Although I generally avoid shopping, I love to buy things when I travel — especially in Africa (which is most of my traveling these days). So when Afristay asked me to write a post about traveling in Africa, I decided to take a look back at some of the best arts and crafts I’ve found in my explorations around the continent. I’ve been to 13 African countries and I’ve come back from every one of them with something amazing. But for brevity’s sake I’m limiting this list to six favorite spots in five countries. African Arts and Crafts: My Top Six Picks 1) Teyateyaneng, Lesotho Teyateyaneng (or TY for short), a small town about 30 minutes from Lesotho’s capital city of Maseru, was one of my first African craft discoveries. There are several weaving cooperatives in TY, in which groups of women work together to create Basotho-themed mohair tapestries. I love the tapestries themselves (I have three), but I also love watching the women make them. My favorite place to visit is the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre, which I blogged about here and here. Marosa, one of the weavers at Elelloang Basali. The weaving center is lined with recycled cans. Alina with […]
I went to Lesotho last week for a work assignment. I was in a rush on the drive there, but on the way back I took my time, winding through the Maluti Mountains and visiting some of my favorite places. The Maluti Mountains on the South African side of the Lesotho border. As a travel writer, I’m always trying to discover new things. I rarely visit the same place twice. But there are a few places that are magical and special enough to draw me back again and again. The Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre is one of those places. The Clarens Blanket Shop is another. Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre I first visited the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre in August 2010 and I’ve been back about four times since. The Centre is right on the Lesotho Main Road in Teyteyaneng, about 40 minutes north of Maseru, and it’s an easy stop for those coming in or out of Lesotho through the Peka Bridge crossing. Just look for the cheerful red building made of aluminium cans — it’s hard to miss. I get emotional every time I walk into this amazing workshop because I get transported back to a pivotal time in my life when I […]
Amidst all the excitement of the #MeetSouthAfrica trip, I nearly forgot that I was going to Lesotho. One of my newest Instagram connections, @nuttywheat, recently referred to Lesotho as “the land that grows rocks”. It’s a perfect description so I’ve decided to adopt it. Anyway, I got home from the #MeetSouthAfrica trip and ran around the house for 36 hours — unpacking, doing laundry, repacking, blogging, and trying (unsuccessfully) to rid myself of a persistent head cold. Then I jumped into my car and drove to Maseru, capital of the Land That Grows Rocks. I didn’t think much about where I was going or the assignment that I would be working on in Lesotho. I was on autopilot. I didn’t think about the things I’ve forgotten or what I might remember. I arrived in Maseru and walked into the offices of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. The first thing I saw was a large framed photo of a mother and her baby in a health clinic. The photo was shot by Jon, during an assignment that he and I worked on together in Lesotho in September 2010. The photo startled me. I should have known it would be there but I’d forgotten. I wandered through […]
UPDATE (March 2018): I’ve just learned that the Blanket Shop is Clarens has closed down. I’m devastated. The people of Lesotho are famous for the blankets they wear. The blankets are thick and wooly and have a distinctive type of pattern that is immediately recognizable and unique. Photo of a man wearing a Basotho blanket, which appeared in my recent post about Lesotho. Basotho blankets have an interesting story, as far as blanket stories go. The British first brought the blankets to Lesotho in the mid 19th century — before that time the Basotho kept warm by wearing animal skins. The blankets became popular quickly, and within a few decades they were an established part of Basotho culture. Today, the blankets are still the most popular type of Basotho outerwear. But Basotho blankets are not made in Lesotho and they never have been. I can’t remember who first told me this, but I’ve always been under the impression that Basotho blankets are made in China. During my recent trip to Lesotho and South Africa’s Eastern Free State (which borders Lesotho), I learned differently. After my friend Michelle and I left Lesotho last month, we hopped across the border to Clarens […]
My friend Michelle and I have a tradition of meeting up somewhere in Africa over the Christmas holidays. Last year we went to Namibia. This year, Michelle wanted to go somewhere new (not easy, as Michelle has been everywhere), and I wanted to go somewhere within driving distance of Joburg (peak-season flights are too rich for my blood). We decided on Lesotho. Lesotho is beautiful. (If you read my previous post then you already know this.) There’s something about the way the light shines on the mountains. It’s not like any other place.
Very few people in the world know that there is a tiny country in Africa called Lesotho. Fewer still know how to pronounce it. (It’s Leh-SOO-too.) Even fewer still have actually been there, which is a pity because Lesotho is a beautiful, mystical place. Lesotho, which has the highest mountains in Southern Africa, is called the Kingdom in the Sky. I’m fortunate to live in Lesotho’s closest neighbor — South Africa surrounds Lesotho on all sides — and it’s an easy drive from Joburg. I went there twice on back-to-back work trips in September 2010 and have been yearning to return ever since. Last month I finally did.
From the Melville Cat: Heather left me over the holidays and went on a trip. Apparently she went to a tiny country called Lesotho, and to a place in South Africa called the Eastern Free State. Heather was gone for nine days. How rude. Here is a photo Heather took in Lesotho, at a place called the Malealea Lodge. I suppose it’s rather pretty.
2summers has been on hiatus for the last week, as Joe and I were holed up at the Lesotho Sun Hotel in Maseru working on a photo exhibition for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I didn’t have much time for writing, and even when I did I had a hard time sorting out my thoughts. The Lesotho Sun, Maseru’s only fancy hotel, sits on a big hill overlooking the city. It has a terrace where you can sit and watch the sunset, a pool, a fitness center, a spa, and a casino frequented by Chinese tourists and business people. If you’re looking for a luxurious room, a nice view, and a made-to-order omelet station, then the Lesotho Sun is for you. But if you want to get a feel for Lesotho then I would stay somewhere else.
This trip ended more than a week ago but I still have a few more things to say about it. Driving to Mokhotlong The drive from Maseru to Mokhotlong was about 300 kilometers (168 miles). It took six hours. An hour after leaving Maseru, we reached a police checkpoint. Such checkpoints are common in Africa. Often they serve no apparent purpose – they’re just there. This was one such checkpoint.
I still have more to say about Lesotho, but I’ve been home for almost a week and I want to share a couple of stories from the home front. First, a word on furniture. Our house is filled with Joe’s furniture because, as you know, I brought almost nothing with me. I’ve been trying to accumulate as little as possible since I arrived; I just worked hard to divest myself of things and I’m not quite ready to start investing again. However, when we got back from Lesotho last weekend, I discovered that I had actual work to do and nowhere to do it. It was time for a purchase. I needed a small desk, or at least something to put my computer on other than my lap.
Let me back-track and explain the purpose of our trip to Lesotho. Bear with me because this will take time. On a map, Lesotho looks like a small dot in the middle of South Africa. It’s nick-named “the Kingdom in the Sky” and is one of the few places in Africa where it snows. Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains are among the highest in Southern Africa – many peaks are over 10,000 feet. Typical mountain scene in Lesotho.
I’ve fallen behind and I have such a backlog of things to write about, I’m not sure where to start. I’ll tell a quick story about our trip home from Lesotho and come back to the rest later. We were ready to leave Lesotho at 1:00 yesterday, but discovered Friday afternoon is not a good time to cross the border at Maseru. The line of cars waiting to cross stretched to the horizon. We turned around and headed for the border crossing at Peka, 80 kilometers to the north. Joe fought the frenetic midday traffic out of the city and we made our way into rural Lesotho. Halfway to Peka we passed through a small town called Teyateyaneng. I noticed a sign for the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre and we pulled over to check it out.