Ethiopian New Year : Enkutatash


Ethiopia celebrates new year differently from the rest of the world. New year at Ethiopia is between September 11-12.

Ethiopian New Year is called Enkutatsha in Amharic (Ethiopian language) which means gift of the jewel. Ethiopia is predominantly Christian Orthodox and the new year is considered a religious holiday.

During Ethiopian new year, yellow daisies (Meskel flower) are used as decoration. This is because the holiday signifies the end of the rainy season where yellow daisies bloom in the fields.

Bon fires are burned by the streets, restaurants and other public areas as a new year tradition.

Similar to most holidays around the world, Ethiopian new year is celebrated with special food shared with family and friends, music, singing, and good holiday fun.

Ethiopia Calendar

Ethiopia does not follow the common (Gregorian) calendar as the rest of the world. New year in Ethiopia is between September 11 -12. Ethiopia calendar follows the Julian calendar which is 7 years and 8 months behind the common calendar. If we are in 2019, Ethiopian calendar is still in 2012 by September 12.

How to Greet “Happy New Year” in Ethiopia

Melkem Enkutatah!

Morocco: Ouazzane

Travel to Ouazzane, Morocco if you are going to Chefcheouen and you like dried figs, dates and have an authentic Moroccan robe souvenir. Stop by Ouazzane to have a quiet and peaceful time away from the tourist.

Ouazzane is a province north of Morocco. It is near the more popular city of Morocco – Chefcheouen. Ouazzane is a small agricultural and artisan area. The artisans in Ouazzane weave and sew traditional Moroccan clothes that are long dresses with long sleeves. Best souvenir to buy in Ouazzane are dried fruits such as dates and fig which are done in the area and are very cheap. Other places in Morocco buy the cheap dried fruits and traditional clothes in Ouazzane and resell it at a higher price.

The province of Ouazzane is very religious and no alcoholic drinks are allowed. It is a very laid back province. Small streets at the Medina of Ouazzane are colored green giving its own unique charm.

Ouazzane, Morocco-2

What to buy in Ouazzane

Dried Fruits

Figs and dates are very cheap to buy in Ouazzane. These delicacies which are expensive in other areas. Ouazzane is the best place to go if you like sweet dried figs and dates.

  • Dried prunes
  • Dates
  • Dried Figs

Traditional Moroccan Clothes

Ouazzane is an artisan place of handwoven fabrics which are handsewn and embroidered into robes and dresses. the dresses and robes are long with long sleeves which can be worn during summer and winter. If you are looking for a souvenir of authentic handwoven and handmade traditional Moroccan clothes, Ouazzane is a good area to visit.

How to go to Ouazzane

Train-Bus

  • Take the ONCF train and go down at Souk Al Abraa station. If you are booking online select the station to Chefchaouen.
  • There is a connecting (Supratour) bus from the train. You can pay the connecting bus directly from train booking.
  • Take the bus going to Chefcheouen and go down at Ouazzane.

Bus

Another option to go to Ouazzane is by bus. There is the main bus station in Ouazzane that goes to Casablanca and vice-versa. Buses also go to Tangier.

Check previous post on Morocco: Public Transportation

Where to stay in Ouazzane

Ouazzane is not a tourist area. There are not many hotel options. Near the plaza area, there are some hotels. The hotels are small and basic, only offering a bedroom and toilet to stay for the night. There provide service, no restaurant, and no amenities in the hotel

Travel Tips

Good Points

  • There are no annoying freelance tourist guides offering their service
  • Taxi drivers are honest and fair – not giving a foreign rate
  • Experience a quiet authentic Moroccan town with no touristy frills

Not-So-Good-Points

  • Not many choices for hotels. There are only basic low standard hotels that do not serve breakfast, no room service, no wi-fi, no amenities. Think of basic rooms with bed and toilet for rent per night.
  • Not much choice for restaurants. There are only local spots to eat Moroccan dishes such as tajine and kebab.

Ouazzane Morocco

Game of Thrones film location at Morocco

Essos of Game of Thrones film location at Morocco

Travelling Asian goes to Game of Thrones film location in Morocco.

Game of Thrones is a medieval fictional series of families from different continents battling for the throne to rule the Seven Kingdoms. One of the Seven Kingdoms is Essos, an area depicted in the series as desert-like, where Daenerys (Dragon Queen) built her army.

Game of Thrones season is ending May, 2019. Fans of the show can still relive their favorite moments at film locations of Game of Thrones. Fans of Game of Thrones have their favorite families or households. Those who are rooting for Daenerys or #TeamTargaryen would be happy to relive their favorite scenes at Essos.

There are several film location for Essos of Game of Thrones. Two of the film locations are in Morocco which are in Ait Ben Haddou and Essouira.

 

Photo from https://gameofthrones.fandom.com/

The Game of Thrones film location at Ait Ben Haddou is portrayed as Slaver’s Bay (Bay of Dragon) in the series. This location was used in the episode where Daenerys freed the Unsullied (slave) army.

What to See at Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco

Ait Ben Haddou became a popular tourist destination for fans of Game of Thrones. Other popular films shot at Ait Ben Haddou are Gladiator, Prince of Persia and The Mummy.

Another good reason to visit Ait Ben Haddou is that it is a UNESCO world heritage site representing the traditional earthen habitat of Morocco, built from the 17th century.

The Ksar (fortified village) of Ait Ben Haddou is made of mud and straw. Surrounded by towers and walls at the outer part to protect the homes inside. It used to be a caravan route of nomads travelling from Sahara desert, east Africa. The caravan used to stop at Ait Ben Haddou for rest and trade. At the moment, there are still few families living inside Ait Ben Haddou.

First impression upon seeing Ait Ben Haddou is that it looks like a giant sand castle. Moving closer and inside you would see the intricate designs of the towers and walls.

The structure is huge to fit in a village. The dwellings are small spaces, next to each other.

 

How to Go to Ait Ben Haddou from Marrakesh

Ait Ben Haddou is located at the province of Ouarzazate. There are a lot of buses going to Ouarzazate from Marrakesh. The most common bus is CTM with more available schedule. I prefer to use Supratour as it has more space and more comfortable. Cost of Supratour bus fare from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate is 80 Moroccan Dirhan (approximately 8 US Dollars). CTM bus fare is usually cheaper.

Approximate travel time from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate is 4 hours. Bus schedules are only during the morning until before noon. The route will traverse the Atlas mountains with an amazing view.

Where to Stay

There are a lot of hotel options at the town center of Ourazazate. I heard there are also some small hotels and riads around Ait Ben Haddou.

I recommend to stay at the town center of Ouarzazate as there are other things to visit such as the Kasbah, film museum and Atlas studio.

Travel Tips

  • Rent a Taxi. If you are staying for a few days at Ourzazate and want to visit interesting places around. You do not need to book a tour. Price of a tour will be double or more. There are several taxis parked near the CTM bus station. Price to rent a taxi for a day to Ait Ben Haddou and Atlas Studio is 300 Moroccan Dirham or approximately 30 US Dollars.
  • Tour guide is not necessary unless you are keen to know the history of Ait Ben Haddou. One and a half hour is enough to enjoy the place.
  • Home visit fee. There are still some families living in Ait Ben Haddou. Some will offer to show their home for a fee. If you accidentally go inside and start “exploring” their home, some home visit fee will be expected.

ETHIOPIA: Tourist Visa

Ethiopia tourist visa application is available online to all countries.
Ethiopia has eased its regulation for tourists entering the country. Online visa application and visa on arrival has been made easier. As Ethiopia is promoting the country’s tourism. It is now easier to go to Ethiopia as a tourist.
Since June 2018 Ethiopia has opened online visa application to all countries.

Countries Eligible for Online Ethiopia Visa Application:
ALL Countries

Countries Eligible for Ethiopia Tourist Visa On Arrival: 

African Union Countries

  • All African Union Countries
  • Djibouti Exempted – Allowed to enter without visa
  • Kenya Exempted – Allowed to enter without visa

Asia & Pacific

  • Australia
  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • North Korea
  • South Korea
  • Thailand

Europe

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

Middle East

  • Israel
  • Kuwait

Canada & North America

  • Canada
  • United States

South America

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Mexico

Other Countries 

  • Online Visa Application

Requirements for Ethiopia Tourist Visa

  • Recent passport-size photo of the applicant.
  • Passport of the visa applicant which is valid for at least 6 months from the intended date of entry to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia Tourist Visa Application Fee

  • Single Entry  – 30 days  – $ 52 (USD)
    Single Entry  – 90 days – $ 72 (USD)

You can check details and process Ethiopia visa application at Ethiopia immigration website.


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Morocco: Top Shopping in Casablanca

Alpha 55

Alpha 55 mall is like a mini department store for home, personal, school and office supplies. I personally like the decorations and stationery area. There are imported items with average prices.

Best to shop for:

  • Home supplies such as kitchenware, dining ware, bath and garden supplies
  • Decorations such as candles, table top and wall decorations
  • Small furniture such as coffee tables, chairs, portable closet
  • Cheap accessories such as necklace, bracelet, earring
  • Personal hygiene products such as facial and body creams, soaps, shampoos, hair dye, even nail products
  • School and office supplies, such as papers, pens folders, books, stationary.

Pricing:  Low to Mid-range

Alpha 55 Mall address: *Near the French consulate

Morocco Mall

Morocco mall is the largest shopping mall in Casablanca with wide range to choose from. Shops range from cheap to luxury brands. The top floor is mainly for the the luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi, and others.  At the ground floor there is a shop called Marjane which is a grocery-department store that offers lower priced items. Mid-priced brands include H&M, Zara, Pull&Bear, Marwa, LC Waikiki and others.

Main attraction at Morroco mall is the large cylindrical indoor aquarium at the center of the ground floor. Different sea animals can be seen such as shark, manta ray, eels, and various fishes.

Restaurants are lined outside the Morocco mall facing the sea. The outside area can be windy and chilly especially at night.

At one end of the top floor, opposite the luxury shops is a fast food area, with popular franchises such as  McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. There are shops for ice cream, asian food, sandwich, tacos, pizza, and moroccan food.

In front of Morocco mall, at the right side, before the entrance you can find the only IMAX cinema in Casablanca. English movies (with original English audio) are shown every Tuesdays and Thursdays. Imax Casablanca Schedule

FNAC

FNAC is a good shop for branded electronics such as phones, laptops, speakers, headsets. Most of electronic accessories can be found here. Second floor of FNAC is for books (mostly French and Arabic), there is a small section for classic English books. Stationery, notebooks, and writing supplies are also at the second floor of FNAC.

Yan&One

Yan&One is like a Sephora of Morocco, though I have only seen one shop in Casablanca. It is at the center of the ground floor of Morocco mall. Yan&One offers large selection of cosmetics and bath products. It has Yan&One products and imported brands from France, US, Korea, and UK.

Marjane

There is a Marjane grocery.department store at Morocco mall. Marjane is a one stop shop for:

  • Grocery, fresh food, bread, pastries, alcohol
  • Home supplies, kitchenware and equipment
  • Electronics – tv, laptop, mouse, speakers, cellphone
  • Repair tools –  super glue, screw drivers
  • Stationery – papers, folders, pens, books, pins, stablers, rulers, glue
  • Clothe – underwear, pyjamas, shirts, shorts, shoes, slippers, socks,

In general Morocco mall is best to shop for:

  • Clothes
  • Shoes
  • Bags
  • Accessories
  • Jewelries
  • Home Supplies
  • Electronics
  • Grocery
  • Telecommunication
  • Cinema
  • Restaurants

View Morocco mall shops and restaurants here.

Pricing: low to high-range

Morocco mall address:

Anfaplace Mall

Anfaplace mall is smaller than Morocco mall, with mid-range priced shops.

The advantage of Anfa mall is that it has a better sea view with direct access to the beach. It is 5 minutes walking distance to the corniche which is a long walkway by the sea with several restaurants with sea view.

There is a fastfood area at the top floor of Anfaplacce mall with a sea view.

Anfaplace is best to shop for:

  • Virgin – It has more choices of electronics brands than FNAC (Morocco mall)
  • Clothes, shoes, bags, accessories
  • Carrefour – grocery

View Anfaplace mall shops and restaurants here.

Pricing: Mid-range

Anfaplace mall address:

Boulevard Al Massira / Maarif

Branded

Near twin center along boulevard Al Massira is a row of branded mid-high priced shops such as LC Waikiki, Addidas, Zara, Stradivarius, Pull&Bear, Aldo, and Parfois. There is Massimo Dutti which is more pricey. More shops can be found at the small streets adjacent to boulevard Al Massira.

Boulevard Al Massira Khadra – Branded shops location:

Non-Branded

If you take the Maarif exit from inside the Twin Center there is an area of more local shops with low-priced (non–branded) items. Walking around the area you can find shops for shoes, clothes, accessories and jewelry.

Maarif local shopping location:

Bookstore – Maarif

At the back of Mcdonalds, Maarif there is a bookstore with large selection. Mostly in French and Arabic and few English books.

 Maarif Bookstore location: