The Department of Defense last year created the U.S. Africa Command, acknowledging the emerging strategic importance of the continent. Among other things this has meant an increasing number of interesting ports of call for the Navy.
PORTS OF CALL
Djibouti City is home to two-thirds of Djibouti's 600,000 people and location of the US Navy Forward Operating Site. Women in colorful robes dash about with goats tucked under their arms. The city has a bustling market, open-air restaurants and architecture attesting to its history as a French colony. At night, dozens of restaurants, clubs and pubs are packed with locals, U.S. and French troops. Troops regularly take beach and boat trips and visit Lake Assal, a massive salt lake surrounded by volcanoes. Vehicles driving past crystal-clear deserted beaches must yield frequently for camels and goats and the occasional baboon.
Accra is the bustling largest city and capital of Ghana. Don't miss the Makola Market and the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial. At the market you'll find thousands of street stalls with vendors selling everything and anything. But be prepared to bargain. The minute they see Obroni ("white man") the price triples. Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister and later president of Ghana, is a national hero and a foremost proponent of Pan-Africanism. When you get hungry try the Kelewele, fried plantain, a banana-like tropical fruit, seasoned with chilies, ginger and sometimes ground nuts. Many visitors will also stop by the beaches and partake in the Osu district's vibrant nightlife.
Mombasa is the second city of Kenya and on the coast. Its heart is the old town with its Arab influence. Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in 1593, and one of the best examples of 16th century military architecture, is now a tourist attraction with a daily sound and light show. Haller Park is an area of gardens and a habitat for a number of animals including giraffe, crocodiles and hippos. The Mombasa Marine Park provides glass bottom boat trips to view the coral.
Dakar is the capital city of Senegal, located on the Cape Verde Peninsula on the country's Atlantic coast. It is Senegal's largest city and Africa's westernmost port. As such it was, unfortunately, a key element in the slave trade, a fact that is remembered at the "House of Slaves, " on Gorée Island near the harbor. Dakar's attractions include active open-air markets with excellent crafts, the IFAN Museum of West African culture, cafe terraces, delicious food and a great night life. For the sports minded there are clifftop walks along the ocean and fine beaches.
Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco and North Africa's busiest port, but its winding alleyways reveal the romance immortalized on film by Bogart and Bergman. You'll look in vain for Rick's Café Américain, but you'll still be impressed with the Hassan II Mosque, with the world's tallest minaret. For shopaholics, the old city offers a wide variety of antiques and decorative items, particularly beautiful bead jewelry. Casablanca is the primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy, and the La Corniche Beach is about 7 km from the city.
The port city of Agadir, Morocco's number one tourist attraction, is located 500 kilometers south of Casablanca. The beach, together with the sunny weather, forms the main attraction for thousands of winter visitors from northern Europe. Boat trips take them out to sea, where schools of dolphins and whales can be spotted. Agadir is a pretty modern city, with high rises and palm-lined boulevards, and the kasbah will not disappoint you. Much of the modernity results from an earthquake that devastated the city in 1960. In the evening, the beachfront comes to life, with crowds thronging the promenade lined with restaurants, cafés and music bars.
Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam, though not a major tourist destination, is the largest city and the political and economic capital of Tanzania. It contains plenty of lively neighbourhoods and stunning sights. It casts a charm of its own, with a busy harbor, mélange of cultures, a bustling fish market and colorful history. Seven kilometres north of the city, the Bongoyo Island Marine Reserve offers good snorkelling and diving sites for those who want to view coral and numerous marine species.
Luanda, on Africa's South Atlantic Coast, is the capital and largest city of Angola. Facing the ocean on both sides of the road is a string of beachfront restaurants for every taste, many with lively, upbeat entertainment, discos and casinos. The most breathtaking views of Luanda port and the bay area, are seen from the historic white-walled Sao Miguel Fort. From here, Luanda Bay, with its many shades of blue, is lined to the horizon with craft of all types; sailboats, sleek motor launches, barges and freighters. Inside the fort, elaborate ceramic tiles tell the story of Angola from its early years as a Portuguese colony, and in the courtyard are large, imposing statues of Portugal's first king and the renowned explorer Vasco de Gama.
Alexandria, the second largest city and the main port of Egypt, has links to such famous personalities as Cleopatra, Mark Antony and Julius Caesar. Built on the order of Alexander the Great, its museums and archaological sites speak of its Macedonian, Roman and Arab history. There are several beautiful beaches known for fishing and seafood restaurants.
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