Sunday, November 30, 2008

Malls in Johannesburg

What All-American woman doesn’t love the mall? And, when I travel to Johannesburg, that’s one of the first things I do. The Cresta Mall is actually within walking distance of the Drifters Inn where I usually stay. One of my favorite things to do is visit the book store, Exclusive Books, and load up on travel essays about Africa. Then I visit one of the restaurants there and have one of my favorites: Welsh rarebit with a local beer. I’ve also been known to grab a bit of biltong to nibble on as I browse. As you can see from the photos, the mall is as modern as any in the States: Visiting the mall is also a perfect activity for killing some time before my transfer to the airport at the end of the trip. I have also visited a more upscale mall—the Sandton, which required a taxi drive, as well as the Eastgate.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

Nothing says Africa to me like butternut squash soup. It’s as common in South Africa as French onion soup is here. There are two ways to make it. One version calls for cream while the other uses stock and a bit of butter. You can also buy it in the supermarket. Campbell’s makes a great low-fat version and Wolfgang Puck makes a creamy and fattening alternative. I’ve made it at home, and it’s quite easy, especially if you buy the frozen butternut squash that is already cut into chunks. You Tube has a great video “Butternut Squash Soup,” which also suggests adding croutons as a garnish.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mama Africa Dies

My mother called me to tell me that Mama Africa died. Not only had I not heard the news yet, but I didn’t know who she was. An article in South Africa’s Mail and Guardian “Miriam Makeba Dies in Italy” (Nov.10) describes the highlights of her life. I learned that Harry Belafonte not only helped her get her music recorded in the United States, but that she was also married to a leader of the Black Panther party, Stokely Carmichael. A You Tube clip highlights her fight against Apartheid: “South African Legend Miriam Makeba Dies” (10 Nov 2008). Another clip talks about her Soweto homecoming when she was finally allowed to return to her country because of Mandela’s invitation: “South Africa Mourns Miriam Makeba” (15 Nov 08). “Pata Pata,” one of her most popular songs is also available to view: “Miriam Makeba - Pata Pata.” She is truly an inspiring woman.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Biltong is South Africa’s version of jerky, but it gets more interesting. In addition to beef, you can also sample versions made of game and seasoned with peri-peri (spicy) seasoning.

South Africans commonly eat it at sporting events with beer, but I find it a great snack anytime I’m there. In fact, I defied the no-food-in-the-tent rule and found my bag covered in ants the next morning. What a waste of such a delicacy!

Once one of my tour guides made it, and it was fun being part of the process. (Several recipes can be found at I even had a South African friend mail me some as a gift once. If you want to try some from a local distributer, you can order it at It’s not cheap, but then nothing good is.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Michael Palin's Sahara

Watching Michael Palin’s four-part series Sahara reinforced my desire to go to West Africa. Beginning in Gibraltar, he travels to Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. While the Sahara is harsh, the landscapes are beautiful. I realize that there’s not much in Timbuktu, but I am still determined to go. Since I have already visited Tangier and Egypt, I feel ready to enjoy more of the Arab world and then venture further south into “black” Africa. Gap Adventures runs tours to Mali, but not past March because of the rainy season. Many of the other tour companies are expensive. Things just aren’t clicking.