Safari, Sanctuary, and Sea: My Week in Kenya Part I

Vegan Travel

My vegan children have never been to a zoo or animal park. It was one of those parenting decisions that my husband and I made early and had no intent on renegotiating. From America to Asia, we politely decline seeing captive animals in favor of seeing them in the wild, so when the opportunity to visit Kenya arose, we knew a safari trip was on the itinerary. Continue reading

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The Moon Houses Lamu Review

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While Nairobi was the most fitting place to start my trip to Kenya, Lamu was unarguably the best place to end it. After days of excitement in the capital followed by the hustle of Mombasa, I was ready for tranquility and found that and more at The Moon Houses in Shela on Lamu Island. Continue reading

4 Reasons Every Vegan Needs to Visit Oman

“The Jewel of Arabia” is also a vegan paradise.

The Sultanate of Oman is one of few places in the Middle East free of sectarian strife, political instability, and terrorism. Striking the delicate balance between welcoming modernity and cherishing tradition, Oman is a gracious host to all, including vegan travelers. Often referred to as “the Jewel of Arabia,” at a glance Oman appears to wear the same garb as its Gulf neighbors, but its substance and style is truly unique. By watching the rapid development of its sister nations, Oman has charted a cautious and sustainable path to progress without forgetting its heritage and Arab hospitality. With a surge of interest in solar energy and strategic plans to become a luxury travel destination, the Sultanate is positioning itself to thrive well beyond its oil reserves. And, when attention is turned toward environmental sustainability, plant-based options emerge by necessity, which explains why vegans can find hummus in the hills and dhal in the desert.

Variety in Muscat
Travelers looking for Muscat’s “city center” often find themselves at the City Centre Mall. There is no downtown or skyline that centralizes urban life, but rather pockets of activity and adventure tucked around the coastal capital. Must-see destinations include Mutrah Souq market, the National Museum of Oman, the Royal Opera House Muscat, and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Excursions down the eastern coast include relaxing in desert valleys, watching turtles nest, and finding solitude in al-Wahiba desert. Local cuisine reflects how Oman’s plate has been touched by trade relations with Persia, India, and East Africa, making biryani rice, red lentils, and black-eyed peas household staples. However, a steady stream of new cuisines are constantly entering the city’s palate. Vegan varieties of Omani food can be found at Dukanah Café, where traditional architecture is combined with simple meals of the past such as unleavened Omani khubz (bread); dengu (Swahili for “chickpeas”); and small pancake discs served with date syrup called guroos. Hayat’s Restaurant is a health-focused eatery with vegan options such as Sweet Potato Falafel, Cauliflower Tabouleh, and bruschetta topped with mushrooms, avocados, and cherry tomatoes, while Wagamama, the London-based Japanese-fusion franchise, has reached Oman and will be introducing its dedicated vegan and gluten-free menus in the coming months. Finally, The Yellow Chilli can prepare a multi-course vegan Indian meal with 24 hours advance notice.

History in Nizwa
Nizwa, the former capital of Oman, still boasts historical forts and marketplaces, but also access to the abandoned village al Hamra, Al-Hoota Cave, and the fertile green terraces of Jabal Akhdar. Favorite vegan-friendly spots in town include Turkish restaurant Al-masharef and Spicy Village, a popular Indian chain of restaurants. With the exception of the far south, Oman’s heat blisters at well above 100 degrees for much of the year, so a mountaintop escape to Ananatara Al Jabal Al Akhdar provides respite from the heat. There, guests can enjoy plant-based dishes such as red-quinoa porridge, pomegranate-and-almond granola, and roasted beet hummus from the Balance by Anantara Wellness menu.

Fjords of Musandam
As a northern exclave separated from Oman by the United Arab Emirates, Musandam bares jaw-dropping fjords and rugged coastlines that dip into the sea. With easier access from Dubai than Muscat, Musandam is a popular snorkeling and diving destination with a variety of hard and soft corals, reef sharks, green turtles, and eagle rays. Fishing villages dot the coastline, but vegan voyagers can find refuge in Six Senses Zighy Bay, where an onsite organic garden supplies the kitchen with fresh vegetables and herbs for creative culinary feats. The generous breakfast buffet offers a variety of non-dairy milks, granolas, fresh fruit, nuts, and raisins, as well as Arab favorites such as foul moudammas (mashed fava beans), fatta, stewed chickpeas, falafel, and baba ganoush. At the Summer House restaurant, vegan specialties include Grilled Avocado and Beet Salad, Peach Balsamic Gazpacho, and Raw Chocolate Avocado Pudding topped with fresh berries.

Senses of Salalah
For visitors who can come to Oman only during the low season (when peak summer heat is unbearable), consider venturing to the Southern coast, where the monsoons paint the region in misty green hues from July to September. Salalah’s landscape is an assortment of waterfalls, geysers, beaches, and mountains. To understand Oman’s historical legacy, visit Museum of the Frankincense Land to learn about the fragrant tree resin that has been harvested in Oman for more than 6,000 years. Also, check out Al Baleed Archeological Site, where preserved ruins create lasting memories for all travelers. As with most major towns, Indian food is often the safest option for dining, but Al Baleed Resort Salalah offers Asian, Mediterranean, and international restaurants at the luxury villa resort by the beach.

This article was originally published at VegNews.

 

 

Africa Safariland Tours Review

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Masai Mara is one of the most popular safari destinations in Kenya, but if you don’t have several days and nights to commit to the journey, Nairobi can still offer close encounters with wildlife within the city limits. Nairobi National Park boasts the world’s only natural game reserve within a city but requires a licensed guide to tour it. Fortunately, I found Africa Safariland Tours—a company owned and operated by Fred Murai, a Kenyan who is passionate about his people, country, and the environment. Continue reading

Anga Afrika Luxury Tented Camp Review

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Last week, I fell in love with Nairobi. Being my first trip to Kenya, I had a lot to do in a short amount of time, so I had to choose an accommodation that fit my “safari in the city” experience well and found no better location than Anga Afrika. By staying in one of their six luxury tents in the lush suburb of Karen, I enjoyed the sights and sounds of nature with all of my creature comforts—a cozy bed, full bathroom, and delicious food. Yes, the word “glamping” is more appropriate than camping, but I have no shame. Nairobi was just the start of our weeklong backpacking adventure as a family of four, and we couldn’t afford to “rough it” and potentially lose a night’s sleep. Continue reading

24 Hours in Bahrain

Vegan Travel

Bahrain is a tiny archipelago that is often overlooked. You can drive the width and breadth of the island in a few hours and scuttle to its most distant island in about 45 minutes. Other than being a former residence to the late Michael Jackson, Bahrain rarely crossed my mind until their very first vegan restaurant opened earlier this year. With some time to spare during a recent long weekend, my family hopped over to see what the island nation had to offer and we were pleasantly surprised. Continue reading

Travel A to Z Online Masterclass Review

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Are you a traveler or a person who travels? Maybe you thought the two were the same, but I beg to differ. Plenty of people travel. They book tickets and hotels, see new places, have new experiences and then return home to their life as they know it. Travelers may do all of the same activities but never return the same. Every trip, whether across the street or across the sea is an opportunity to connect with others, but most importantly, to connect with one’s self. There is no mad dash for collecting passport stamps because they know deeply that where they’ve been has more to do with their experience along the way, not the borders crossed and countries conquered. Continue reading

Due North Book Review

Due North

Social media is changing the way we travel. Whether we blog or not, the desire to see our bodies cropped into breathtaking vistas and exotic experiences has become normalized. The latest trend of seeking out the most Instagrammable destinations evidences that we are commodifying travel instead of experiencing it and being transformed by it. However, veteran traveler Lola Akinmade Åkerström gives readers a gentle reminder that there is nothing dull about slow travel in her first book, Due North. Each story and insight is reflective and richly detailed, bringing unknown places to life. Continue reading

Zighy Bay: A Sustainable Oasis

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The forgotten enclave of Musandam is separated from the main peninsula of Oman by the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates. Known for jaw-dropping fjords and seaside views of the Hajar mountain range, the region is also home to isolated communities so remote that they were more easily reached by boat than land up to a few decades ago. One such community near the quiet fishing village of Dibba attracted the attention of luxury spa and resort brand Six Senses. Now the quiet marina witnesses the annual migration of not only animals to Zighy Bay, but also travelers who want to retreat while treading lightly on the planet. The resort has moved into the bay but not without forging an alliance with the community to further their livelihood and coexist harmoniously with both the social and natural landscape of the region. Continue reading

The Only Muslim-Friendly Guide to Jamaica You Will Ever Need

Muslim Travel Girl Jamaica

When Muslim travelers are looking for a Caribbean destination, I rarely mention Jamaica. Yes, the beaches are pristine, the people are hospitable, and the food is amazing, but Muslims are such a small minority on the island that accommodating their needs can be a challenge. Halal restaurants and mosques aren’t easy to find outside of the capital city and researching the most Muslim-friendly accommodations takes effort. However, the beauty of my homeland is still breathtaking and well worth a visit. Thankfully, I connected with Burgundy Roots to plan a trip that included nature, adventure, and sustainable tourism, all served on a halal platter. With the help of my host, Wafa Aouchiche, a Muslim-friendly visit is not only possible but easy. Continue reading