go, as the museum won't tell you very much.

There are no dioramas or reconstructions of what the sites looked like, so you'll need to use your imagination.

The main ruins of Taxila are divided into three major cities, each belonging to a distinct time period. The oldest of these is the Hathial area, which yielded surface shards similar to burnished red wares or soapy red wares recovered from early phases at Charsadda, and may date between the 6th century BCE and the late 2nd millennium BCE.

Bhir Mound dates from the 6th century BCE. The second city of Taxila is located at Sirkap and was built by Greco-Bactrian kings in the 2nd century BCE. The third and last city of Taxila is at Sirsukh and relates to the Kushan kings.

In addition to the ruins of the city, a number of buddhist monasteries and stupas also belong to the Taxila area.

Some of the important ruins of this category include the ruins of the stupa at Dharmarajika, built by Maurya emperor Ashoka, where according to local custom bone and tooth fragments from the Buddha were buried, and where a Greek-style statue of Aphrodite was unearthed.

There is also the monastery at Jaulian, the monastery at Mohra Muradu in addition to a number of stupas.

From Islamabad International Airport you can go in and out of Taxila.

Taxila is located 30kms north of Islamabad. You can hire a Taxi or a Car.

You may get around via Taxi or Car

The museum costs 500 rupees for foreigners, and 20 rupees for foreigners from SAR countries. To get entrance to the ruins, it's an additional 500 rupees. You may pay at the museum or the ruins.

At the ruins, self-deputized tour guides may begin to show you around. Frequently their English is not very good and they don't really tell you anything you can't read from the signs, then strongly imply that they want a tip.

If you want some local color, go ahead, but otherwise tell them to thanks immediately. But now some educated guides are offering there services. You may be approached by numerous guides at each site. In addition, people selling trinkets like small statues and allegedly old coins may come up to you.

Taxila Travel & Tours, Malik Waheed Plaza, near barrier #1Taxila. Tour Organiser, Provide Guide, Transport, Meal and stay in Taxila.

There is little shade at Taxila and it may be very hot. But it is at some spots, overall Taxila is Rich in Greanery with fountains. Bring water, a hat, and sunscreen.

More sites to visit:

- Taxila Museum dedicated mainly to the remains of Gandhara civilization.

- Mughal Garden

You may have meals at the below Restaurants:

- Gandhara Restaurant

- DreamLand Hotel & Restaurant

Though be advised you may get sick. A better option is to bring your own snacks and eat a meal in Islamabad.

Along the main highway to and from the various ruin sites there are a number of shacks selling trinkets, pots, and a local phenomenon nicknamed the Disco cat.

The disco cat is a plaster statue of a cat or panther, covered in small square pieces of mirror, much like a disco ball. Small ones should run you 600 rupees, while larger ones can be 2,000 or more. They make a great conversation piece or gift.

No separate accommodation is needed for Taxila, one can easily stay in Islamabad and visit Taxila. But If you still need accommodation in Taxila then there is PTDC motel which is located in front of Museum and certain other rest houses in Taxila.

PTDC Motel, though the rooms are basic and can use some extra cleaning, it's an acceptable lodging.
Across from the museum.

Gandhara Motel, this hotel offers much better value than the nearby PTDC hotel.
On Khanpur Road a few hundred meters south of the museum.

Tourism Observer

Friday 29 March 2019

ETHIOPIA: Sidama People And Sidama Coffee

The Sidama people are an ethnic Cushitic peoples traditionally inhabiting the Sidama Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR) in Ethiopia.

They speak the Sidamo language which is a language of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Despite their large numbers they currently lack a separate ethnic regional state.

The Sidama preserved their cultural heritage, including their traditional religion and language until the late 1880s during the conquest by Emperor Menelik II.

Before this, the Sidama had their own well-established administrative systems that dated at least to the 9th century, though it was made up of a loose coalition of Sidama kingdoms. These kingdoms extended into the Gibe region.

As a result of marginalization and since the language does not have its own alphabet, very little has been written on Sidama issues. Many were not able to attend school until after the Derg came to power in 1975.

They number 3.8 million 4.01% of the population of whom 149,480 are urban inhabitants, the fifth most populous ethnic group in Ethiopia. Their language is called Sidaamu-afoo, which according to the 1994 national census was the mother language of 99.5% of this ethnic group.

According to one authority, the majority of the Sidama practice their traditional beliefs, and only in the 1960s that European missionaries came to their region did any leave that faith.

However, according to the 1994 national census, only 14.9% practice traditional beliefs while the majority (66.8%) are Protestant, 7.7% Muslim, 4.6% Catholic, and 2.3% practice Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.

Today, the Sidama area has only a small number of schools, and inadequate health services, though primary education has increased recently. The people have repeatedly complained that Sidama does not have regional autonomy in the country and asked for the government to give the Sidama people their own region.

First, the Sidama people constitute about 20% of the total population in the Southern region, with a significant economic contribution to the central government.

Second, the 40 smaller ethnic groups in the region belong to the three main socio-cultural and linguistic groups namely, Kushitic groups: Sidama, Alaba, Tambaro, Qewenna, Danta (Dubamo), Maraqo, Konso, Hadiya, Kambata; Omotic groups: Wolayta, Gamo, Gofa, Dawuro, Konta, etc., and Semitic group: Gurage.

After the downfall of the Military regime in 1991, the Transitional Government endorsed five separate regions within the current SNNPR region. These regions were established based on socio-cultural, linguistic and economic similarities.

They followed similar administrative arrangement made by the previous regime shortly before its downfall. Sidama, Gedeo and Burji belonged to one of the five independent regions within the current SNNPR. However, those five regions were dissolved without consultation with the peoples of the region.

Third, proper administrative arrangement is essential for administrative efficacy, effective delivery of social and economic services and broader economic development.

Those against autonomy argue that with the SNNPR being a condensed region with the most ethnic groups concentrated in a small territory, carving out boundaries that historically never existed and are often violently disputed between ethnicities in order to give autonomy to the more than 40 ethnic groups is virtually impossible.

Sidama Zone is a zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia. It is named for the Sidama people, whose homeland is in the zone.

Sidama is bordered on the south by the Oromia Region except for a short stretch in the middle where it shares a border with Gedeo zone, on the west by the Bilate River, which separates it from Wolayita zone, and on the north and east by the Oromia Region.

Towns in Sidama include Hawassa,the capital of Sidama and SNNPRS, Yirgalem and Wendo. Sidama has a population of around 3.2 million in 2017 who speak the Cushitic language Sidama also known as Sidamigna.

Sidama has 879 kilometers of all-weather roads and 213 kilometers of dry-weather roads, for an average road density of 161 kilometers per 1,000 square kilometers.

Sidama Zone is the leading coffee producing zone in Ethiopia, which contributes greatly to the foreign exchange of the federal government.

The Central Statistical Agency (CSA) reported that 63,562 tons of coffee were produced in Sidama and Gedeo combined in the year ending in 2005, based on inspection records from the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea authority. This represents 63% of the SNNPR's output and 28% of Ethiopia's total output.

The Zone is also rich in water resources, which are underutilized. The leading causes of morbidity and mortality in SNNP region are mostly attributable to lack of clean drinking water, poor sanitation, and low public awareness of environmental health and personal hygiene practices.

There is a high value attached to livestock by the Sidama, among whom a person without cattle is not regarded as a fully-grown social person, but as an outcast. Cattle numbers are good indicator of wealth, and gives chief popularity for the farmer who owns more cattle.

Nearly 95% of the Sidama live a life centered on agriculture. An important staple food is the wesse plant, or Ensete. Other crops are also grown and they breed cattle.

Perhaps the most important source of income is coffee,and chat or khat trees are the major source of income and area is a major contributor to coffee production, producing a high percentage of export coffee for the central government, second only to the Oromia region.

The Sidama farmers have been affected by hunger caused by declining world market prices for coffee, despite supplying the popular coffee chain Starbucks with the majority of their coffee products from the region.

Most residents are subsistence farmers. Cattle especially, are a measure of wealth. Sidama grows several crop types. It is a major coffee growing area, with coffee the most popular agricultural product in the zone. Its prized coffee is sold on the world market.

Coffee exports contribute revenue and foreign exchange for the country and the production and exchange of coffee has been used as the main economic power of people living in Sidama.

Despite Ethiopia’s vast resources of land, water and labor, it remains among the poorest countries in Africa and the world. It has been unable to use its resources effectively to prevent famine, reduce poverty, and support its rapidly increasing population.

The communities in Sidama Zone have been practicing integrated agriculture with crop production like Enset false banana, wheat, maize, sugar cane, etc. and livestock for their survival and as income generation.

The majority of the communities are producing coffee, which is the main cash crop and main income generating agricultural activity.

Though the community gets good income from coffee selling, they become rich only for three months during coffee production and selling months and become poor the remaining nine months, due to poor financial management and weak savings.

The Sidama economy is based primarily on subsistence agriculture characterized by archaic production techniques. However, coffee has been the major source of income for rural households in a substantial part of Sidama.

Although the recent plunge in international coffee price drew most of these households back into the subsistence production and absolute poverty as coffee prices fell dramatically even during the commodity price boom of 2001 to mid-2008.

Sidama is one of the major coffee producing regions in Ethiopia. It supplies over 40% of washed coffee to the central market. Coffee is the single major export earner for the country. Export earnings from coffee ranges from 60-67% although the country's share in the world market is less than 3%.

The Sidama people have not faced major hunger and famine until very recently. Due to reliable rainfall and evergreen land area, they were always able to produce enough to ensure food security. The society has been characterized by what one may call a low level economic equilibrium.

Even the 1984 great famine that hit all other parts of the country did not have a major impact in Sidama.

However, a continued dependence on subsistence agriculture, which relies on archaic technology and vagaries of nature coupled with massive growth of rural population, and limited rural development, has made Sidama prone to frequent hunger and famine recently.

Thus about a quarter of the total population in Sidama is directly or indirectly dependent on food aid from the international community today

Sidama coffee: The first reference to coffee in the English language is in the form chaoua, dated to 1598. In English and other European languages, coffee derives from the Ottoman Turkish kahve, via the Italian caffe.

The Turkish word, in turn, was borrowed from the Arabic: qahwah. Arab lexicographers maintain that qahwah originally referred to a type of wine, and gave its etymology, in turn, to the verb qaha, signifying to have no appetite, since this beverage was thought to dull one's hunger.

Several alternative etymologies exist that hold that the Arab form may disguise a loanword from an Ethiopian or African source, suggesting Kaffa, the highland in southwestern Ethiopia as one, since the plant is indigenous to that area. However, the term used in that region for the berry and plant is bunn, the native name in Shoa being bun.

Ethiopian ancestors of today's Oromo people were believed to have been the first to recognize the energizing effect of the coffee plant. In Ethiopia, coffee originated in Keffa Zone, also in the SNNP region.

This Zone has agro-ecological, agricultural practice and socio-cultural similarity with Sidama Zone. As coffee is a commercial crop and it becomes one of the best sources of foreign currency, the people in Sidama become very interested in large scale coffee production.

A substantial part of Sidama produces coffee, which is the major cash crop in the region. Coffee has been the major source of income for the rural households in the coffee producing regions of Sidama.

However, the recent plunge in international coffee price drew most of these households back into the subsistence production and absolute poverty coffee prices fell dramatically even during the commodity price boom of 2001 to mid-2008.

Sidama is one of the major coffee producing regions in Ethiopia. It supplies over 40% of washed coffee to the central market. Coffee is the single major export earner for the country. Export earnings from coffee range from 60-67% although the country's share in the world market is less than 3%.

Considering different coffee producing areas in Ethiopia, one of the special things about Sidama coffee is that it is organic coffee. Most coffee producing farmers use natural fertilizers and not artificial fertilizer. As the coffee of Sidama is local variety, it has special aroma and unique test.

As coffee become one of the greatest sources of foreign currency, the government of Ethiopia is promoting coffee producing areas like Sidama Zone for more production.

Due to this, the people of Sidama are now benefiting from this strategy. Exports from Ethiopia in the 2009/2010 financial year totaled US$1.4 billion. The country produces more coffee than any other nation in Africa.

In Ethiopia coffee has a special cultural value. Ethiopians hold coffee ceremonies in which people get together to deal with issues. Today the Ethiopian coffee ceremony has become a popular activity for tourists.

In Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, drinking coffee is strictly forbidden. Different religious leaders teach their followers that when a person becomes very familiar with coffee, he/she will face difficulties such as loss of concentration during fasting time where it is not allowed to eat or drink anything.

In this religion, there is meditation time Aremimo during fasting and it is assumed that those who have high adaptation with coffee will lose their concentration during meditation time.

Spirit possession occurs among the Sidama. Spirit possession is a form of compensation for being deprived within Sidama society. The majority of the possessed are women whose spirits demand luxury goods to alleviate their condition, but men can be possessed as well.

Possessed individuals of both sexes can become healers due to their condition. This is a form of compensation among deprived men in the deeply competitive society of the Sidama, for if a man cannot gain prestige as an orator, warrior, or farmer, he may still gain prestige as a spirit healer.

Women are sometimes accused of faking possession, but men never are.

Fichchee is the most celebrated Sidama cultural holiday, representing the Sidama New Year. The Fichchee is based on the lunar system. Sidama elders or astrologists observe the movement of the stars in the sky and decide the date for the New Year and the Fichchee celebration.

The Sidama New Year is therefore unique in that it does not have a fixed date. It rotates every year following the movements of the stars. Sidama has 13 months in a year. And each of the months is divided equally into 28 days while the 13th month has 29 days.

This is because the Sidama week has only 4 days and hence each month has 7 weeks instead of the conventional 4 weeks. The names of the 4 days in Sidama week are called: Dikko, Deela, Qawadoo and Qawalanka to be followed by Dikko completing the cycle of a 4-day week.

The Sidama people preserved their cultural heritage, including their traditional religion and language throughout the centuries under Ethiopia's Solomonic rule.

As said by the historian Donald Levine, legends recall the great 15th-century Amhara emperor Zera Yaqob who the Sidama still remember as Seraqo and his reign as a golden age.

Following the devastating 16th-century Ahmad Gran invasion and Oromo migration, the Sidama people had been cut away from the central government who strived for its survival at war for centuries to come. It will be under the great Menelik II in the late 1880s that the Sidama will be reintegrated in the Ethiopian empire.

The Sidama have their own well-established administrative systems that dated at least to the 9th century, though it was made up of a loose coalition of Sidama kingdoms. These kingdoms extended into the Gibe region. since the language does not have its own alphabet, very little has been written on Sidama issues.

Historically the Sidama nation was administered by the indigenous moote political system. The Mootichcha, equivalent to a king, was nominated by the family and near relatives for the position. The nominated moote or king is presented to a Fichche, the Sidama New Year ceremony.

The Mootichcha is the head of political and administrative structure. The Mootichcha is assisted by Ga'ro, akin to king's assistant, and hence next to the former in politico-administrative authority.

After the fall of the Derg military regime, the Sidama people were able to widely use the local language – Sidamigna as exercised in all regions of the country. Hawassa has been serving as the capital city of Sidama since 1978 and SNNPR since 1993.

But recently the government of Ethiopia planned to make Hawassa a chartered city with its own administrative structure, rather than having the city serve as the capital for SNNPR and Sidama Zone.

Due to this, the Sidama people requested the government to consider creating a separate region for the Sidama people, rather than combining them with other ethnic groups in the SNNPR.

The peaceful demonstrators came into conflict with armed government people and several dozen of them were killed. Thus, there is still high tension in the zone.

Different facts showed that the government is requested by the people to give regional autonomy for Sidama people. There are several justifications for this argument.

First, Sidama constitutes about 20% of the total population in the Southern region, with a significant economic contribution to the central government.

Second, the 40 smaller ethnic groups in the region belong to the three main socio-cultural and linguistic groups namely, Cushitic groups: Sidama, Alaba, Tambaro, Qewenna, Danta (Dubamo), Maraqo, Konso, Hadiya, Kambata; Omotic groups: Wolayta, Gamo, Gofa, Dawuro, Konta, etc., and Semitic group: Gurage.

After the fall of the military regime in 1991, the Transitional Government endorsed five separate regions within the current SNNPR.

These regions were established based on socio-cultural, linguistic and economic similarities. They followed similar administrative arrangement made by the previous regime shortly before its fall. Sidama, Gedeo and Burji belonged to one of the five independent regions within the current SNNPR.

However, those five regions were dissolved without consultation with the peoples of the region. Third, proper administrative arrangement is essential for administrative efficacy, effective delivery of social and economic services and broader economic development.

Sidama Zone is northeast of Lake Abaya and southeast of Lake Hawasa. The zone is bordered by the Arsi Oromo in the north and west, Gedeo, Burji, Guji Oromo people groups in the south, Guji Oromo in the west, and Wolayta and Kambata language groups to the east.

The Sidama live between Tikur Wuha River in the north and Dilla town in the south, spread out in a cone-shaped area of the middle of southern Ethiopia. Sidama is generally a fertile area, varying from flat land warm to hot to highland warm to cold.

Sidama has geographic coordinates of latitude, North: 5′ 45″ and 6′ 45″ and longitude, East, 38′ and 39′. It has a total area of 10,000 km2, of which 97.71% is land and 2.29% is covered by water. Hawassa Lake and Logita falls are water bodies that attract tourists.

Of the land, 48.70% is cultivated, 2.29% is forested, 5.04% is shrub and bush land, 17.47% is grazing land, 18.02% is uncultivated, 6.38% is unproductive and 2.10% has other uses. Some of the cultivated lands are in undulating escarpment and create difficulties for the farmers in the area.

Sidama has a variety of climatic conditions. Warm conditions cover 54% of the area. Locally known as Gamoojje or Woinadega, this is a temperate zone ranging from an elevation of 1500 m to 2500 m above sea level. The mean annual rainfall of the area varies between 1200 mm and 1599 mm, with 15 °C to 19.9 °C average annual temperature.

A hot climatic zone, Kolla, covers 30% of the total area. Its elevation ranges from 500 m to 1500 m above sea level. It has a mean annual rainfall of 400 mm to 799 mm, and the mean annual temperature ranges from 20 °C to 24.9 °C. Cool climatic conditions known as Aliicho or Dega exist in the mountainous highlands.

This covers 16% of the total area with an elevation between 2500 m and 3500 m above sea level. This part gets the highest amount of rainfall, ranging from 1600 mm to 1999 mm. It has a mean annual temperature of 15 °C to 19.9 °C.

Based on the 2007 Census conducted by the CSA, this Zone has a total population of 2,954,136, of whom 1,491,248 are men and 1,462,888 women; with an area of 6,538.17 square kilometers, Sidama has a population density of 451.83. While 162,632 or 5.51% are urban inhabitants, a further 5,438 or 0.18% are pastoralists.

A total of 592,539 households were counted in this Zone, which results in an average of 4.99 persons to a household, and 566,926 housing units. The three largest ethnic groups reported in this Zone were the Sidama (93.01%), the Oromo (2.53%), and the Amhara (1.91%); all other ethnic groups made up 2.55% of the population.

Sidamo is spoken as a first language by 94.23% of the inhabitants, 2.14% speak Amharic, and 2.07% Oromiffa; the remaining 1.56% spoke all other primary languages reported.

84.38% of the population said they were Protestants, 4.62% were Muslim, 3.35% practiced Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, 3.01% embraced Catholicism, and 2.72% observed traditional religions.

In the 1994 Census Sidama had a population of 2,044,836 in 439,057 households, of whom 1,039,587 were men and 1,005,249 women; 143,534 or 7.02% of its population were urban dwellers.

The four largest ethnic groups reported in this Zone were the Sidama (88.6%), the Amhara (4.15%), the Oromo (2.97%), and the Welayta (1.84%); all other ethnic groups made up 2.44% of the population.

Sidama is spoken as a first language by 88.6% of the inhabitants, 4.15% speak Amharic, 2.97% Oromiffa, and 1.84% Welayta; the remaining 2.44% spoke all other primary languages reported.

62.54% of the population said they were Protestants, 13.64% observed traditional religions, 8.24% practiced Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, 8% were Muslim, and 4.24% embraced Catholicism.

Tourism Observer

KENYA: Kenya Airways Pilot In Trouble After He Refused To Fly An Alleged Faulty Plane.

Kenya Airways risks paying John Miriti Mbarire Ksh181 million after the pilot refused to fly an alleged faulty plane.

Mbarire's contract was terminated for causing a 34-minute delay in a flight from Nairobi to Kisumu and for allegedly using wrong channels to request a sick day.

At the time, he was five years from retirement and now he wants KQ ordered to pay his salary and allowances for the period, totaling Ksh170.3 million, and damages of ksh11.3 million for unlawful dismissal.

In its defense, KQ insists that Mbarire had a history of run-ins with authorities and his responses were considered insufficient by a panel that presided over his disciplinary hearings.

The pilot is accused of delaying the flight for 34 minutes and five days later he was served with a notice to explain why he should not be punished.

Mbarire argued that he could not guarantee regular braking once the aircraft touched the ground at Kisumu International Airport.

He also said that he feared that stress from the two flights he had completed that day did not make him the best person to fly the plane to Kisumu.

The pilot claimed that a colleague who last flew the aircraft had mentioned mechanical problems which he noticed as he directed the flight to Mombasa.

According to Mbarire, that was the third time the aircraft had exhibited mechanical problems on that day.

He said he feared it was too risky to fly the plane to Kisumu, which was at the time experiencing rainfall and thunderstorms, meaning the aircraft needed more than the 1,400 meters of available runway to safely land.

However, Kenneth Githuku, a chief pilot with KQ, claimed at the disciplinary hearings that the problem was attended to by engineers.

Tourism Observer

UGANDA: Uganda Airlines Ownership Clarified

Budget Committee Chairperson Hon. Amos Lugoloobi has told Parliament today that there is no evidence that Uganda Airlines has been registered.

Lugoloobi made the statements today after Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija made a U-turn that the documents submitted on Wednesday showing that the company is owned by him and Minister of Works and Transport Ntege Azuba was done in error.

The documents submitted to Parliament yesterday indicated that the company is owned by Matia Kasaija and Monica Ntege Azuba as individuals and not as ministers.

According to the document, Uganda Airlines has two million shares with Matia Kasaija allotted 1 million shares and Azuba also 1 million shares.

Kasaija stated that this was an error.

The Committee has now tasked the ministers to submit fresh information and whoever pronounces him/herself on the matter is put on oath.

The ministers are appearing before the Parliamentary Budget Committee seeking supplementary funding to a tune of Shs1.1 trillion of which part of the funds will go towards paying for two aeroplanes.

In 2018 Government ordered for the manufacture of the aeroplanes to a tune of Shs702.8billion for the four CRJ 900 jets from Bombardier, a Canadian manufacturer for regional airliners.

The aeroplanes are ready for delivery and government risks fines in parking and insurance fees if the payment is not made as per the contract.

However, the controversy over the ownership of the national carrier has stalled business after Lira Woman MP Joy Ongom Atim tabled a minority report on Tuesday claiming that the government owns only 0.0001% while 99.9% of the shares are owned by unknown individual(s).

She tabled that two shares each worth Shs100 was allotted to Kasaija and Azuba out of the total 200m shares.

Tourism Observer

TURKEY: Visit Trabzon A City On The Black Sea Coast Of Northeast Turkey

Trabzon formerly Trebizond is in the Eastern Karadeniz region of Turkey. A major trade centre since times immemorial, and visited by Marco Polo among many others, Trabzon is today one of the major cities of Turkey's northeastern coast.

In medieval times, city served as the capital of Empire of Trebizond, which was ruled by Komnenos family which also provided several emperors to the Byzantine throne in Constantinople. The longest surviving rump Byzantine state, Trabzon was captured by Ottoman Turks in 1461, almost a decade after the fall of Constantinople.

Trabzon, historically known as Trebizond, is a city on the Black Sea coast of northeastern Turkey and the capital of Trabzon Province. Trabzon, located on the historical Silk Road, became a melting pot of religions, languages and culture for centuries and a trade gateway to Persia in the southeast and the Caucasus to the northeast.

The Venetian and Genoese merchants paid visits to Trebizond during the medieval period and sold silk, linen and woolen fabric; the Republic of Genoa had an important merchant colony within the city called Leonkastron that played a role to Trebizond similar to the one Galata played to Constantinople the modern Istanbul.

Trabzon formed the basis of several states in its long history and was the capital city of the Empire of Trebizond between 1204 and 1461. During the early modern period, Trabzon, because of the importance of its port, again became a focal point of trade to Persia and the Caucasus.

The current ethnic background of the people of Trabzon is mostly Turkish. There are also descendants of Circassian muhajiris in the city, as well as smaller number of Laz people, Muslim Greeks the Romeyka-speakers and Armenians or Hemshin.

Local Turks are mostly of Chepni Turkmen origin. The main language of these ethnic groups is Turkish. Modern migration since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has brought a significant number of Russians, Ukrainians and people from the Caucasus mostly Georgia into the city.

Russian language shops and facilities can be found in the town.

Pontic Greek has been spoken in the region since early antiquity. The local dialect developed along its own lines and is today partly intelligible to speakers of Standard Greek. It was spoken mainly by a Greek Orthodox multi-ethnic population up to the population exchange.

Nearly all speakers of this local variant of Pontic Greek are now Muslims. A very similar dialect is spoken by a community of about 400 speakers, descendants of Christians from the Of valley now living in Greece in the village of Nea Trapezounta or New Trebizond, today part of Katerini, Central Macedonia.

Laz people, who are aboriginal to this area, also live in Trabzon. Numerous villages inside and out of Trabzon of the Laz date back as early as the period of Queen Tamar's rule in the newly unified Kingdom of Georgia.

During the Queen's rule, sizeable groups of immigrating Georgians moved to Trabzon where they continue to preserve their native tongue. There was an Armenian community in Trebizond as early as the 7th century.

Folk dancing is still very much in evidence in the Black Sea region. The Horon is a famous dance which is indigenous to the city and its surrounding area. It is performed by men, women, the young and elderly alike; in festivities, local weddings and harvest times.

While similar to Russian Cossack dances in terms of vividness, the Trabzon folk dance is probably indigenous to the eastern Black Sea region, which has an impressive variety of folk music .

The people of Trabzon have a reputation for being religiously conservative and nationalist. Many Trabzonites generally show a strong sense of loyalty to their family, friends, religion and country.

Ataturk selected his presidential guards from Trabzon and the neighbouring city of Giresun because of their fierce fighting ability and their loyalty.

Outside of the relatively urban space of Trabzon proper, and within parts of it as well, rural traditions from the Black Sea village life are still thriving.

These include traditional gender roles, social conservatism, hospitality and a willingness to help strangers; and all aspects, both positive and negative, of an agrarian lifestyle, such as hard work, poverty, strong family ties, and a closeness to nature.

The people of the eastern Black Sea region are also known for their wit and sense of humour; many jokes in Turkey are told about the natives of the Black Sea region Karadeniz fıkraları - Black Sea jokes.

The character Temel, a universal buffoon figure found in many cultures, forms an important part of the Turkish oral tradition.

The city's profile was raised somewhat in the English-speaking world by Dame Rose Macaulay's last novel, The Towers of Trebizond (1956), which is still in print.

Trabzon's regional cuisine is traditionally reliant on fish, especially hamsi the fresh European Anchovy similar to the British Sprat or American Smelt. Trabzon meets 20% of the total fish production in Turkey.
Akçaabat köfte
Regional dishes include the Akçaabat köfte a spicy lamb meatball from the Akçaabat district, Karadeniz pidesi a canoe shaped pita bread, often filled with ground beef, cheese and eggs, kuymak a Turkish fondue made with cornmeal, fresh butter and cheese, Vakfıkebir ekmegi a large country-style bread.

Also Tonya tereyagı or tonya butter, tava mısır ekmegi a deep-dish corn bread and kara lahana çorbası a bean and cabbage soup.

Taflan kavurması is a cherry laurel dish served with onions and olive oil. Trabzon is also famous for its hazelnuts. The Black Sea region of Turkey is the world's largest producer of cherry and hazelnut; and a large production area of tea; all of which play an important role in the local cuisine.

By daily planes from Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. There are also planes from Adana by Pegasus Airlines and Bursa by Borajet, as well as scheduled international flights from certain European and regional cities.

By bus from all major cities in Turkey. From Istanbul 65 TL, 18 hrs they depart several times per day. From Kayseri it's 12hrs. There are also buses from Tbilisi, Georgia which is about 12 hours which serve as a useful point of entry to the country from Caucasus.

There is a servis or free shuttle bus from the bus station to the city centre. Also you can rent a car at Trabzon Airport.

Turkish Maritime Lines used to operate two weekly ferryboats between Istanbul and various Black Sea ports. However, as of 2007, this service was been cancelled.

There are also ferries twice a week from Sochi on Russian Black Sea coast. They cost US$ 50/passenger.

Frequent Dolmuş connections inside the city: 1.75 Lira. If you want to go from Trabzon's otogar to Ataturk Alanı, cross the main street and flag down any dolmus with the direction Meydan.

The city dolmus station is under a bridge on the south side of Atatürk Alanı. Dolmus leave from here also to Boztepe viewpoint and to Aya Sofia.

For general tourist information, the tourist office is located right on Ataturk Alani square, on the southern side. The clerk speaks English very well and provides you with a wealth of information about Trabzon and its surroundings. Before doing anything in Trabzon, go to the tourist office.

Hidirnebi Plateau or Hıdırnebi Yaylası. Beatiful place in Trabzon, Akçaabat. Altitude of 1200m. There is natural beauty. xxkm form Akçabaat, 40km from Trabzon. Transportation is provided by private car or tour. Grocery store, bakery, butcher, there are picnic area in Hıdırnebi .

There are guided vehicles for transportation. The ride take 35-40 minutes.

Aya Sofya Museum. A beautiful and picturesque church converted into a mosque and later into a museum that still has stunning frescoes within—just like its namesake in Istanbul.

There is a peaceful open-air tea garden on the grounds. You can reach here by any Dolmuş marked 'Aya Sofya', which depart from the north side of Atatürk Alani square.

The ride takes 5-10 minutes, and costs about 1,5 TL. This should be one of your sights while in Trabzon.

Uzungol, a lake up in the mountains 99 km from Trabzon, 19 km from Caykara and at an altitude of 1090 m. A great number of broken rocks from the slopes filled up Haldizen stream and Uzungol was formed in this way.

The lake is 1000 m long, 500 m in width and 15 m in depth. It is surrounded by forests. Uzungol has an interesting view with the village houses around it. And there are some other small lakes on the mountains which are 15-20 km. from Uzungol.

The lake is also surrounded by convenient tracks for hiking. There are some facilities such as bungalows and some establishments which rear trout. Tourism agencies organise tours for the day in the summer.

You can use local transport to go to this place: From Trabzon's regional dolmus station 5 min walking downhill east from Atatürk Alanı there are busses (Çaykara Tur) to Uzungol via Of and Çaykara about every 75 min.

Tickets can be bought from Çaykara Tur's small office (Sanayi, Yalı Cad. / ayışık Sok. D:7, its a side street from Martı Hotel). In Uzungol the bus stops at a teahouse, which also serves as Çaykara Tur's office in Uzungol.

At the tea house check for the return schedule to Trabzon and Of 14 TL, about 2h, usually at 1.30pm, 3.45pm, 4pm, 5.15pm, 6.30pm. In high season it might be wise to buy your return ticket when arriving in Uzungol or already in Trabzon, if you intend to go back to Trabzon the same day.

The seats for the afternoon buses might sell out quickly and you might have to wait for the last evening bus. If you ask the driver he will also drop you at Trabzon's otogar.

Sumela Monastery: The monastery is closed due to some several restoration and field works should be open again in 2019. It is possible to go there and to have a look from outside, but you cannot enter the monastery. A few tours start with minibuses from Trabzon in the morning.

If you want to go on your own by public transportation though might be more expensive than joining a tour, you can go to the regional dolmus station 5 min walking downhill east from Ataturk Alanı.

There are frequent dolmus to Maçka around 10am, which may continue all the way up to Sumela monastery from Trabzon 60 TL return for 1-2 pax, less when you find more people going to Sumela and you use your bargaining skills; waiting time max 1h, what is more than sufficient, since the monastery is closed. A taxi from Maçka would cost 70-80 TL return.

Sumela Monastery which in turkish is Sümela Manastırı and Panagia Soumela, "Virgin Mary of Soumela" in Greek is a spectacular rock-hewn monastery perched dramatically on the narrow ledge of a steep cliff in the forests south of Trabzon.

It was built in the fourth century, just before the Roman Empire split into east and west, by two Athenian priests, Barnabas and Sophronius, who, according to legend, found a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave.

The monastery's location in this geopolitically tumultuous corner of the globe naturally saw times of trouble and fell into ruin numerous times throughout its history, with its most thriving times falling under Byzantine and Ottoman rule.

The twentieth century, however, was not kind to the monastery. It was abandoned following the chaos and inter-ethnic violence at the end of World War I, and the population transfer of Trabzon's formerly Trebizond Greek population to Greece.

Its remote location gave it some sanctuary, but its frescoes still attracted the occasional casually hurled rock by a bored shepherd.

The beautiful frescoes today suffer from decades of heart-wrenchingly pointless vandalism by travelers—judging from the various alphabets and names scrawled across these impressive religious works of art, it appears that just about every culture in the world has taken part in the desecration.

The buildings themselves have been fairly heavily restored in recent decades, as the Turkish government has stepped in to protect the monastery and to turn it into a museum.

Admission is 15 TL. The simplest way to get to the monastery is by tour, and you can find a tour in town by just asking any other traveler there no tourist visits Trabzon without seeing Sümela.

The monastery lies close to Maçka, about 30 km south of Trabzon, and those preferring to get to the monastery on their own means instead of taking a tour can get to Maçka by taking minibuses heading for Gümüşhane, Erzurum or other destinations south from Trabzon.

The rest of the way, approximately 17 km to the actual site of monastery, can be done by dolmuşes from downtown Maçka although only in high-season and not during off-season, which will take you to the entrance of Altındere National Park or Milli Park.

Then, the monastery is about half an hour walk away, which can be done through a forest trail, which was recently widened in order to cope with the ever increasing numbers of visitors, or along the tarmac road leading to the monastery.

Those approaching with their own vehicles can get as near as 300 meters to Sumela itself, where there is a car-park in front of Hagia Barbara Chapel. There is an additional fee of 20 TL for cars, paid at the entrance of the national park.

Gunes Sanat Galerisi the art gallery, Zigana koy (Kalkanlı Approxmately 1 hour with bus from Trabzon eastward over the mountains towards Torul and Gumushane. This art gallery is made by mr Azmi Aytekin, a 73 year old painter and thinker from Zigana.

He has traveled around the world, and has settled in the small village Zigana also called Kalkanli near the magnificent Zigana mountains. Visit his homepage for pictures.

Trabzonspor why not watch a match of the local football team, Trabzonspor, the most successful team in Turkey outside of Istanbul. If you are in the city on a weekend, you can watch the team at the Huseyin Avni Stadium. It's about a 20-30 minute walk west of the main square.

If in doubt, ask a local Trabzonspor Stadyumu and they will point you in the correct direction.

If you're brave, try traditional Turkish bath Hamam. The men-only Hamam is right next to Efes Pub; the women-only Hamam is just around the corner. A really great authentic Turkish experience, and the people are very nice and will walk you through everything. 25 TL for a bath including a scrubbing and massage at the women's Hamam, and you should also tip your masseuse.

There is a shopping mall near Novotel called Cevahir Outlet, in Yomra town which lies 5 minutes away from Trabzon. There is a shopping mall near Ataturk Airport called Forum.

There are nice local meals really worth a try. Especially, pide and kofte are really famous with their taste in Turkey. Pide is kind of pizza which is made with a special bread and cheese. You can also try kiymali which is made with meat and served with butter.

You can find a cheap but good place near city center called Çardak Pide Salonu.

Kuzen is also a good option: no standard kebabs but for example delicious wrap-like rolls filled with hot Merkez sausage. It's in Cevdet Akcay sokak next to the modernish shopping mall on the north side of Kahraman Marash Cad.

Another special taste of Trabzon is Akcaabat koftesi which is meatballs. Made with meat, garlic and bread it's very delicious with ayran which is yogurt mixed with water and piyaz which is beans and lettuce.

There are clean and nice places in Akcaabat town such as Nihat Usta, Keyvan, Cemil Usta, Korfez Restaurant. You can have a walk and drink tea after dinner in Akcaabat Fisher Port.

Another nice place is Harran Kebap, on Kahramanmaraş Caddesi, not far from the main square.

Trabzon has the best bread in the country called Vakfikebir ekmegi. Give it a try, you won't regret it.

Lahmacun is a great thing to try, it's like a very thin pizza with mince meat on the top. They are cheap, healthy and taste very nice the only problem is a sophisticated oven is required to cook them so not all restaurants have them, but if they are possible they are well worth getting.

You usually order an Ayran with it which is a salt youghurt drink that aids digestion.

All food in Trabzon is cooked to a high hygienic standard, and additionally most restaurants give you free hand wipes to clean your hands before and after eating food.

Hamsi Balik - Anchovies or sprat is also a good option.

Time's Coffee Restaurant, K. Maraş Cad. İpekyolu İş Merkezi Kat. This restaurant is a really hip and popular place among Trabzon locals. It has a pretty standard menu of a Turkish/Mexican/Italian fusion with lots of sweets.

Their profiterol is good and so are the herbal teas, but the best is their breakfast with kuymak. The place is frequented by local professionals and students because of its hidden place on the seventh floor of an office building.

On the wall are many clocks with various times, decorated under the concept that this place is a place to forget the actual time and enjoy the present. The owner, Mehmet, really make you feel at home.

There are only a few restaurants in the center serving alcohol. Among them Bordo Mavi in the garden of clubhouse of Trabzonspor. Thankfully, the popular Efes Pub is right off Ataturk Square, just down the street from the Burger King.

They only serve snacks like fries and peanuts, but are open until midnight. Ladies, note that the far half of the bar is for men only.

For those longing for real European-style coffee, Keyif Coffee & Tea Store has a huge selection of Tea listing them by area and even Tea Estate and first rate Cappachino. They are hidden within the shopping complex Canbakkal İş Merkezi, a few blocks to the west of Ataturk Alani square.

You can ask at the tourist information on Attaturk square Atatürk Alanı where they know about different accomodations. At small, but a little bit more expensive hotels, you can also try to bargain a cheaper price than the first one offered to you.

The area around Iskenderpaşa Cami and Atatürk Alanı Meydan Parkı is full of hotels of various quality and price range. The cheapest hotels are down from Ataturk Square towards the port, but they usually function as unofficial brothels.

By European standards the area is safe, however, and the prostitutes quite discreet. Between those hotels, Hotel Erzurum was acceptable and frequented by backpackers.

Hotel Nur, Iskenderpasa Mah. Cami Sokak Next to the tourist office. They speak some English.

Hotel Benli, I. Paşa Mah. Iskenderpaşa Camii Yanı Noç: 5, 61100 Trabzon near the square Ataturk Alanı, directly at Iskenderpaşa mosque Iskenderpaşa Cami. Cheapest hotel in town by June 2014 (tourist information), clean, shared showers and toilets.

Hotel Erzurum, Iskenderpaşa Mh. Guzelhisar Cd. 19 100 mt below the square Ataturk Alanı, between Yuvan and Anil Hotels, and next to Nazar Hotel. Nice quiet hotel. Rooms come with own bathroom and TV. Wireless Lan. Friendly staff. No safety problems for solo lady travelers.

However, noise from outside was an issue on some nights. Still a good option if you are traveling on a budget though. 40 TL pp, no single rooms.

Some of the upmarket hotels in Trabzon are Zorlu Grand Otel and Novotel. Zorlu Grand Otel is in downtown Trabzon, at Maraş Street. Novotel is some distance out of Trabzon, in Yomra a town close to Trabzon but it takes only ten minutes from city centre with a car or dolmuş (bus) to get there.

Otel Benli, Iskenderpaşa Mah. Meydan Cami Sk. No:5. Very basic hotel but with warm water, clean, 50mt from Atatürk Alanı main square and budget-friendly.. Might easily bargain down to 10 TL pp, especially off-season. 10-20 TL pp.

Anil Otel, Guzelhisar Cad 12 just off Ataturk Alanı square. Exceptionally helpful staff, clean and bright rooms, great breakfast, a lobby where you can actually sit and relax. Excellent value for a budget hotel. 40 TL/single.

Adelante Hostel, Çiftehamam sokak .No:1 Ortahisar Trabzon. Adelante is a Hostel the first guest-house-hostel in Trabzon, located very near to the city centre. Full breakfast and wi-fi are both included in the price. In the house also they speak spanish and english. The perfect place for students and travellers. Capacity: 3 rooms/4 beds in each room £15(€13aprox)pp/night.

Every hour and 30min after each full hour buses from Prenskale company leave Trabzon's otogar bus station from morning to evening to Pazar (14 TL, less than 2h, tickets can be bought on the day of travel via Rize. The same buses usually continue until Hopa or even Batumi.

From Pazar you can connect by dolmus to Ayder at 14 TL, 45min via Çamlıhemşin during daytime.

Buses leave Trabzon's otogar for Kars near the ancient ruins of Ani at Midnight, arriving 8AM-9AM.

A direct bus to Dogubeyazıt leaves at 10PM, arriving 10AM.

Ulusoy buses for Erzurum leave at 7AM, 10AM, noon and later in the evening, arriving 5 hours later. 25 TL.

Mid-size buses every hour from Trabzon's otogar towards Torul and Gumuşhane. Last bus in the evening: 8 PM.

There are also long distance buses to other major Turkish destinations e.g. Istanbul, Goreme, Sivas, Izmir etc but it's a good idea to book these ahead of when you travel. There are many travel / ticket agent shops who can help you with this around Ataturk Alani, the main square in Trabzon.

There are many times of couch buses to Batumi per day. It takes about 4 hours.

Tourism Observer

NETHERLANDS: KLM Declines To Accommodate Its Stranded Passengers

Dutch airline, KLM, is ignoring its legal obligations to stranded passengers and telling them that it is unable to book hotel rooms.

The false assertion is contained in a letter handed to travellers at the airline’s main base, Amsterdam Schiphol, which claims that hotels do not allow KLM to make reservations.

KLM emphasises that: Only individual travellers are allowed to book rooms.

In fact KLM, like any airline, is perfectly capable of booking rooms for stranded travellers. Indeed, it is obliged to do so under European air passengers’ rights rules for passengers who are stuck overnight.

Initially the flight was delayed. But then the airline apparently told passengers that due to a shortage of cabin crew the flight was cancelled.

At this stage the airline is obliged to provide them with a flight booking for the following day, a hotel and transport to get there as well as meals until they are due to leave.

Instead, staff handed passengers a bottle of water, a bar of chocolate and a letter containing a series of misleading statements, starting with: “Hotels do not allow us, an airline, to book rooms for our passengers.”

British Airways, easyJet and the Netherlands Board of Tourism have confirmed that there is no restriction on airlines booking hotel rooms around Amsterdam airport.

The letter goes on to say: We are left with no other option but to inform you of ways to book accommodation yourself. It suggests a number of websites, and recommends that passengers unable to find accommodation in the airport area should try Rotterdam, The Hague or Utrecht.

The rail journey to Utrecht late at night takes over an hour and involves a change of trains at Amsterdam Centraal.

Some passengers had no money and were very upset at the idea of spending the night in the airport.

They ended up flying on Aer Lingus from Amsterdam via Dublin to Manchester, where they arrived 22 hours late.

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, they asked for compensation of €250 each. But KLM rejected the claim, saying the cancellation was due to gusty wind from an unfavourable direction.

The passengers say that at the time of the delay they were simply told no cabin crew were available.

KLM insists that it is compliant with our obligations under the passengers’ rights rules.

KLM said that it has contracts with hotels for a certain amount of accommodation: Once the quota of rooms as per contract has been reached, hotels will not accept airline bookings as they require direct payment.

But there is no reason why the airline should not make payments via company credit cards or even cash.

KLM said: In the interest of good customer service, KLM offers its passengers information on ways to book accommodation. This is a genuine effort to be helpful to passengers.

Rather than having its passengers staying in lengthy queues, KLM prefers to give its passengers an opportunity to book hotels themselves.

There is nothing wrong with offering travellers choice, but they must always be provided with rooms if they prefer or unable to pay.

Tourism Observer

Thursday 28 March 2019

ICELAND: WOW Air Collapses Stranding And Inconveniencing Thousands Of Passengers

Icelandic budget airline WOW Air ceased operations on Thursday, stranding passengers across two continents.

In a statement on its website the airline, which had earlier suspended all its flights, told passengers there would be no further flights and advised them to check flights with other airlines for ways to reach their destinations.

The airline, founded by entrepreneur Skuli Mogensen, began operations in 2012 and specialized in ultra-cheap flights between North America and Europe, with flights to airports in cities including Washington, D.C, New York, Paris, London and its Reykjavik hub.

Its bankruptcy comes after six months of turbulent negotiations to sell the low-cost carrier, first to its main rival and flag-ship carrier Icelandair and later to Indigo Partners, an American company operating the airline Wizz.

I will never forgive myself for not acting sooner, Mogensen said in a letter to employees Thursday. WOW was clearly an incredible airline and we were on the path to do amazing things again.

Tourism is Iceland's largest industry and WOW's disappearance is set to have an effect on this summer's high season.

In its early years the airline expanded fast to 37 destinations and reported up to 60 per cent annual growth in passenger numbers. Its revenue per passenger, however, has not kept up and fell by about 20 per cent in 2017, according to the last earnings report.

WOW grounded at least six planes in North America that were set to leave late Wednesday from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, New York and Baltimore.

In Europe, Reykjavik-bound planes from seven cities of Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and Copenhagen did not take off Thursday morning.

Tourism Observer

SCOTLAND: British Airways Lands In Wrong city Of Edinburgh Instead Of Dusseldorf, Germany

Upon landing, passengers were stunned to hear "welcome to Edinburgh." Their flight was supposed to go to Dusseldorf, Germany. The wrong flight plan was filed, and the crew followed it.

Good morning. I'm David Greene. Passengers landing on a British Airways flight were stunned to hear welcome to Edinburgh, as in Scotland. That's because their flight was supposed to go to Dusseldorf, Germany.

The wrong flight plan was filed, and the crew followed it. Why didn't the pilot do the usual, the weather in Edinburgh, before taking off? At least a passenger could have said, excuse me, I think we might be going to the wrong city.

A British Airways plane flew by mistake from London to Edinburgh instead of Dusseldorf in Germany on Monday.

Passengers only found out about the mishap when the pilot said the plane was coming in to land in Edinburgh, which is around 800 kilometres (500 miles) from Dusseldorf.

After the crew realised the mistake, the plane was refueled and flown to Dusseldorf, landing in Germany with a delay of more than three and a half hours.

We are working with WDL Aviation, who operated this flight on behalf of British Airways, to establish why the incorrect flight plan was filed, a spokesman said.

A passenger who was on the plane said: While an interesting concept, I don't think anyone on board has signed up for this mystery travel lottery.

Passenger on the flight said that the wait in Edinburgh was very frustrating.

The toilets were blocked and they ran out of snacks. It was also really stuffy, a passenger insisted.

Tourism Observer

UAE: Sri Lankan Restaurant Ministry of Crab Goes To Abu Dhabi

One of the most popular restaurants in Asia, Colombo's Ministry of Crab is coming to the UAE.

For the first time, celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa is bringing a Ministry of Crab pop-up to Abu Dhabi, with a three-day event at Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri in Abu Dhabi from April 25 to 27.

The foodie event is set to feature four signature dishes from the famed Sri Lankan restaurant.

The set menu will include a sharing plate of a creamy crab liver pate, followed by the rich baked crab, and a garlic chilli prawns, cooked Italian olive oil, Japanese soy sauce, garlic and chilli flakes. The meal will be topped off with the eatery's famous pepper crab.

Of bringing his eatery to the UAE, chef Dharshan said: I am very excited to introduce the delicacies we serve at Ministry of Crab to the UAE with this pop-up at Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi.

We receive many travellers from the UAE at the restaurant in Colombo and we are delighted to plate up our unique preparations to them in their home country.

The chef, who is also behind Kaema Sutra, at the Shangri-La Hotel Colombo, is known for his focus on high-quality, fresh ingredients that he often pairs with Japanese cooking philosophies.

We’re delighted to be hosting the Ministry of Crab pop-up with Chef Dharshan.

His delicious signature dishes bring a taste of the distinguished Sri Lankan cuisine to our shores, said Ahmed Issa, general manager of Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri.

With Chef Dharshan himself at the helm of the kitchen, the event is set to be a success.

Knowing his penchant for fresh ingredients, we’re sure it’s going to be a visual treat and a culinary delight.

Tourism Observer

UAE: Salt Bae Will Open Burger Restaurant In Dubai

From salting steaks to serving burgers, the viral social-media star Salt Bae is on a mission around the world to expand his brand.

In February, it was announced that Chef Nusret Gokce, the man behind popular steakhouse Nusr-Et, which in Dubai is based at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, will open a burger joint in New York City later this year. He already has four branches of Nusr-Et Burger in Istanbul.

Now, it seems he's going to open another branch in Dubai, too, as he revealed to his 20 million-plus followers over his Instagram Stories on Tuesday that a "Saltbae burger will be opening soon in DIFC Dubai".

There was previously a Nusr-Et Burger shop in Dubai Parks & Resorts, but it has shut down.

Signatures are done, he wrote, alongside an image of him signing documents alongside DIFC officials. He shared further snaps of him at Gate Village, saying the new restaurant would be open after three months.

Nusr-Et Dubai is already somewhat of a phenomenon in the city, attracting most celebrities who step foot here. The steakhouse has been frequented by the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

We just hope this new burger spot has an excellent wall mural like the Istinye Park branch has:

Tourism Observer

UAE: Jones The Grocer Now Open At Dubai Mall

Casual Australian-export eatery Jones The Grocer has officially opened at The Dubai Mall.

The popular cafe is located on the ground floor of the Downtown Dubai mall, with a spacious balcony and views looking out over the Dubai Fountain.

Diners can expect to be served breakfast, lunch and dinner at the outlet, which offers speciality coffee from a coffee caravan.

Specialty products on offer:

The new Jones The Grocer is the first in the UAE to offer a meat ager, with prime butcher's cuts on offer. Plus, there is a walk-in cheese room much like the Khalidiya, Abu Dhabi and Al Manara, Dubai outlets.

Dishes on the menu include the dry-aged Australian Black Angus rib-eye, tenderloin and tomahawk steaks from the grill, luxury cheese and meat platters for up to six people to share (Dh395) and char grilled harissa chicken. The eatery also offers home delivery.

If coffee is more your bag, there are single origin brews from around the globe on the menu, with six brewing methods: the syphon, V60, aeropress, chemex, cold drip and French press.

It is the first Jones The Grocer in the UAE to be operated by Al-Futtaim.

Tourism Observer

UAE: West African Food Available In UAE

Dancing Waist at Catfish, with grilled peri-peri chicken, grilled plantain, charred cherry tomatoes, catfish salad and jollof rice with pineapple sriracha dressing

2019 might will be the year that West African food, with its bold flavours, thrifty use of high-fibre fruit and vegetables, complex tastes and contrasting textures, begins to receive the international culinary appreciation it deserves.

Social media is awash with images of West African dishes, the number of blogs celebrating the cuisine is on the rise, and restaurants serving modern interpretations of the traditional food of Sierra Leone, Senegal, Gambia and Nigeria, in particular, are slowly but surely opening up all over the world.

At the end of last year, fine-dining restaurant Ikoyi in London became the first West African restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star.

While ingredients such as yams, Scotch bonnet peppers, guava, black-eyed peas, cocoyam and cassava might not yet be part of the average cook’s daily repertoire, they are becoming well known and used.

Gbemi Giwa is from western Nigeria and is the creative force behind Catfish.

The restaurant delivery service in Dubai showcases West African food in a holistic way, using modern cooking and wellness techniques to produce a menu that is free from gluten, genetically modified ingredients, dairy and refined sugar.

When asked about this wave of interest in the food of her homeland, she points out that trying to encapsulate the recipes, dishes and culinary history of so many different countries under one umbrella term or in a few words is tricky to say the least.

West African cuisine is as nuanced and diverse as the hundreds of ethnic groups in the region, so it’s hard to place a collective label on the numerous dishes across the region.

That being said, one of the few things that ties dishes across the region is spice; we use a variety of peppers in our food and you can always expect big, bold, hot flavours, she says.

Giwa adds that beans, plantains, yams, peanuts and tomatoes feature in many recipes, and that variations on starchy staples such as fufu, eba, banku and amala are eaten in almost every country, as are soups cooked in palm oil with local spices, garnished with amaranth, bitter leaves and ugwu.

Much like Giwa, London chef, food blogger and cookbook author Lope Ariyo is committed to not just bringing West African food to wider attention, but also making it more accessible.

Nigerian-­British Ariyo grew up in the UK, but spent two years at boarding school in Nigeria, and says that this proved formative in shaping her appreciation of food and cooking.

Most Nigerian meals centre on rice or tubers, and are usually accompanied by some sort of stew with onions and peppers at the base, she explains. When I came back to the UK, I was constantly trying to replicate the dishes I had eaten she adds.

She describes her current cooking style as contemporary Nigerian.

From time to time, I keep it traditional, but for the most part my cooking reflects me and my experiences, so I like to mirror that in what I do.

In London, you get to experience many different cultures and foods, and I’ll often taste something that makes me think: There are ingredients like this in Nigeria, I bet I could use this to make a different version of such and such dish.

Touted as a rising star in the cooking world and with a well-received cookbook on discovering the flavours of West Africa to her name, Ariyo is clearly on to something.

When I set out to write Hibiscus, I wanted to bridge the gap for people who had no idea about Nigerian food and needed a place to start, she explains.

I really believe that if people are more aware of key West African recipes, ingredients and products then they’re more likely to try them out, and have a better understanding of the flavours and cuisine.

The importance of jollof rice, one must-try item is fluffy orange-red jollof rice.

Make no mistake, this is no run-of-the-mill rice dish, and a large pan featuring grains simmered in a spicy, fragrant broth made from tomato and pepper paste, and laced with a subtle chilli heat is a staple at parties, weddings and other celebrations.

While it’s generally agreed that the dish originated in either Senegal or Gambia, the question as to where to find the finest jollof is far more contentious.

I’m obsessed with jollof, says Giwa. Every West African country has its version of the smoky tomato rice, but as a Nigerian, I’ve got to say that the Nigerian version is best. I’ve been cooking jollof since I was 12. We had it for lunch every Sunday, like clockwork.

This is a dish that you’ll find in almost every West African household and every West African nation claims to make the best one.

Chef Lope Ariyo echoes Giwa on the subject: This is a dish that you’ll find in almost every West African household and every West African nation claims to make the best one.

However, for the most part, I’ve never known any two people make their rice the same way; everyone has their own secret touch, she says.

While authenticity and tradition might be all-important to some there have been culinary wars of words on the subject of jollof.
Steamed jollof rice
Ariyo takes a more relaxed approach: Because I never make my jollof the standard way, for me it’s been a way to make new friends, and start interesting conversations about what is right and wrong when it comes to Nigerian and other West African cooking.

Four other West African dishes that are popular:

Egusi soup

Protein-rich roasted egusi melon seeds both thicken and add depth of flavour to this hearty, sustaining stew-like soup. While there are plenty of interpretations, more often than not the soup contains leafy greens such as spinach or collard greens, Scotch bonnet peppers and palm oil, as well as meat which often is chicken, beef or turkey or seafood such as dried shrimp and crayfish and spices, which result in a complex, highly satisfying dish.

Puff puff

The popularity of this street food snack, which is especially well-loved in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana where it is known as bofrot, is hardly surprising.

After all, what’s not to like about rounds of hot, crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-in-the-centre deepfried dough finished with a smattering of sugar?

Often likened to doughnuts, French beignets and Arabic luqaiamt, puff puff, say those in the know, is utterly unique – it has a slightly chewier texture and specific flavour profile.

Yam porridge

Healthy and sustaining yam porridge or pottage, potash or asara is eaten throughout West Africa.

Preparation techniques and ingredients vary depending on the region but, more often than not, this one-pan dish features yams boiled until tender and mashable, then simmered with peppers, tomatoes, fresh palm oil and a hint of spice.

Chicken is sometimes added and bitter leafy greens are stirred in towards the end. A comfort-food dish if ever there were one.

Yassa chicken or poulet au Yassa

This French-inspired, classic Senegalese dish features moist grilled chicken served in a sweet-tart sauce.

The tenderness of the meat is the result of several hours spent bathing in a piquant marinade rich with lemons, mustard and onions, which is then simmered and reduced down until the onions are soft and collapsing. Both meat and sauce are combined again towards the end, allowing the flavours to meld.


Steamed jollof rice adapted from Hibiscus by Lope Ariyo


- 2 tbsp coconut oil

- 2 tbsp tomato puree

- 1 Scotch bonnet chili, deseeded if preferred and chopped

- 4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

- ½ onion, finely chopped

- 1 tsp dried thyme

- 1 tsp cayenne pepper

- 1 tsp black pepper

- ½ tsp ground cloves

- 1 tsp onion granules

- Pinch of salt

- 250g basmati rice, washed

- 2 or 3 bay leaves


In a frying pan set over medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil and add the tomato puree, Scotch bonnet, ginger and onion. Fry for 5 minutes until the onion takes on a red hue.

Add the chopped tomatoes – there’s no need to blend them, but you can do so if you prefer – along with the herbs, spices and salt. Stir well and continue frying for a further 5 minutes until the tomatoes become deep red.

Meanwhile, set up a steamer by filling a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Place a steaming pan on top and bring the heat down to medium low. Remove the tomatoes from the heat and add the basmati rice.

Mix until the rice is well coated, then transfer the mixture to the steaming pan. Spread out evenly and top with the bay leaves.

Cover and steam for 30 to 40 minutes, fluffing the rice with a fork every 10 minutes to make sure it’s cooking evenly, until the rice is tender. Take the steamer off the pan, fluff the rice once more and spoon on to hot plates to serve. Eat with grilled chicken and fried plantain on the side.

Tourism Observer