02/02/2012

The Future of South Omo Valley

The South Omo Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a unique and spectacular place, located in the south western part of Ethiopia. The Omo Valley hosts some of Africa's most fascinating and colorful nomadic and semi-nomadic ethnic groups like the Mursi, Kara, Hamer or Bodi tribe.

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Many of the tribes, mostly small in size, are pastoralists and they practice flood-retreat agriculture along the Omo River. Until now the indigenous ethnic groups of the Omo Valley are some of the most traditional in Africa. But this can soon be over. The Ethiopian Agriculture and Rural Development State Minister Aberra Deressa claims: " .. at the end of the day we [do] not really appreciate pastoralists remaining in the forest like this ... pastoralism is not sustainable ... we must bring commercial farming, mechanized agriculture, to create job opportunities to change the environment."

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11/07/2011

Full Moon in White Desert, Egypt

An utterly beautiful but still almost undiscovered place is the White Desert in Egypt, also known as Sahara el Beyda. If you ever have the chance to spend the night there under a full moon you probably will count this spot to the most beautiful places in the world.

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Shining white limestone and surreal chalk rock formations cover the surface of the desert and gave the place the name "White Desert". Over a time period of millions of years the erosion gradually carved fantastical shapes into the limestone layers. The more solid parts of the rock became sculpted and appear in alien contours like giant mushrooms, pillars or even in bizarre silhouettes of animals like hawks, camels or ostriches.

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09/30/2011

The Voodoo Trail: Togo and Benin

Who doesn't know the Voodoo dolls with magic dark power from horror movies? Well, if you ever get an opportunity to visit the region of West Africa, especially Togo or Benin, then you might experience the real Voodoo, which is quite different from the picture we get from these movies. Voodoo is a traditional animistic religion and has its roots in West Africa, mainly Benin. The Voodoo was also spread around the world (mostly in slave ships), you can find Voodoo, sometimes as a syncretic religion combined with Roman Catholicism, for example on Haiti, Brazil, Louisiana or Puerto Rico. Vodun, Vodon, Vodoun or Voudou are all equivalent terms for Voodoo, which means 'spirit' in the Fon language.

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Although the 'Voodoo dolls' somehow exist, the correct term is 'Voodoo fetish' in form of a talisman. The word 'fetish' derives from the Portuguese word 'feiti├žo'. A fetish is a creature, an object, a talisman or an amulet, believed to have supernatural or divine powers. It can be a doll like the well known Voodoo doll; however the fetish object can be virtually anything: for instance a crocodile, a snake, a tree, a flower or simply a rock.

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09/26/2011

The apple pie trek: Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

The Annapurna Circuit is still considered as one of the best treks in the world. The scenery is outstanding: this trek takes you through breathtaking sceneries of rivers, flora and fauna circling the Annapurna massif. The trek goes usually counter-clockwise from Khudi to Pokhara and reaches its highest point at the pass Thorung La (5416m). Three eight-thousander can be seen on this trek: Manaslu (8156 m), Annapurna 1 (8091 m) and Dhaulagiri (8167 m). The trek goes through Buddhist villages and Hindu holy sites, most notably the village of Muktinath, a holy site for both Buddhists and Hindus.

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The best time for the trek is in October and November, right after the raining season. Beginning of October there is still a chance of rainy days, but from middle of October to end of November you have always blue sky and almost no rain. In December/January it can be very cold and the pass Thorung La can be blocked because of snow. We had rain the first 4 days of the trek (beginning of October) and the path was blocked on the third day because of a landslide. We lost almost one day which we tried to catch up the fourth day, and we reached a small simple teahouse very late in darkness and heavy rain. As a 'welcome present' we got a bucket of hot water for a shower, a place at the huge tiled stove to dry the clothes, a simple but tasty Nepalese dinner and a place to sleep. Luckily the next day all the rain was gone and since then we had beautiful weather every day.

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