Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

stellenboschSouth Africa is coming up in the world. Just a couple of days ago it hosted the UEFA Confederations Cup of soccer, in which Brazil defeated the U.S. (yes, the United States!) 3-2 for the championship; next year the country will host the World Cup.

South Africa is also “the world’s ninth largest producer of wine, an up-and-comer in the global marketplace, and the winner of more than its share of accolades in international competitions.” But a canker grows amid the vineyards of Stellenbosch, and her name is Jane MacQuitty, a wine critic for The Times of London.

According to The New York Times, “In late 2007, she tasted a run of South Africa’s flagship reds and wrote that half were tainted by a “peculiar, savage, burnt rubber” odor. In a later column she called a selection of the country’s best-rated reds “a cruddy, stomach-heaving and palate-crippling disappointment.””

This was, of course, something that Stellenbosch’s luminaries needed to tackle head-on. So, for the past year, “vine-and-wine detectives from the department of viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University have been working the case. The “burnt rubber team” includes sensory scientists and analytical chemists. They taste, they sniff, they scratch their heads. They are looking for the golden thread that ties together a single taste that was born in multiple locations. Is the problem with the root stock, the soils, the storage, the bottling, the techniques of fermentation? Gas chromatography is being used to separate wines into their chemical compounds, searching for a culprit among the molecular units.”

The story of this sleuthfulness is completely worth reading in full.

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“It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in  Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and  tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease  spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

At this early hour, I’m unable to find complete video of this historic address, but you can read the complete transcript at the superb cultural website 3QuarksDaily.com. For many years, Travel Dynamics International has operated elegant cruises to Spain and the northern coast of Africa under the precise principle outlined in Obama’s words above; if you’re interested, please take a look at our 2010 journey to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

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From the New York Times:

Hoping to take advantage of high global food prices that brought many poor nations to the brink of chaos last year, farmers across West Africa are reaping what experts say is one of the best harvests in recent memory.

But after investing and borrowing heavily to expand their production, these farmers also run the risk of being wiped out as global food prices plummet.

The price of unprocessed rice in Senegal has steadily fallen from its peak early last year of more than $30 per 110-pound sack. The drop has not been as drastic as the ones experienced in corn and wheat markets across the world. But the price for rice needs to be at least $20 for farmers here to make a profit, and as the harvest approached late last year, the price was hovering at $22 a sack.

“I am worried,” said Mrs. Diop, a 57-year-old trader and farmer. “I can double my money. Or I can lose everything.”

<read more>

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Granted, it’s not a question that occupies a great deal of attention, but Travel Dynamics International likes to illuminate parts of the world that don’t get a lot of attention. Last April, we were in Freetown (and we will be again, next April). We frequently arrange to have our guests meet local government officials; on this voyage, we were privileged to meet the Deputy Chief of Mission for the US Embassy, Elizabeth Susie Pratt, who gave us this excellent summary of the current political and social issues of Sierra Leone, and that African country’s ties to the United States. The address is featured prominently on the American Embassy’s website.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to be the first to welcome you to Sierra Leone. I have been the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy to Sierra Leone for nearly two years now, so I welcome you as I am preparing for my own departure. My time here has been one of exciting changes both in the Embassy and in the country as a whole. Our Embassy moved from our longtime home to a new building up on top of Leicester Peak. Sierra Leone has transitioned from being a country only just emerged from war, with a peace still guarded by a robust UN force, to a reconstructing nation, with a rapidly reducing UN presence, and a democratic election and peaceful civilian to civilian transfer of authority complete.

I think it is important, however, to begin any discussion of U.S.-Sierra Leone relations with a discussion of the historical ties that connect the two countries. The first major contact between America and Sierra Leone was through the slave trade. Captives from this part of Africa were highly sought after for their superior rice-growing abilities. The rice from this part of the world was among the best, and rice was a prime industry in the Carolinas and Georgia. Many Sierra Leoneans found their way to the United States because plantation owners sought them out. Their expertise was invaluable in the southern economy.

Today, there is a population off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia called the Gullah people who trace their roots to the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone. The language they speak is almost identical to the tribal language still spoken here. Their foods, their songs, their dances, and their rituals are all indicative of the African roots many Americans never knew they had. An American scholar by the name of Joseph Opala about 10 years ago was able to connect through DNA testing a woman from that area of the United States to a particular village here in Sierra Leone. That woman’s ancestor, a Sierra Leonean captive named Priscilla, remained in the area of the Southern U.S., and her descendants settled there for generations. When Priscilla’s descendant finally visited the land of her ancestors, it was dubbed “Priscilla’s Homecoming,” and epitomized the strong relationship between our two countries. (more…)

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From the London Times, we get a rapturous travel report on the breathtaking Namibian desert:

Before long I’m transfixed by the ever-changing shades of the golden, grassy savannahs, dwarf plants eking out an existence along the misty coastline and the multitude of uses these plants offer local tribes.

But we can do better than words. Here’s what it looks like:

Namib Desert

And this is just one moment of one day in our month-long voyage along the Atlantic coastline of Africa from the Cape of Good Hope to the Rock of Gibraltar.

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A major article in the Boston Globe reports,

By many standards, Africa is doing better than it has in decades. The number of democratically elected governments has risen sharply in the past decade, and the number of violent conflicts has dropped. African economies, and African businesses, are starting to show impressive results, and not just by the diminished standards the rest of the world reserves for its poorest continent. The runaway inflation that crippled African economies for decades is on the ebb, and foreign investment is rising. Last month, the World Bank reported that average GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 5.4 percent over the last decade, better than the United States, with some countries poised for dramatic expansion.

“For the first time in a long time, you have the potential that a handful of countries could break from the pack and become leopards, cheetahs, or whatever the African equivalent of an Asian Tiger would be,” says John Page, the World Bank’s chief Africa economist, referring to the nickname given East Asian nations like Taiwan and South Korea because of their double-digit growth in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.”

Meanwhile, over in Mali, the Bamako beat is taking the world by storm. Travel Dynamics International is very excited to show you Africa — the real Africa, changing and growing — during our extraordinary cruises to this fantastically varied continent.

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