VILAKAZI STREET – Johannesburg South Africa
Vilakazi is perhaps the most famous street in Soweto or all of Johannesburg. SOWETO is the most populous black urban residential area in the country, with a population of around a million people.
The Vilakazi Street precinct, which is about a kilometre long, was designed to conserve the historical importance of the area. Before its transformation, the area was a typical township lined with low-cost housing. Today, it is a heritage, cultural and economic hub.
The street was named after the late Zulu poet, novelist and linguist Dr Benedict Wallet Vilakazi, who in 1935 became the first black African of the then Union of South Africa. He is the first black South African to receive a doctorate in literature from the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2016, Vilakazi was posthumously honoured with South Africa’s prestigious Order of Ikhamanga (Gold), an award recognising the profound impact he had on South African literature.
Soweto is a place where people live and work every day. In its simplicity, it proves that greatness can come from the most ordinary places.At the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets, you’ll find the Mandela House, which serves as a beautiful testament to Madiba as well as to the greater fight for equal rights in South Africa and around the world. It’s the only street in the world to have produced two Nobel Prize winners, His Excellency Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu.
One thing you need to do when you visit Vilakazi Street, you need to hire a local tour guide to take you around the surrounding neighbourhood of Soweto. The Johannesburg Development Agency upgraded Vilakazi Street in 2009 -10 ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The new tourist-friendly precinct boasted pedestrian paths on the pavements, new streetlights, trees and benches, concrete pillars and street art. The opening ceremony and first game of the tournament was held in Soweto at the FNB Stadium, fixing the eyes of the world on this historic township, including Vilakazi Street. For the first time, the precinct filled up with visitors from Africa and further afield. Vilakazi embodies so much of South Africa’s history and vibrant culture.
THE BLUE PEARL – Chefchaouen, Morocco.
Morocco’s famous blue city, Chefchaouen, nicknamed the “Blue Pearl” of Morocco Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 in the Rif mountains by Jews and Moors fleeing Spain. There are a lot of different theories about why Chefchaouen is blue.
Over two hours from Tangier and over three hours from Fez, Chefchaouen isn’t the easiest Moroccan city to get to. It’s also not a place where you spend your days checking off a list of things to do in Chefchaouen.
Many people visit Chefchaouen as a day trip from Fez, though its highly recommended staying a night. There are a number of private or small-group tours that can cut a bit of time off that journey.
Instead, the blue city of Morocco is a place to be, to take a break from many of the tourist touts in other cities, to watch the sunset from the roof or your riad and to lose yourself in the cool hues that grace almost every wall and doorway in town.
The landscape of Morocco varies greatly from the golden dunes of the Sahara to the verdant coastal plains to the imposing High Atlas Mountains. In a spot in northern Morocco that feels fairly far from anywhere, Chefchaouen or Chaouen to the locals) sits in the Rif Mountains, a blip of blue in a country that is largely green and tan.
Chefchaouen is a perfect place to wonder and take photos. As it is a little far from the bigger cities which means prices are higher but mostly a perfect place to relax. Chefchaouen is one of the most visited places in Morocco. The small streets and alleys are quiet, not teeming with shops and the frenetic energy that defines other cities in Morocco. One path intersects another in the pleasantly confusing area that is the Chefchaouen medina.
At every turn, there is a new subtlety to the shades of blue, a new mosaic pattern by which to be entranced. Light and colours shift throughout the day, making it possible to walk the same streets over and over again and see something new each time. Even in the rain, the paint makes the city feel bright.
Wander up and down the stairs, Seek out new murals. Head down to the morning market to see what the local farmers have brought for sale. Grab a coffee and sit for a minute. Pause for an hour or two to have a leisurely lunch at the pick is Bab Ssour, a fabulous and absurdly affordable spot just off the main square that’s perfect for sampling bissara soup and other local specialties.
Consider a hike in the mountains rising above you or just pause for mint tea at the café near the rushing water. A good scrubbing at a hammam is always an option, or you can visit the Kasbah Museum if you’re feeling anxious about not having seen enough sites. Evenings in Chefchaouen are just as relaxed as the rest of the day. They’re about finding a spot for sunset, scoping out the best dinner option and people watching in the square.
Tourist can end their trips at Bab Ssour as it is an ideal place for lunch or dinner. The options are delicious, fresh, and very affordable. Chez Hicham, the restaurant at our riad, has a great view and serves massive portions of couscous, tagines, and more not forgetting Pizzeria Mandala For a non-Moroccan option, Pizzeria Mandala is perfect.
MUIZZ STREET – Cairo Egypt
Muizz Street should totally be on the top of your list when visiting Cairo. Named after the fourth Fatimid Caliph Al-Mu’izz li-Deen Illah, Muizz Street is considered to be one of the oldest streets in Cairo and is one of the most vibrant and historic spots in the city. Muizz Street is a major north-south street through the walled city of historic Cairo. It’s one of the oldest streets and dates back to the 10th century.
There are plenty of stalls to buy souvenirs and antiques from,the whole area is rich with dozens of historic buildings from different eras including the Tulunid, Fatimid and Mamluk eras. It extends from Bab A-Futuh (one of three remaining gates in the walls of Old Cairo) to Bab Zuweila, where you’ll find several markets in Al-Azhar Street and the Ghuriya Complex and the area around it.
In the late 1990s, the city spent extensively rehabilitating the historical monuments and buildings along Muizz Street to make it an open-air museum. The street is pedestrian-only for most of the day, meaning it’s a great place to walk and see many sights in one area. Initially founded by the Fatimids, the street was named after the Fatimid Caliph Abu Tamim Ma’ad al-Muizz li-Din Allah, who moved the dynasty from Tunisia to Egypt.
Muizz Street served as the economic hub of the city during the Fatimid dynasty and continued to be a central part of the city through the Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman dynasties. With each trying to leave their mark on the busy street, and in some cases eclipse those of their predecessors, there is no shortage of influence from each of these dynasties on the 1km stretch.
In a single glimpse down the street, you will see a Mamluk palace, Ayyubid madrasa, Ottoman sebil (fountain), and a Fatimid minaret. In 2008 it was rededicated as a pedestrian zone for most hours of the day. The Qalawun Complex is one of the most interesting sites to visit on Muizz Street. It is a massive complex built by Sultan Al Mansur Qalawun in 1285.
Unlike most palaces, this one did not have a gate or a grand entrance, but rather a large doorway designed to fit in with the rest of the street. Built as a multi-use complex, it served as a mausoleum, madrassa and bimaristan (Persian for hospital). There are more sites and attractions than you can count on Muizz Street.
A UN Study found that this one street has the most fantastic collection of medieval architectural treasures in the Islamic world. You’ll find dozens of mosques, madrasas, and hamams, along with shops, restaurants, and markets. While all of the buildings along Muizz Street are architectural treasures, don’t miss the Azhar. Also visit Bab Zuweila, the medieval gate into the walled city, and one of Cairo’s most important landmarks.
Remember that weekends here are Friday and Saturday, and that’s when you’ll find Muizz Street and all of it’s attractions the busiest.