Few places on Earth romanticize the unique blend of mother nature and the vastness of Earth’s natural plains. With several national parks, Kenya is synonymous with the word: safari.
Considered a gem in the history of exploration of our planet, Kenya is home to this exquisite blend of culture, terrain, and anthropological values. The Masai Mara National Reserve will have you believe that the country is all plains of dried grass but visit the Amboseli National Park and Kenya will emerge blissfully with green life and cool breezes that emerge from the might of Mount Kilimanjaro.
The elephant herds in the Kenya’s largest National Park: are nothing short of a glimpse of God giving our heavily industrialized Earth a second chance.
With colors, joy, bliss, blends, exquisite smells, thousands of flocks of pink flamingoes, plains, mountains, and breezes, and bordered by the Indian Ocean, Kenya, is a must-visit place for the purest of explorer spirits.
Zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, grassy plains, sunlight, nature at its finest: Masai Mara is living proof that our planet is alive. The Masai Mara National Reserve is also home to the big 5, lion, leopard, buffalo, Elephant and the elusive rhino. The eighth wonder of the world is the great migration were hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, antelopes, gazelles, and zebras make the dangerous trek across the Serengeti in search of water in the Masai Mara. During this time tourists can experience some amazing hunts. As a famous tourist destination, the Masai Mara safari is one of the most sought-after experiences in the entire African continent.
Amboseli National Park
The Amboseli National Park is famous for its free-ranging elephants and Keya’s highest peak: Mount Kilimanjaro. The park is home to the great African lion, the Cape buffalo, the Masai giraffe, and a range of exotic birds, the likes of which are not found anywhere else in the world. It also houses five huge swamps and a Pleistocene Lake.
Lake Nakuru National Park
With a shallow lake in the center, Lake Nakuru National Park presents tourists with a great opportunity to see hundreds of species of birds all lined up around the water. It is a bird lover’s paradise as the algae attract a lot of flamingoes and other exotic birds. Lake Nakuru also attracts a lot of white rhinos and lions because of its freshwater.
Samburu National Park
The park is one of the few places on the planet that houses all three big cats: the cheetah, the lion, and the African leopard. With its area stretching from Central Kenya to the country’s extremities, the national park offers scenic views of wildlife like no other. The entire ecosystem is ruled by vicious beasts, exotic birds, endangered species, and the hot African terrain. The park is also home to the sacred Mount Ololokwe.
Thinking about an African safari?
Then, Kenya has to be in your thoughts.
This is because safari and Kenya belong together. Do you know that while ‘safari’ is now synonymous with an expedition in the African wild, the word has it origin in Kiswahili language?
Safari is the Kiswahili word for travelling or a journey. Of course you don’t need to know this, but the knowledge won’t hurt. What is important is the reason why you need to choose Kenya in your African safari.
Unforgettable African safari experience
There are a hundred and one reasons to choose Kenya as an African safari destination. These include spending time in the white beaches, visiting the iconic 426-year old Fort Jesus in Mombasa, game view of a wide variety of wild animals and birds, experiencing rich tribal cultures. Other things to do during your African safari in Kenya include visiting the Great Rift Valley, Mount Kenya, fresh water and salty water lakes. Kenya also offers a wide selection of 5-star, 4-star, and 3-star hotels, lodges, camps and cottages so are as comfortable as you wich.
Kenya also takes pride in conserving the world’s wildlife heritage by supporting conservancies across the country. Its 160 major conservancies cover more than 6.6 million hectares of land, and serve as home to millions of animals.
It is no wonder that Kenya is at the top of the listings of Africa’s leading tourism hubs.
Here are 11 reasons to choose Kenya in your African safari:
1. Top African Safari Destination
In 2020, Kenya was ranked Africa’s top tourist destination by the World Travel Awards (WTA). In the same ranking, Kenya was ranked 63rd globally. This was in recognition of the countries rich offerings of nature, wildlife, hospitality, infrastructure and culture. It is no wonder that an average of 2 million foreign tourists visit the country annually. (1)
2. Moderate weather
Kenya straddles the Equator with a half each of the country in the northern and southern hemispheres. For this reason, the country has moderate weather most of the year. This is like having a never ending summer with a bit of spring. For this reason, you visit and do most of the things you can only do during summer and in the USA. And while there are short spells of relatively lower temperatures in the highlands, the countries general temperature averages between 60o and 80o Fahrenheit.
3. Cradle of mankind
Kenya is regarded as the cradle of humankind because it is here that some of the oldest remains of human and closely related species have been found. In fact, Kenya is a hotbed of archeological activity with more than 700 fossils of early man having been found. In total, Kenya has nearly 400,000 fossils in various museums. These findings put Kenya on the world archeological map. An African safari would therefore be incomplete if you don’t include Kenya, the home of all mankind in it. You may want to include some archeological sites in your safari. Important archeological sites include Olorgesaille, Kariandusi, Gedi Ruins and Lake Turkana,
4. Home to the big five
One of the most popular activities during an African safari in Kenya is watching animals in their natural habitat. Kenya is home to millions of animals. These include the big 5, comprising the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. The term big 5 was adopted due to the difficulty in hunting these animals. However, hunting is no longer legal in Kenya.
5. National park in the city
If you plan to spend a short time in Nairobi or are in Nairobi on a quiet vacation, Nairobi National Park offers you that break from city life. Located to the south east of the capital city, just off the Mombasa Road as you drive from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi National Park is easily accessible and is minutes away from the city center. You can do a safari walk or drive within the park, and watch giraffes, zebra, baboon, buffalo and a variety of birds.
6. 8th wonder of the world
Regarded as the 8th Wonder of the World, the annual wildebeest migration is a spectacle not seen anywhere else in the world. During the migration, in the months of July to November each year, nearly 2 million wildebeests move in a clockwise loop between Serengeti National Reserve in Tanzania and Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.
7. Best hotels of the world
Kenya’s hospitality industry has been voted as having some of the best hotels of the world. This is evidence enough that your stay in Kenya will be as pleasant as you can get from the best locations in the world. Restaurants offer any kind of meal you can think of: Mediterranean, continental, Swahili and other local and international dishes.
8. Safari trails in Kenya
Whether you choose to walk or drive, Kenya offers well established African safari trails. The more popular safari destinations in Kenya include Maasai Mara National Reserve, Samburu National Reserve, Tsavo National Park and Amboseli National Park.
9. Hot air balloon rides
Hot air balloons offer a different safari experience. Watch the animals in the natural habitat from the air over the Maasai Mara. A hot air balloon ride allows you to cover more ground and gives you a better view of the animals and the savannah landscape.
10. Safari lodges and camps
Kenya offers a wide variety of safari lodges and camps in most of its safari destinations. So, whether you have Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Tsavo, Samburu, Mount Kenya or Meru, you can pick your favorite type of accommodation in the wild to make your safari truly unforgettable.
11. White sand beaches
Kenya boasts some of the whitest beaches you can find anywhere in the world. These beaches line a significant portion of Kenya’s 333-mile long coastline. You can enjoy your vacation in Kwale County’s Diani Beach in the south coast, in Mombasa and Kilifi in the north, or Lamu further north. No matter your choice, you will have access to some of the top beach hotels from where you can go for swimming or other water sports like surfing in the Indian Ocean. You could also go snorkeling in the pristine aquamarine ocean waters.
Are you looking to plan an exotic vacation where you can spend time in nature and be surrounded by fascinating culture? If so, East Africa travel should definitely be on your bucket list.
Whether you’re looking to go on a safari and take some of the most incredible photos or relax on the beach surrounded by breathtaking views, places in Africa can deliver. Africa is home to some of the most delicious fare and kindest locals, some of the best aspects of travel.
Continue reading to learn more about Africa travel and the best places to visit in Africa. We’ll share with you important details on travel tips, activities, weather, and local languages.
Why Visit Africa
Africa isn’t always the first place on a traveler’s bucket list, but it should be! Here are some of the best parts about traveling to Africa.
Since our top places to visit in Africa are on the east coast, we’ll share what East African cuisine is all about! If you enjoy flavorful food, you’ll love East African cooking as they’re richly spiced.
Locals enjoy vegetables, meat including seafood, and rice all with a full flavor. Tropical fruits including pineapple and mango are also popular snacks.
If you happen to be a vegetarian, East Africa is a great place to visit! Although many dishes are made with meat, it’s easy to eat lots of tasty fruit and vegetables.
From mountains to beaches, East Africa offers some of the world’s most stunning natural wonders. You can also come across vast savannahs and large lakes.
When we think of Africa travel, we often think of safaris. Kenya is a prime safari country and surrounding countries also offer the experience. A safari adventure gives an inside look to lions, elephants, cheetahs, and more living in their natural habitat.
For those looking for a beach getaway, East Africa offers unmatched experiences. Warm waters are ideal for swimming and soft white sands welcome sunbathers. There are also many exciting fishing and diving opportunities.
Africa offers a cultural experience like no other! With more than 1 billion African residents and 3,000 tribes, the culture is diverse. This makes Africa home to unique languages, traditions, and cuisine.
Likely due to its cultural diversity, Africa is known for its friendly and inviting locals. Most people are kind and welcoming to tourists. Depending on where you visit, the vibe is laid-back and the people reflect this.
East Africa Travel Tips
As with anywhere, travel expectations and experiences vary depending on which country you visit in Africa. However, these tips can be applied to most places in Africa.
Be mindful of taking pictures.
While you’ll certainly want to snap photos of stunning views and beautiful wildlife, don’t take pictures of people unless you ask permission.
Research entry requirements.
Entry requirements for most countries in East Africa are fairly simple if you’re from the United States. This may vary depending on where you’re from and where you’re going.
As with traveling abroad anywhere, it’s good to know some basic phrases in that country’s official language. These may include things like ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘how much is it.’ Locals appreciate the effort and it makes your adventure much easier.
Apps like Google Translate can help when there’s a language barrier. With English being the universal language, you can usually find at least some English speakers in touristy destinations.
Do your research.
Each country is its own place so it’s important to be mindful of the specific one you’re going to. Do your research to learn specific details about where you’re going. Working with a travel agent is the best way to ensure you’re prepared for your next vacation!
Some things to know before you go:
Vaccine requirements for entry
What the local language is and if English is highly spoken or not
What Wi-Fi is like
What the currency is
Which SIM card you should get at the airport for the best cell reception
What transportation is needed from the airport and around town
Which areas are best to stay in
3 Best Places to Visit in Africa
East Africa is home to some of the world’s most stunning destinations. If you’re traveling to Africa, there are many experiences to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to observe wildlife, meet new people, or relax on the beach, there’s something for everyone in Africa.
Let’s take a look at the 3 of the best places for East Africa travel.
Kenya is an incredible country that has so much to offer! If you’re taking a trip to Africa but can only go to one place, Kenya is the ideal destination. Kenya is a very diverse country so there are many languages spoken with Swahili, English, and Kikuyu being the main ones.
From its stunning scenery to friendly locals, there’s so much to enjoy. The temperate weather is ideal to experience Kenya’s savanna safaris and gorgeous beaches
Mount Kenya: the tallest mountain in Kenya and second-tallest in all of Africa
Diani Beach: Africa’s most popular beach destination featuring white sands and abundant greenery
If you’re planning to visit Africa and love coffee, Ethiopia should definitely be on your itinerary! It’s where coffee originated and Ethiopian coffee is as tasty as you can imagine.
Aside from coffee, Ethiopia is home to diverse wildlife and rich culture. There is no shortage of memories to be made when exploring this beautiful country that offers warm, dry weather almost all year.
The official Ethiopian language in Amharic. With that said, the increase in tourism has led to slight growth in English speakers.
The National Museum of Ethiopia: home to local artistic gems and fossilized remains
Blue Nile Falls: a waterfall on the Blue Nile River
If you’re looking to get off the beaten path for a tropical vacation, Zanzibar is the perfect location! It’s an archipelago of islands off the coast of East Africa and is home to more than 25 breathtaking beaches.
Not only is there plenty of relaxing to do at the ocean, but Zanzibar is also one of the best places to visit in Africa for various activities. And, the weather is great for it just about all year, although April and May can be rainy.
Zanzibar boasts resorts with pools, shopping opportunities, and great food to enjoy. Vibrant cafes and markets can also be found.
Swahili is the most widely spoken language in Zanzibar. In most tourists areas, locals may also speak languages from the Western part of the world including English, French, and Italian.
Favorite tourist attractions in Zanzibar are:
Cheetah’s Rock: an educational wildlife rescue and conservation center
Nakupenda Beach Nature Reserve: an island where visitors can snorkel and swim with dolphins
Jozani Forest: the only national park in Zanzibar
Are you ready to pack your bags for your next vacation? I hope you’ve been inspired to take a trip to one of the most fascinating places in the world! If you enjoy exciting adventures, diverse landscapes, and making new friends, traveling to East Africa is perfect for you.
If you’re ready to learn more about the best places to visit in Africa, check out Evolution Travel for help planning an unforgettable vacation.
Are you looking to plan your next cruise vacation? For over a year and a half, we’ve all been living a very different life and many of us are eager for adventure. Although you may be dreaming of your cruise, you might be wondering if it’s safe right now and what protocols cruise lines have in place for safety against COVID-19.
From safety measures to acclaimed cruise lines, we’re going to share everything you need to know about taking your next cruise and having an incredible time. We’ll also share some amazing cruise specials!
Let’s get ready for your next getaway!
Is it safe to go on a cruise?
Living during a pandemic has understandably made travelers question what’s safe and not. The good news is that cruise lines are taking precautions to ensure passenger safety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cruises are safe for those who are fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t vaccinated or who are susceptible to getting very ill should avoid a cruise vacation right now.
For safe travel, the CDC recommends the following before and during your cruise:
Obtain travel insurance that covers situations such as needing to cancel your trip or care during or after your trip due to the virus.
Complete a COVID-19 test 1-3 days prior to the trip and 3-5 days after.
Those who aren’t vaccinated should self-quarantine for a week after cruise travel.
Avoid boarding a cruise if you’re experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.
During the cruise, wear a mask while in a shared space.
Keep a 6-foot distance between you and others on the cruise that you aren’t traveling with.
Regularly wash your hands or use hand sanitizer while traveling.
As we share the best cruise lines below, we’ll give you more details about how specific cruise lines are keeping passengers safe and well during their trip.
The Best Cruise Lines
With over 50 ocean cruise companies, it can be difficult to decide which one to book with. We want to take the guesswork out of it for you and share some favorite, award-winning options.
Carnival Cruise Line
People have been enjoying Carnival Cruises for almost 50 years. It’s no wonder they were voted best cruise lines for families, for the money, and in the Caribbean. Their 24 cruise ships depart from 13 US cities and some abroad. Best of all, you can choose from more than 700 destinations to sail to.
Carnival Cruise ships are known to offer a top-notch vacation experience. There’s entertainment onboard like deck parties and music performances. Adventures presented off the ship include water sports in the Caribbean and walking on glaciers in Alaska.
Check out this 16-day Panama Canal Cruise from Seattle where you can see one of the most incredible man-made wonders and hang out at local beaches.
All staff and passengers are required to be vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination. This excludes children under 12 and those with a written note from their doctor stating a medical condition prevents them from being vaccinated.
Those who aren’t able to be vaccinated must present a negative COVID-19 test and have travel insurance.
All guests are encouraged to wear a mask when indoors.
Some youth programs aren’t being offered.
There are casino regulations in places including mandatory masks unless drinking or smoking.
There are hand-washing sinks and sanitizer dispensers throughout the ship.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Known for its relaxed and fun atmosphere, Norwegian Cruise Line has 28 ships that travel to almost 500 worldwide destinations. They’ve been recognized as being the best cruise line for the money, for family, and in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
What makes Norwegian unique is that they offer what they call the ‘freestyle experience.’ Travelers follow their own schedules and have access to a wide range of activities. Choose to enjoy the cuisine at several onboard restaurants, enjoy dinner and a show, or hang out at their water park. Off the ship, travelers enjoy experiences like ziplining through Caribbean rainforests or trekking to a volcano in Hawaii.
Take a look at this Caribbean cruise with Norwegian where passengers visit the stunning island on St. Thomas.
All guests and staff are required to be fully vaccinated and undergo a health screening prior to the trip.
Medical professionals are on staff including a Chief Medical Officer.
They practice extensive cleaning and disinfecting.
Hand washing and sanitizing stations are available throughout the ship.
Endless opportunities are to be enjoyed on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Unlike its name suggests, Royal features 280 destinations around the world. These include the Caribbean, Bahamas, Alaska, and more. They’ve been awarded a number of times including the best overall cruise lines and the best cruise line in the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean cruises are known for the adventure they offer. They offer world-class dining to top-notch entertainment on the ship. Off the ship, travelers enjoy things like snorkeling in the Caribbean or Hawaii and tundra trekking in Alaska.
Medical staff is on board to evaluate passengers when needed or requested.
Masks are required to be worn indoors unless eating or drinking.
Handwashing and sanitizing are available throughout the ship.
Vaccine and testing requirements vary by departure location.
Whether it’s your first cruise vacation or you’re interested in learning more, these common questions should help you prepare for an incredible adventure!
Why cruises are the best vacation?
There are several great benefits to choosing cruises for a vacation.
Excellent value: Your trip costs typically cover all or most aspects including transportation, food, accommodation, and entertainment.
Straight-forward planning: Unlike other vacations, you don’t have to spend a ton of time picking your accommodation, adventures, etc. You can choose your destination and itinerary in one place and be on your way.
Easy to meet people: With so many activities, meeting new people is easy to do on cruises if you’re up for being social.
Fun offered for all kinds of travelers: Whether you’re taking a family, solo, or romantic trip, cruises offer a variety of experiences that cater to all passengers.
Should I delay going on a cruise during the COVID-19 pandemic?
As with any trip, it’s up to a traveler with what they’re comfortable with. The best practice is to follow the CDC guidelines we mentioned above and travel with a cruise line that’s serious about COVID-19 protocols like the ones we’ve shared.
How much does a cruise trip cost?
A great thing about cruises is that the cost can almost be anything from $50 per day to several hundred. With so many ocean cruise lines, the opportunities are endless. And, since booking your cruise will automatically cover most of your travel expenses, you can accurately budget for your trip.
What is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?
Hurricane season is usually the most affordable time to take a cruise. Consider booking for late Summer or Fall, but travel insurance is a good idea in case your trip needs to be rescheduled.
Cruises offer a memorable experience and loads of fun. We hope that you’ll enjoy your next journey on a ship. And, if you need guidance, Evolution Travel can help plan the perfect cruise vacation!
After living through a pandemic, many of us have grown a great appreciation for the outdoors and we’re ready to travel again. If that’s you, we’ve got the perfect vacation idea for you! Are you looking for an incredible vacation where you can be one with nature, explore wildlife, and experience a unique culture? If so, East Africa is an ideal destination.
To take your experience up a notch, East Africa cruises offer a memorable adventure. We’re talking exotic safaris, delicious cuisine, beautiful weather, and welcoming locals. Take a cruise to East Africa to conveniently enjoy a variety of experiences in multiple places.
Experiencing East Africa Cruises and What To Do
Cruises to Africa are one-of-a-kind and Africa travel is unlike any other destination. The biggest draw to East Africa and what makes it stand apart from many other travel destinations is its unspoiled nature. From deserts to beaches, mountains, and plains, there seems to be no end to what you can see outdoors when you hop off your cruise ship!
The scenery around Africa, especially on the east coast is picturesque – you’ll certainly need to bring your camera! No matter the cruise port you stop at, you’re sure to meet kind people, try tasty foods, and encounter fascinating animals.
So, where can you cruise to in East Africa?
There are a variety of ports along the east coast of Africa, all of which offer a magical experience.
Kenya’s second-largest city, Mombasa, is the country’s most popular tourist destination and is home to a cruise port. Mombasa is a coastal city that sits along the Indian Ocean in southeastern Kenya. This special city offers a variety of memorable experiences for those traveling to Africa. It’s a cultural melting pot where you can find diverse architecture, food, and activities.
Tanzania is East Africa’s largest country and its most frequented tourist attraction is Dar es Salaam cruise port. There are also two other ports in this magical safari destination. If you’re looking for breathtaking landscapes home to countless animals like rhinos, elephants, leopards, and more on your trip to Africa, Tanzania is certainly a place to visit.
Things to do in Dar es Salaam:
Go snorkeling or scuba diving off the coast.
Take a trip to Mbudya Island for a quiet day on the beach.
Walk around the Village Museum where you can encounter traditional homes of over a hundred ethnic groups.
The horn of Africa, Djibouti is a small country on Africa’s northeastern coast. Djibouti (the city) is the capital and largest settlement in Djibouti (the country). Though small, Djibouti is one of the best places in Africa for a safari adventure. It’s often overlooked, but if you’re looking for a destination that’s off the beaten path, Djibouti is a great place to go. The scenery is unmatched and the culture is captivating.
Take remarkable photos at Lac ‘Assal (Lake Assal), Africa’s lowest point and the third-lowest in the world.
Go sightseeing to check out iconic landmarks like the Hamoudi Mosque.
Mozambique’s cruise port in Maputo, situated on Africa’s southeastern coast. The country’s capital and largest city is most known for its interesting colonial and modern architecture. There are a variety of activities to enjoy in Maputo including watersports and sightseeing. Maputo also boasts an eclectic cultural scene and many restaurants worth trying.
Things to do in Maputo:
Take a day trip to check out Kruger National Park where you can find lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos.
Walk around and take in the culture and history. The uniquely beautiful train station and the Natural History Museum are interesting places to visit.
Enjoy the nightlife. There’s music and dancing galore in Maputo.
Which cruise lines go to Africa?
A number of cruise lines visit Africa. These include Norwegian Cruise Lines, Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises, and more. Ships that take cruises to Africa will vary by location. Working with a travel agent is the easiest way to plan your trip and choose the best cruise line!
What is the best time to cruise to Africa?
The best part about East Africa cruises is that the weather is almost always beautiful. Again, this will depend on where you’re going, but places on the east coast like Kenya, Tanzania, and Djibouti, Mozambique almost always offer temperate weather. March is the only month where you may come across a lot of rain.
If you’re looking for fewer crowds, Spring and Fall are usually the best times.
Should I delay going on a cruise during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Having faced the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are understandably more cautious than ever about travel. The good news is that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cruises are safe for those who are fully vaccinated. On the other hand, those who are prone to illness or aren’t vaccinated should avoid cruises during the pandemic.
It’s also said that cruise lines are cleaner than ever right now. This is because most ships are taking extra precautions for cleanliness and sanitation. Additionally, some cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line are requiring all staff and passengers to be fully vaccinated. Others are requiring proof of vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test.
Each cruise line should share its COVID-19 precautions to ensure you feel comfortable with the measures being taken.
East Africa cruises provide a one-of-a-kind experience. East Africa is one of the best exotic vacation destinations where you can experience Africa safaris, eat some of the world’s best cuisine, and meet extremely kind locals.
If you’re looking for expert help to plan your next cruise vacation, contact Evolution Travel!
Until I dreamed the idea of a Kulfi-Gelato, I hadn’t realized how present both sweets had been throughout my life. Like all concoctions we have conjured at Tikka Hut, the Kulfi-Gelatos are a fusion of my Indian-East African-Islamic past and my passion for authentic Mexican cuisine.
My mouth waters at the six refreshing flavors I enjoy at Tikka Hut, all combining my heritage with that touch of Mexicano and a pinch of Middle Eastern.
The first time I tasted Dulce de Leche was at a Cuban restaurant in Miami. It reminded me of the caramel flan pudding my Mum spoiled us with on special occasions.
Our Dulce de Leche Gelato blends the original base for Kulfi – the rich and creamy milk-based indian ice-cream infused with cardamom and saffron with the natural sweetness of slowly melted caramel. We let this beauty cool and serve her to you from the gelato ice cream machine instead of a freezer.
Kulfi, the dessert of my boyhood in East Africa crowned every Friday evening family BBQ after mosque and every Sunday afternoon after playing with my friends. I can’t recall what I loved most about the flavor of this odd-looking delight – dense with funny colors topped with pistachios – a favourite of the Shah’s of Iran.
It was more a feeling of royalty that massaged my senses, like I was the king of my palace deserving of being served the most decadent treat in the land made especially for me, knowing in that moment no one merited this indulgence more.
At an early point in my career I worked the kitchen in a 5-star hotel in Kenya. That was my first experience with vanilla bean, in Creme Brule. I was dumbfounded. This luxurious intensity of fresh vanilla bean is reflected in our Mexican Vanilla Gelato.
Born of the vanilla bean cultivated in Mexico, the original birthplace of the vanilla plant, this treat is a creamy, sweet and spicy tribute to its country of origin and to Mexico’s global cultural and culinary influence, especially on me.
The Guava Gelato reminds me of my youth and the two most significant influences in my life – my mother and food. She took me on several of her trips to India and on each one we roamed hand-in-hand on the streets of Delhi interacting with the myriads of street vendors, devouring dahi puri, then jalebi with masala chai. No food tastes the same. Every vendor infuses a part of his hometown into his street-food recipes making each stall a unique wonder, causing me the experience of an insatiable desire for more and more.
Guava, a fruit in ample variety and abundance in India and known for its health benefits, was our snack of choice for digestion between street stalls.
My favourite part of fatherhood in the USA has been reliving the memories of my childhood with my own children through food. Alberqerque is where I have transported the memories of travelling with Mum and the memories of my tropical Swahili Coast past.
The freshly cut and served tropical Indian Ocean staples of passion fruit, mango and pineapple – bringing to life the fresh fruit open markets of Mombasa have been converted into sweet and spiced Gelatos. They are dedicated to my children.
My son introduced me to gelato when he was 4 years old. Since then we have indulged at local gelaterias enough times for the vision of fresh fruit creaminess inscribed with Indian and Mexican flavors to travel through the creativity of my culinary taste buds into reality.
Come and gelato with us at Tikka Hut as our senses sail the flavours of history and culture into the present fusion of a sweet dream.
Mombasa to Albuquerque: A journey across Seas with the Tikka
Mouthwatering flavours of tikka from my childhood still haunt my palette.
Evening family barbeques under a humid and salty night sky with the sound of the Indian Ocean lapping against the white, sandy beaches in the distant background.
The evening call to prayers silences the bustling streets and fruit markets, in a holy reminder of submission followed by the delightful laughter of children playing cricket as the aroma of a Ramadhan Ifthar or a concoction of spices, coffee and sweets fill the air.
Mombasa. My paradise on Earth. The city of my boyhood. A place of lofty hopes and dreams to sail the island on an Arab Dhow and conquer one of the grand beach hotels. The waters in which my siblings and I learned to swim competitively when my mum threw us from a boat into the harbor and shouted, “swim!”
The city of Sunday afternoon drives to the Light House for coconut water and cassava chips, endless mishkaki, kebobs and masala fries drizzled with raita and tamarind chutney. The city of countless milkshakes, faluda and kulfi. Ahhhh.
My brother’s tikka is my favorite to date. Taking full command of the charcoal pit most evenings he blended succulent marinades of yogurt, ginger, garlic, black pepper, turmeric and mixed spices with fresh chilies into a magical masala to coat tenderized meats and vegetables for grill with butter dripping naan.
Tikka in Mombasa reflects the long history of conquest and occupation along the east coast of Africa by the mighty seafaring nations of the time – the Portuguese, the Arabs and the British. Arabic and Indian influence, the latter from immigrants and traders who arrived on the coast bear the strongest influence on Swahili food.
The sailors carried tikka, meaning “little pieces” or “small chunks” of marinated meats with them on their journeys and as they settled along the Kenyan coast so did their most practical cuisine.
The mix of Persian, Indian, and Swahili tikka savours made it into my own kitchen in Albuquerque and more than forty years on, my children, their cousins and friends relish in hearty get-togethers around a flaming tikka barbeque. Different time. Different place. Same pleasure.
It is this distinct, unforgettable, perpetuating joy and deep connection we experience in these gatherings that inspired the introduction of Tikka Hut to complement the Urban Cocina ghost kitchen concept.
All my thoughts of innovation and transformation during these continued uncertain times for the food and beverage industry keep leading me to my one true passion, talent and relentless dream – food, the Islamic Mexican way.
The Tikka Taco and Chicken Tikka Burger are sensationally creative treats in authentic fusion, accompanies by either sweet or savoury lassi to drink. Cumin, common to both cuisines, is the perfect fusion spice to enhance the flavor of our salsa-chutneys. Our tikka varieties always take care of our vegetarians, vegans and healthy eaters too.
Delectable also are the Kulfi inclined gelatos in six refreshing tastes including Dulce de Leche, Mexican Vanilla and tropical staples Mango and Pineapple.
The memory of my birthplace brought forth the idea to honour her enchantment and serve her delicacies. The Mombasa tikka has traveled with me in mind and spirit across seas and is now available in my hometown, Albuquerque.
Journey into the Swahili – Latino fusion with Tikka Hut!
Cold, crisp cerveza (beer) or classic fresh lime margarita are the obvious beverage choices for tacos overflowing with carne asada and chipotle mayo. Perhaps mezcal if you are really daring. Or a palatable non-alcoholic agua de jamaica (caffeine-free hibiscus iced tea).
Would we venture to pair wine with Mexican food? Or is that a purely Michelin Star undertaking? We pair wine with other cultural culinary fusions so why not the Mexican-Persian? After all, the oldest grape in the world was born and raised in Persia, modern day Iran.
You may wonder if offering wine goes against Islamic principles. It does. I have chosen not to confront the hypocritical frontier between business and religion. Instead I trust in each of us learning our own limits and finding our own balance.
While I may have grown up with an acquired taste for fine food, it wasn’t until I joined a prestigious, now Fairmont and Serena owned hotel chain in East Africa, that my eyes opened to the world of wine tasting, wine bars, wine clubs and wineries. An exposure surpassing my only encounter with wine to that point in Kenya – the highly consumed German Black Tower, more popular for its chique bottle than the taste of its excessively sweet content.
I started by waiting tables at the reputable Sweet Waters Tented Camp, home of the famous Jane Goodall chimpanzee sanctuary. I moved on to the esteemed Mount Kenya Safari Club where my mother once served as the Vegetarian Chef. I worked my way up to a management trainee position at the distinguished colonial Norfolk Hotel before heading to college.
I transitioned from excruciatingly uncomfortable clumsiness, spilling a bottle of red wine all over the expensive wool sweater of a refined English lady, ruining her posh, romantic evening, to gracefully serving the dignified likes of Isabella Rosalini, James Earl Jones, Mariah Carey and John Lithgow.
The most decadent destination in the hotel chain belonged to a well-known Saudi, a former arms dealer. His home, where the VVIP guests had the luxury of staying, a rhino sanctuary, was a haven to Spanish wines, Tuscan wines, South African wines, Argentine wines and much more!
My connoisseur and sommelier friends dabbling in the wine and Mexican food conversation recommend pairing Pinot Noir or Merlot with hot, spicy Mexican food and Riesling or Gewürztraminer with non-spicy Mexican food.
I am neither a connoisseur nor sommelier. I do however enjoy a flavorful wine and along my journey have developed a good enough understanding of how to pair wine with a great experience at the Urban Taqueria Mexican restaurant.
Let me share a few secrets and tips I have uncovered. When pairing wine with spicy food, stay away from the bitter or acidic high tannin red and oaky wines. The Malbec, a medium tannin red wine, fuses beautifully with red meats. A Sauvignon Blanc complements fish wonderfully.
At Urban Taqueria, if you are ready to walk down the aisle, marry a full-bodied Granache red wine with our signature Death by Taco, the spiciest taco plate in the world! If you are more inclined towards a fiery pre-marital fling, the Bad Hombre ‘chilied shrimp’ is always prepared. You could also indulge in a polite affair with the elegant, vegan Snowflake.
I also recommend hooking up a lush Gewürztraminer white wine with our Credible Sources fish taco or taking the rosé on a blind date with the politically inclined Libertarian, a die-hard vegetarian.
Unlikely marriages have always been common. We celebrate them all at Urban Taqueria just as we do the union of Wine and Mexican Food. We give special credit to our delightful tacos who bear the rings of enduring partnership.
I am not a health freak. I have never been a healthy eater. I have always tended towards the gourmet experience lifestyle for every meal and snack.
I relish waking up daily to the aroma of mixed spices and feeding my dreams nightly with colorful recipes.
The Kenyan-Indian culture places a huge importance on food to demonstrate unity and affection. The quality of any gathering is measured by the quantity of food prepared and consumed. The lineage of strong women who raised me fed me with all the love they had.
As the youngest child, I was immune to scarcity. My plate servings overflowed with the finest array of home-cooked food; glorious varieties of curries wet and dry, pilaus, naan and sweets inspired by the Muslim Gujarat in India, from where my great grandparents had migrated.
Finishing every bite and accepting seconds was a sign of gratitude and manhood.
My mother was so good at spreading love that feeding the entire neighborhood and community out of good will was her primary mission and favorite hobby. When she ran her own restaurant in a now-flourishing Kenyan town and a café at the National Museum, everyone knew that Mama Zarina would not let anyone go hungry.
Things are a little different from my childhood. With two kids of my own now, I recognize the importance of nutrients for a healthy lifestyle. While I am not the best role model, I have been inspired to conjure recipes that both tantalize and nourish my family and the Albuquerque community.
To create an authentic healthy fusion at the Urban Taqueria mex restaurant which remains true to our culture, I had to demystify my own stereotypes about healthy Mexican recipes and the Islamic Indian influence blended into its cuisine.
Few people think healthy when they think of Mexican food. The image of crema, queso loaded frijoles, guac and chorizo tacos combined with Tex-Mex, pub-style nachos and cerveza leave us craving comfort food or a junk treat over a nourishing meal.
Fewer people think healthy when they think of Indian food. Our minds flash visions of red-hot spice that set our tongues and bums on fire. We have come to treat this food as either an exotic, luxury Indian restaurant dining experience or a greasy order-in option.
The truth is that authentic Mexican and authentic Indian food is tasty and good for healthy eating. Primarily plant based in origin and predominantly gluten free, they are low calories nutritious and anything but boring.
Diet in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations comprised cactus, avocado, plantains, squash, corn, quinoa, beans, hibiscus water and of course hot chocolate. India cultivated a health wisdom culture (Ayurveda) for centuries, employing simple food like lentils for overall body functioning and spiritual healing.
The main influence Indian cuisine is Islamic Persian. It is this same influence that eventually made its way to Mexican cuisine. Well-prepared meals from either Mexican or Indian tradition are high in natural healing properties, amino acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and necessary fats.
Coming from a man who puts his belly first, these revelations blew my mind!
I understand it’s not easy to associate healthy food with mouth-watering tastiness.
That’s why, to honour the culinary practices of pre-colonial Mexican foragers as well as my ancestors from the Muslim Gujarat, we have prepared an array of healthy options merging our signature Mexican and Islamic heritage. We use local, organic ingredients personalized to your taste buds, current diet plan and lifestyle. Our low calorie snacks and meals are deliberately high in nutritional value.
My personal favorite on our healthy lifestyle menu is grilled native beef with charro beans. The cattle are grass-fed free-range by Native Americans on their lands. The steak, tender with very little fat is steeped in our famous chipotle arbol marinade, accompanied by the plump beans and a fresh chimichuri sauce.
To clarify, the origin of chimichuri is Argentina and Uruguay, not Mexico.
I also love our Echiladas. Generally enchiladas are heavy laded with cheese. Our version is delicate and 100% vegan. We stuff our home-made corn tortillas with sautéed mushrooms and a vegan mole which as of today is over 100 days old. Mole, from the South of Mexico, is a descendant of the lavishly complex curry – an intricate blend of spices, fruits and herbs. The longer Mole stays, the darker and more extravagant it tastes. We keep adding to our special mixture so it constantly evolves in richness.
I am still no health freak. I am surprised however at how quickly our lifestyle recipes convinced me that Healthy and Gourmet is the perfect match for any fiesta!
Are we the Mexican restaurant near you? Come by for your healthy diet treat.