Two of the biggest misconceptions about Africa is that the entire continent is pitifully and irreparably mired in poverty and overrun by sick people who are ill and dying from a host of infectious diseases. And also that Africa is full of violent extremist groups and unscrupulous, corrupt leaders. Articles like the recently published Africa for the pessimists: 2014 in review does the continent no favors. Yes, Africa is facing its challenges this year, but what continent isn’t?
Perhaps I am hyper-sensitive about western media’s perpetual, unfavorable depictions of Africa, but to me there always seems to be laundry list articles painting a Monet about how miserable Africa is. It’s maddening to me. While those articles, especially the aforementioned one, isn’t wrong per se, it also is not balanced. We know this off the bat from the title. At least the author told us off the top what his perspective would be and for that I cannot fault him. But, in the entire scope of media about Africa can we get a little balance and little nuanced perspective? Can more people write about the beautiful aspects of the continent – its people, its food, its landscapes, its burgeoning economies, its technological advances, its glorious music, its varied cultures, and even Africans’ resilience after an era of colonialism?
In my own way I like to show the Africa I know; the Africa that draws me back year after year. If Africa were indeed a cesspool of disease and poverty no one would visit, but that just isn’t the case. And no, I don’t have some sort of twisted affection for Africa. If you just read the news you’ll never want to visit if you haven’t been before. There is so much more to the continent besides what you’ll read in the dailies.
I want to show some of the hotels where I have stayed over the years. Yes, Africa has hotels…very nice hotels.
Sheraton Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The seat of the African Union, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has many great hotels. One of the best where dignitaries, heads of state, and just everyday people stay is the Sheraton Addis. The grounds of this luxury hotel are gorgeous and it’s where you can get the best view of the city. You can also find everything you need here – rental cars, book flight tickets and Ethiopian tours. Some say the rooms aren’t up to par with the quality of this hotel. Right across the street from the Presidential Palace, it’s the most high-end hotel in Addis.
Radisson BLU Lusaka
When I travel overseas I love staying at Radisson BLU hotels. It’s my favorite chain when I travel. They are quite nice and the service is always impeccable. The Raddison BLU In Lusaka, Zambia has a great restaurant, free Internet, and is located right across the street from a bustling strip mall with a bookstore, grocery store with money exchange, and many nice restaurants.
David Livingstone Safari Lodge, Livingstone, Zambia
The David Livingstone Safari Lodge is everything you’d expect from a safari lodge…the decor, the food, the views, the animals. It’s one of the only places in Africa where I saw you can order impala and crocodile on its dinner menu. There are monkeys everywhere so you have to be vigilant about keeping your deck doors closed. Elephants come right up to the property. And don’t even think about swimming in the Zambezi. Its full of crocs and hippos! The greatest thing about the David Livingston Safari Lodge is it is about a 15 minute drive from Victoria Falls.
Mkuru Training Camp, Arusha, Tanzania
The best place I have ever stayed in Africa is Mkuru Training Camp right outside of Arusa, Tanzania and at the base of Mt. Meru. Mkuru Training Camp is run by Oikos, an Italian NGO that believes in conservation and sustainable development . Jointly owned by the Maasai communities in Mkuru and Meru, Mkuru Training Camp is a peaceful place to lay your head for a night or a week in one of its tents. Even though the camp seems rather rustic, there are immaculate bush toilets, showers, great food, and the chance to just sit out at night and look at the stars across the sky.
Mapungubwe Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa
Most people who visit Johannesburg for business and even for travel stay in Sandton, an upscale suburb of Johannesburg. There are fantastic hotels and restaurants there. I’ve stayed there and enjoyed many of its luxury restaurants. Plus, the big convention center is there as well. But, if you’d like to stay in the heart of Joburg, I recommend Mapungubwe Hotel. It has 98 apartment-style rooms. Its restaurant has really delicious fare and, of course, the wine is impeccable. The breakfast buffet is also surprisingly good with many options, not just pastries and juice. You can also hire a car to take you anywhere you’d like to go. The service is stellar. Everyone was eager to help me in any way they could. While I wouldn’t recommend walking around the area at night, during the day you can walk to local stores and restaurants.
Haile Resort, Hawassa, Ethiopia
In my travels to Africa I have spent the most time in Ethiopia. I have seen a lot of the country, but not nearly all of it. Ethiopia is one of my favorite countries in Africa. It’s not a surprise then that I go every chance I get.
Ethiopia has many big lakes including Lake Tana and Lake Hawassa. I love traveling to Hawassa, Ethiopia because it’s a thriving city with a scenic backdrop. The Haile Resort right on the lake is one of the most-recommended places to stay in Hawassa. The grounds are delightful with a gorgeous view of the lake. The rooms are also quite clean with every amenity you need. The only thing the rooms don’t have (at least when I was there) was wifi in the rooms. Wifi was only available in the lobby which can be very limiting when you have a lot of work to do. Check with the hotel. They may have put wifi in the rooms by now.
Radisson BLU, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
I lost count long ago how many nights I stayed at the Radisson BLU Addis. I stayed here so long this year that I knew the entire staff and their shifts. Everyone I met made my stay enjoyable. I loved everything about the Radisson BLU Addis including the immaculate rooms and bathrooms. They had a delightful buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but each was extremely expensive even by USD standards. I recommend going to a nearby restaurant for lunches and dinners.
The Radisson BLU Addis also as an exceptional spa and even a patio for outdoor dining. In my experience, the concierge is happy to help arrange taxis and private cars and will also make reservations at Addis’ top restaurants. Ask for recommendations for Ethiopian tours and some of the best places to visit in the city. The only downside of hotel is it does not have a store where you can buy the things you forgot like toothpaste and aspirin. Instead they chose to put in a coffee shop, which isn’t bad. It’s just nice to be able to get what you need instead of having to go into the city and find a store. In all, though, the Radisson BLU Addis is an amazing property.
It’s important to me to be able to tell another side of Africa’s story. And if you’ve never been I hope you plan a trip to Africa soon. It’s well worth it!