Cities and Towns in Africa
More often than not, the capital of whatever given country is the centre of life. With museums, nightlife, shopping, transport links and everything else, the Tunisian capital of Tunis is no different. While most people seem to gravitate towards the souqs, bazars and medinas in the city, there is much more up for offer. Firstly the magnificent Bardo Museum will tantalize the sense, as much for the building as the artifacts. Architecturally, the churches, embassies and such are wonderful. There are plenty of outdoor cafes and restaurants for those culinary inclined. And there are a smattering of bars and clubs to rock the night away. Tunis has what you'd expect of a capital... everything!
Opinions over Mbale are not unanimous. Most travellers will just go through it on their way to northeastern Uganda or Sipi Falls, but a few will choose to spend a day or two in the city, using it as a base to explore the region. Of the ones who stay for more than a couple of hours, some will praise its beautiful setting in the foothills of Mount Elgon, while others will deplore its lack of interesting things to do. Some will enjoy strolling along its lively streets, while others will call them dirty, noisy and chaotic. Where some will appreciate interesting architecture from the colonial era, others will just see crumbling buildings. Whatever their opinions are, all will agree that Mbale is not a must-see, but if a stopover is necessary, it is certainly not the worst place to be in.
Boujdour is by far the pleasant town in Western Sahara, though it is often overlooked by travellers. A small town with a relaxed and easygoing vibe, its most recognizable landmark is a tall lighthouse in the town centre. Other "landmarks" includes a number of strange sculptures, including on of an octopus triumphantly holding a fish(!) and a city gate that includes both dolphins and ostriches(!!). More interesting, however, is the harbour. Especially late afternoon, when dozens of small, open fishing boats return with the day's catch. It is possible and easy to buy fish right off the boats and have them prepared at one of the small shacks right next to the harbour. However, the strong winds might keep the boats in the safety of the harbour, so check if they have sailed out before getting your hopes up.
Western Sahara’s major city is home to around half of the territory’s population, around 200.000 people. However, it is mainly an administrative centre, without much interest for travellers. Most visitors nevertheless use the city a pit stop travelling between Mauritania and Morocco. Here is a large market east of Place Qum Saad, and Laayoune is the last place to stuck up before going further south if you need anything more specific. If you still have a couple of hours to kill, the city-planners clearly had a thing for big empty squares and roundabouts – so you might want to check out those. Alternatively, is there a big reservoir north of town with come impressive dunes around it. A good reminder that this actually is the Sahara. If you have even more time, there a decent beach 20 km to the west of town at Laayoune Plage.
Smara (or Samara) is the only town in Western Sahara that was founded before the Spanish. It's therefore the only place in Western Sahara, where it's possible to find any form of historical architecture. What is left is not impressive compared to Morocco. The ruined Mosquée Cheikh Maouelainin is usually locked and the restored fort is being occupied by the Moroccan police – taking photos tend to come with no small amount of suspicion from the law enforcement. In fact, the most interesting thing in Smara might be the authorities paranoia towards tourists. If you arrive during the evening or night, you might very well find that the local police will tail you until you have found a hotel. During the day, undercover agents might also be watching. In general, Smara’s inland location means that the town is less used to tourists. Contrary to the coastal cities, which sees its fair share of overlanders.
Lusaka is roughly split into two parts separated by the rail line. On the east side is Cairo Rd, Lusaka's main road, with its odd collection of 70s-futuristic concrete buildings. The crowded (as crowded as it gets in Lusaka) commercial area extends a few blocks east where traders fill the sidewalks and corners with their goods of fruits, outdated cellphone accessories and second-hand clothes. The west side is the more modern one consisting of fancy malls among quiet tree lined residential neighbourhoods. There are no sights to speak of in Lusaka and the biggest landmark is probably the nuclear-power-plant-look-alike chimney. Welcome to Lusaka!