LIFESTYLE

MAURITIUS

By ODDITY STUDIOS

MAURITIUS

The island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is known worldwide for its fat goofy Dodo bird and its most amazing white sand beaches – indeed it has beaches to suit and cheer everybody’s mood. Perebere, situated in the North of the island, with its white sand and green and blue sea is my favourite. However, as ODDITY representatives, on a visit to the island, we wanted to know what else lies beyond those beaches – and what we discovered was totally awe inspiring.

Mauritius Seen From Above

The bustling and buzzing capital Port Louis is in itself a microcosm of our world. It is a mind boggling delight for the senses – with the loud Azan (Muslim call to prayer chant) from the mesmerising landmark Jummah Mosque to the streets packed with locals shopping from the hundreds of shops selling all sorts of imported items including a variety of colourful Asian garments and a huge variety of European style clothing to suit everybody’s pocket. Also the streets of China Town just a few steps away from Place D’Armes are lined up with hardware shops selling mainly imported products from China. Le Caudan, the modern shopping mall by the harbour has shops with higher end-products and is also a cool tourist marketplace for pretty souvenirs. A great variety of restaurants can also be found in this idyllic shopping mall in the harbour.

The main food market of Port Louis known locally as bazar central, is also a very popular tourist spot filled with tumultuous arrays of sounds and scents that jostle the senses even further; all manners of local cuisine are on display there. The most popular one seems to be the ‘dhall puri’, which is a form of pancake made with ground chickpea stuffed in flour and served with a hot tomato sauce called ‘rougaille’; there is also a big selection of French pastries and gateaux. Popular drinks include the scented milk called ‘alouda’; fresh coconut water and fresh lemon drinks. Elsewhere a huge selection of seasonal exotic vegetables and fruits fill the market stalls.

During our stay on the island, we pushed the experience of the island life even further by staying at the Zilwa Attitude Hotel which is rather designed based on the islanders’ traditional way of living. The rooms have rustic designs with plain grey cement floors. Typical island flip flops and straw hats are provided to all customers on arrival. My fishing trips with the locals were arranged by the hotel staffs that were incredibly friendly at all times – the resort is huge and the natural beauty of its sea, sand and coconut trees is the main attraction. The food at the hotel was to die for and on top of that there was a big selection to suite everybody’s taste. The cosy and craftily prepared bed beckoned after a thoroughly beautiful end to a perfect first day.

Early the next morning we headed to the Trou d’eau Douce beach for a catamaran to the Ile- aux-Cerfs (Deer island) – the largest lagoon of Mauritius with mesmerising white sand and where we were to spend the best part of the day. Yet again the crew was very friendly and jolly. The whole atmosphere was incredibly jovial, our tourist group included people from Japan, Germany, South Africa, and France. The local traditional music called the sega was blaring in the background while we were welcomed with a variety of assorted drinks and snacks. I was very quick to find myself a relaxing spot on the catamaran and just sat down inhaling the air of the beautiful tropical sea. On route we also stopped at a location where one could choose to paraglide, and of course I could not resist the temptation! It was a scintillating experience to say the least. Later we were invited to swim at a shallow spot packed with colourful tropical fish- again I jumped in to the occasion without hesitation and persuasion as soon as the life jackets were handed out. Back on deck we were served with a freshly cooked barbecue meal accompanied by with a variety of alcoholic and soft drinks. We were then dropped off at the island of Ile aux Cerfs, which was one of the best sights I have ever come across – hectares of vegetation and white sand. In brief – paradise itself!

The next day I went for a hike on Le Morne Brabant (the mountain in the picture), which is also famously known as one of the wildest mountains on the island and declared a world heritage by UNESCO. It is a place where many slaves presumably committed suicide during their hard days of slavery on the island. The hike was moderately demanding physically, although there were a few sections of the trail that were steep and rocky and where I had to use my hands for support – we were lucky it wasn’t raining that day, otherwise it would have been tricky then to climb. I was glad to have my Oddity cap on as higher up, the spots were quite exposed to the sun. Reaching the summit was utterly fulfilling and the view of the southern west coasts were breathtakingly phenomenal. A great sense of achievement was felt once up there at the top!

Another unique experience – the Vanilla Crocodile Park, a lush green rainforest valley with natural freshwater springs surrounded with huge bamboo trees among others. In that park, there are thousands of crocodiles, all different sizes and ages. There are also giant tortoises and a few other harmless animals for petting around. I was by far most delighted by the huge collection of multi coloured, jewel like insects and butterflies comprising more than 30,000 species from 5 continents. I had the great pleasure to meet Mr Jacques Siedlecki who is responsible for this awesome collection, spanning over thirty years.

On my next visit I stopped at the Casela, another vast nature park. Situated in the west of the island, it has safari tours and exciting zip lining adventure which provides amazing views and a touch of adrenaline rush. I got to walk with the lions and fed the magnificent giraffes. There are around 150 bird species in Casela and a great variety of other animals such as monkeys, fish etc too. Beautiful exotics trees and flowers make the park a truly heavenly place to spend time – in my mind an ideal place for meditation. Feeling famished after such an exhilarating adventure – I stopped at La Bonne chute, a wonderful fish restaurant with amazingly delicious recipes. The setting was so airy and friendly and as usual in Mauritius, the service is warm and friendly. On my next visit to the island I will also add a morning swim with the dolphins in this same part of the island.

My last night was at the Angsana Hotel Mauritius – first floor in a luxurious spacious suite with luscious wooden floors and a private pool on the balcony – a very quiet and romantic place, perfect for relaxation. Needless to say the food was of great finesse on top of the atmosphere dreamy.

Without doubt we achieved more than what we expected. We wanted to explore what Mauritius has beyond the beaches and we were delightfully surprised by the exciting varieties of activities, culture, food and warmth. The great friendliness of the natives and the harmony and respect for each other’s’ faith were something very impressive to witness in this day and age of religious and social unrest.

 

Words By: Nariman Annut

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QATAR

By ODDITY STUDIOS

QATAR

Cherishing tradition and culture as development scrapes the clear skies; Qatar epitomises a modern and authentic fusion on the western shore of the Persian Gulf.

A common misconception of the Gulf countries is that the fast evolving society is running ahead of technology, but lacking on authenticity. Doha illustrates otherwise – amongst the futuristic architecture, you immediately feel the conservation of heritage and prominence of guarding tradition. Eliciting the diversity with its high-streets offering the chicest cosmopolitan lifestyle, and the magical alleyways of Souq Waqif, tantalizing all your senses.

The focus on culture is displayed through the architecture and aesthetics of the city. The art scene is heavily supported, with the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) being the most renowned site. I.M. Pei stands behind the unique contemporary design, influenced by ancient Islamic architecture, combined with the use of geometric patterns and sculptural light fixtures. The MIA, located on an artificial peninsula at the end of the Doha Corniche, houses a collection of works from three continents over 14 centuries – making it one of the world’s most complete collections of Islamic artifacts. The MIA building and its surrounding area is an astounding attraction for itself, exhibiting exceptional views overlooking the dhow boats in the Doha Bay. The National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, is well on its way to being another outstanding architectural site in the city; ‘where heritage meets innovation’.

As Qatar is rapidly developing in preparation for the World Cup in 2022, luxury hotels are continuously establishing themselves and creating incomparable experiences for the guests. From design to service, the levels of hospitality are set beyond expectation – where comfort and exclusivity is catered to in the finest manner.

Marsa Malaz Kempinski stands as a palace on the Pearl, being the single resort on the island, surrounded by the Gulf seas. Apart from boasting stupendous facilities portraying Arabian opulence and European architecture, the resort is recognised for its state-of-the-art interior pieces. Marsa Malaz also holds the first Spa by Clarins in the Middle East; a heavenly retreat devoted to health and well-being. The St Regis Doha, located in the heart of the West Bay overlooking the open sea, presents guests with a signature butler service, taking tailored convenience to the next level. Between the marble-clad floors and dazzling chandeliers, the resort accommodates to all tastes with its eleven restaurants and lounges, introducing guests to a ‘visionary epicurean world’. The Shangri-La Hotel Doha stands in the fashionable central business district, directly linked to the City Centre Mall. The 50-storey tower features floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the city. This city gem offers an enchanting fusion of Asian and Qatari elements; from the flawless décor to the delectable range of flavors. The palm-lined pool deck showcases a curving outdoor pool with the superlative Doha skyline as a backdrop.

Beyond the rapid modern advancements, Qatar holds a natural wonder where the desert meets the sea. Khor Al Adaid, also known as Inland Sea, is an awe-inspiring sight. With views of sand as far as the eye can see, the sea encroaches in the heart of the desert. Straight ahead past the shades of blue, the lands of Saudi Arabia stand visible. This natural reserve is only accessible by crossing the rolling dunes in a 4×4. The golden stretches of Khor Al Adaid are truly a one-of-a-kind vision.

With continuous global integration as an objective, Qatar proves to be a destination where all elements are achieved above and beyond any expectation. Valuing its deep cultural roots and using technological innovations to induce the nations past- the essence of Qatar is best encapsulated by the distinct merge of Arabic rituals with western influences. The pearl of the Middle East.

London-Doha: Barrhead Travel is offering a seven night stay in Qatar from £1,499 per person. The price includes two nights at The Shangri-La Doha (bed & breakfast basis), two nights at The Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl-Doha (room only) and three nights at The St Regis Doha (room only), all based on two sharing. Also included are return flights from London Heathrow to Doha with Qatar Airways, and return airport transfers. 

 To book please call: 0141 222 2223 or visit  www.barrheadtravel.co.uk

www.qatartourism.gov.qa

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The Land Time Forgot

By ODDITY STUDIOS

The Land Time Forgot
 
If you’re sitting on your sofa, looking out across the cityscape and wondering if it’s time to explore a little – we have a place in mind. We aren’t talking a weekend away in Monaco, or Mykonos, or Dubai; forget the blue skies, the beaches and the palm trees. How about amazing views, breath-taking landscapes and natural spectacles? These adjectives do not begin to do justice to the enormity of beauty waiting to be found in Iceland.
Do not be deterred by the extreme weather conditions, instead, prepare yourself for a country different in every way. Black volcanic gravel and soft white snow. Grey jagged rocks and star filled deep blue skies. Aurora borealis electrifying the sky with a shock of green – plunging even the most dismissive of thinkers into a chasm of contemplation. Iceland has seemingly arrived on the niche holiday-goers map as the world finally marvels in its natural beauty and extravagance.
Iceland has seen a superb growth in tourism over the past 5 years and from the breath-taking scenery to the overall experience, this comes as no surprise. Simply put, Iceland is not for the mundane or the boring but for the adventurers and the curious. The beautiful truth of Iceland is that there isn’t just one Iceland to discover – there is so much to see and so much to do that every experience differs from the next.
Set in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland’s obscure location is almost it’s hidden strength. Being based almost directly between Europe and North America, Iceland was originally a perfect go to hub – a midway point for long-haul flights giving jetsetters the option to break up their journey. This momentum began building the popularity and mystique of this radiant forgotten island and could well be a contributing reason for its rise to prominence.
A country the size of England, Iceland is predominantly made up of volcanic desert, ice blue glaciers, geysers, canyons, waterfalls, far stretching rivers and frozen lakes lost out in the wild. A far cry from the busy commercial metropolis’ of city life, Iceland still has its heart and soul very much intact and offers both real yet surreal escapism. The air is far clearer than the more travelled locations in the world and due to the general lack of pollution and artificial light, stars stretch the scape of the sky – a beautiful reminder of what lies above, far and beyond.
You can walk to along a beach of volcanic gravel as the wind orchestrates a vicious shoreline. Black-jagged rocks emerge from the ocean like prehistoric teeth, eternal and unmoved by the crashing waves. If these sights aren’t alluring enough then there is always the most spectacular natural phenomena on earth to behold – The Northern Lights. In-essence for any traveller Iceland is highly recommended as a unique destination full of beauty and discovery. So, what are you waiting for? Your next adventure awaits…
For more globetrotting anecdotes and first hand footage check out:
#ILLtakeyouto
Photography: Mario Botta

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