My 2018

This year has entitled a lot more than I could have ever dreamed of. 2017 was a great year, I was able to visit a lot of new places and evolve as a person. I never thought I would be able to top it, but 2018 has really been the best. I have grown tremendously during the year and taken new steps into my future both personally and professionally. I stepped into the Dirty 30s (some anxiety, yes!), left my job after 5,5 years (nervous) and started a new journey at a new company. I’ve been treated badly by some, but I’ve been treated amazingly by the people that matter. I have decided to embrace the magic of not giving a fuck (Sarah Knight) and live my life for me, myself and I! 

Just like last year, I have been traveling a lot by myself this year and it’s so developing, I recommend everyone to take the chance on traveling by yourself. You meet so many amazing people from all corners of the globe, you grow as a person and you have the freedom to do whatever you feel like! 

I’m so grateful in having this wonderful year behind me where I’ve visited incredible sites and explored the world (42 countries in total so far). I have checked many items off my bucket the past two years and have an even bigger suitcase filled with so much more knowledge and experience.  

I feel thankful to everyone of you who made my year special and made me feel loved. I wish you all a Happy New Year and let’s make 2019 just as amazing (or even better) than 2018! 

Fun facts of 2018: 

  • Visited 17 countries
  • Been on two camel rides
  • Climbed the inside of Statue of Liberty 
  • Been to the Sphinx and Giza pyramids
  • Visited Dracula’s castle during Halloween
  • Bathed in a hot spring on Iceland
  • Gazed on the Golden Gate Bridge 
  • Relaxed with a full-body massage at Gellért Hotel & Spa
  • Successfully avoided two robbery attempts 
  • Celebrated Midsummers Eve on the streets of beautiful Toledo
  • Stayed at a classic Riad in the Marrakesh Médina  
  • Partied my way through Vienna 
  • Imagined I was a part of Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik 
  • Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge 
  • Watched ”Wicked” on Broadway 
  • Seen a diver jump from the Mostar Bridge
  • Sailed on the Nile river 
  • Enjoyed the beautiful landscape of Montenegro 
  • Been on the top of Empire State Building
  • Celebrated my 30th birthday playing boule and dance the whole night long
  • Walked around in the National Mall of Washington DC 
  • Seen giraffes, zebras and White Rhinos on safari in Senegal
  • Donated pens and paper to school kids in Gambia  
  • Went on the classic cable cars on the hilly streets of San Francisco 
  • Got my first tattoo (never thought that would happen)  
  • Celebrated Christmas with the The Nutcracker in Copenhagen
  • Celebrate New Year’s in Geneva 

Countries visited during the year: 

  • Egypt
  • Morocco
  • Hungary
  • Slovakia 
  • Croatia
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Montenegro
  • Iceland
  • USA x 2
  • Austria
  • Spain x 2
  • Romania
  • Gambia
  • Senegal
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Denmark (doesn’t really count, but still)      

Budapest, Hungary – March 2018

In March 2018 I got on a plane to Budapest and had booked a room at the famouse Gellért Hotel and Spa. I was a bit surprised that the hotel was as run- down as it was and was expecting something more spectacullare, but the location of Gellért was perfect and the staff was really good. I used the spa when I was there and had a great full body massage and pedicure (super cheap!), I really recommend a visit to the spa, the surroundings are great! 

Gellért Hotel and Spa Surprisingly enough I had a friend (with more friends) visiting Budapest at the same time and I was able to hang with them during the evenings. We had some great meals out in Budapest and it was really cheap to eat and drink in the city. Really recomment Mazel Tov and Kárpátia Étterem és Söröző. Budapest was incredibly beautiful and if you like history and architechture, it’s the perfect place to go. I was mesmorized by all the wonderful buildings and bridges in the city and I took a city tour to get more information about the area and the history of Budapest. 

Liberty Bridge Szentendre and Esztergom When in Budapest I wanted to explore more of the Hungaryan country and went on a day trip to Szentendre and Esztergom. The day trip also entitled a short visit to Storovo in Slovakia.  The city of Szentendre is an artist city with a lot of crealive minds and the city was super cute and there was so many things to look at. I really recommend a visit in this village if you have the opportunity while in the area. 

What is a Medina?

I have been writing so much about the Medina, but what is a Medina? A medina quarter ”the old city” is a distinct city section found in a number of North African and Maltese cities. A medina is typically walled, with many narrow and maze-like streets.  The word “Medina” itself simply means “city” or “town” in modern-day Arabic.

Medina quarters often contain historical fountains, palaces, mosques and sometimes churches. Because of the very narrow streets, medinas are generally free from car traffic. The streets can be less than a metre wide. This makes them unique among highly populated urban centres. In 1985 the Medina of Marrakech was declared a UNESCO World Meritage site.

What is a Riad?

Before I booked my trip I had decided that I wanted to stay at a Riad and so I did. I stayed at Riad Sable Chaud, that was really beautiful and a real traditional Riad. But what is a Riad? A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard often situated in the Medina. The Riad is the Moroccan traditional house, normally with two or more storeys around an Andalusian-style courtyard that contained a fountain. Riads were the stately city homes of the wealthiest citizens such as merchants and courtiers.

The sunrise from the roof of my Riad. 

From inside the Riad I was staying at.  

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech (French spelling) or Marrakesh is the fourth largest city in Morocco around one million inhabitants. The region around Marrakech has been inhabited by Berber farmers since a couple of thousand years BC, but the actual city was founded in 1062. In the 12th century, the Almoravids built many madrasas, which is Koranic schools and mosques in Marrakech. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in red sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the ”Red City” or ”Ochre City”.

 The first day I had planned to meet up a local named Sarah to experience Marrakech. I had this booked by a local agency, so it wasn’t just a random person. I’m very happy I booked this, because finding my way through the Marrakech Medina is really a challenge. I’m glad I wasn’t walking around by myself and I could actually enjoy the surroundings, since I had Sarah showing me the way. I got to walk around in the narrow streets of the Medina and experience all the colors and smells of the city.

 We visited the Koutoubia Mosque built during 1184- 1199, it has a great garden surrounding the mosque and if you look to the east you can see the Atlas Mountains rise. The mosque is situated very close to the Jemaa El Fna souk, one of 18 souks in Marrakech and the main square of the city. In this square you can find everything between heaven and earth and especially during nighttime it lives up even more. Something I had heard before my trip was to avoid the snake charmers, which are really persistent and wants you to give them money. Me and Sarah stopped at one of the juice stands and took a juice in the warm afternoon instead of charming snakes.

 Look at the Atlas Mountains in the background!

We then took a walk to Mellah, which is the old Jewish quarter in Marrakech, the home of the main spice market and gold souks.

Sarah in Mellah 

Just me having a juice in the middle of Jemaa El Fna souk. 

Me and Sarah infront of Koutoubia Mosque.

Some bad luck in Morocco

In February 2018, I packed my bags and set off for Marrakech, Morocco for a couple of days of excursions. I had booked a Riad in the middle of the Mediná in Marrakech and it was a total maze to get there after getting dropped off by the taxi. The driver told me to follow a man and so I did, as soon as I arrived to the Riad Sable Chaud, of course the man wanted money for showing me the way. Since I came straight from the airport I didn’t have any smaller cash and asked the hotel personnel if they could help me in the meantime. I thought this was all figured out, but the day after the same man followed me from the square asking for more money and wouldn’t let me be. I gave him some more money in the hope of getting rid of him.  

Finally, at the Riad I was treated to some tea and cookies before I got to check in. I heard from the manager that they were over booked and therefore I would have to change rooms for the next day. The day after came and no one said anything, the morning after the second day I had breakfast and still nothing about changing rooms. In the evening on the third day I came back from a trip and got told by a lady at the Riad that they had packed all my things from my room and placed them in the dining area. The next surprise from the Manager was that I would have to change Riad straight away. I of course got upset because they touched my things without my knowledge and all of a sudden, I had to change hotels? Well you can probably imagine my panic, if you have been to the Médina in Marrakech, you know how hard it is to find your way and how easy it is to get tricked by the locals. After a couple of minutes, I realized that my passport and money was still in my old room, where new people had moved in. So, they had to help me with this and then after some more tears all of a sudden, they had an available room at this Riad. I was so happy about this, because I finally taught myself the way from the square to this Riad and was not happy at all about the fact that I would have to change. So, after an hour of panic, I could go to bed in my new room and load for a new excursion the next day.

Apparently, I was not the only one who had issues with this Riad due to overbooking and some others had to change Riad. I just felt so violated since they went through my stuff. If they had only told me, I could have packed my own things and not have anyone else go through my underwear and privates.

During my time in Morocco I also visited the Ouzoud waterfall, which was absolutely amazing, but at the waterfall I chose to take a guide, so that I could be shown how to get down from the top of the waterfall and also to learn some more about the area. I got a male guide that was in about my age that got way to close. When I was standing on the border of the waterfall he placed his hands around my waist and he wanted to hold hands all the time. He kept saying how beautiful I was and he wanted to live with me and so on. At one moment, he took my away from the company of others to the other side of the waterfall and I felt so uncomfortable and vulnerable. This is not something I’m used to and I actually don’t wish anyone having someone touching you like that, when you say you don’t want to. Once again, I felt violated and someone entered my private space.   

Unfortunately, my last evening two men tried to rob me on my way back from a tour to the Riad. As I wrote before the Médina in Marrakech is totally like a maze and it’s really hard to find your way, especially if you have a bad sense of navigation. The streets have no names and they are really narrow and especially they are really dark during the evenings. I felt pretty sure of the way for once and walked from the mosque square which I had done a couple of times by then, but this time I realized I had two med behind me and they walked in my pace. In front of me I had an older man walking by himself and didn’t really think they would dare to do something. But when we turned a corner in the maze and the older man already turned around the other corner they jumped me from behind, trying to get my camera bag. I started to scream and run, they followed me and tried to drag my bag I had over my shoulders instead, but at that moment the older man had heard me screaming and came back. As soon as the two med saw him, they stopped pulling my things and ran away. I probably don’t have to tell you that I was a bit shaken up by the situation and it was so sad that this had to happen.

As the manager at the Riad said, I was unluckily lucky, because they actually never got anything from me, but I have the memories of this with me.

I decided to do this post separately and don’t confuse it with all of the amazing cities and places I got to see. This trip has been one of the best once, but also one of the most eventful in a not so positive way. I went to Morocco alone, I’m female and I have blonde hair and maybe this is not the best combination when traveling here. I’m not saying that this happens to everyone and that you should not go to Morocco, but I want to share my experiences, so that someone else can be more cautious and this might not happen to them. As a single, female, blonde traveler I would not recommend going to Morocco. I would have felt so much more secure if I had someone else with me. #metoo

What’s your favorite place?

2018-01-26 Been home sick for a week now and I’m really over it now. At least I can be happy that the fever has disappeared, now I ”only” have a cold I think. The weekend will still be slow so that I can recover fully and be back at full speed next week.

For the last 14 months, I have traveled to 16 countries in EuropeAsia and Africa, I have a couple of trips already planned for this year, the closest one coming up is to Morocco, which I’m really looking forward to. I have a couple of favorites from my previous trips which I will list in an upcoming post. Do you have any favorite place you have visited? 

Here’s a picture from our resort in Makadi Bay, Egypt 

The Giza pyramid complex & The Great Sphinx

The Giza pyramid complex

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) constructed c. 2580–2560 BC, is the oldest and largest of the pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex. It is the oldest of the Seven wonders of the Ancient World and the only one to remain largely intact. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3 800 years. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface, which you can still see around the base. There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid’s construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place. That’s what I call work!

The main part of the Giza complex is a setting of pyramids that include two mortuary temples in honour of Khufu, three smaller pyramids for Khufu’s wives, an even smaller ”satellite” pyramid and a small mastaba tomb surrounding the pyramid for nobles. In total, there are 9 pyramids in this area. To get a good view of all of the nine pyramids, we took a horse carriage to the panorama point where I shot some nice pictures of the area. From this angle, you could also see how close the area is to Cairo, with houses sticking up behind. Quite remarkable driving out of Cairo and all a sudden the pyramids rise from the ground, very spectacular!

It’s really hard to imagine all the man-power it took to build these pyramids in a course of 20 years’ time, the work must have been so tough. The blocks of stone were larger than I had thought before and it was a mighty feeling to be surrounded by these complexes. Standing in front of the pyramid of Cheops, I became my own tourist attraction due to my blonde hair. A girl came up to us asking to touch my hair and to have a photo with me. It ended up with her bringing her whole family joining me in a photo. I was a bit surprised about the fascination of the blonde hair and light skin. I mean, this has happened to me before, but in South east Asia, like 18 years ago. I thought the fascination had cooled off due to the increase of tourists, but I was wrong. I became the mid-point of many gazing eyes and photographs on my trip to Egypt.  

The Great Sphinx

The Great Sphinx of Giza is a limestone statue of a laying sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. It measures 73 m long from paw to tail, 20.21 m high from the base to the top of the head and 19 m wide at its rear hips. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafre (c. 2558–2532 BC). 

It’s a remarkable structure and an impressive backdrop with the pyramids. You wonder what happened to the nose, but the scientists aren’t in agreement of the history of the nose. 

Hatshepsut Temple

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, is an ancient funerary shrine close to Luxor. Built for the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Hatshepsut, it is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari, near the Valley of the Kings. It’s considered one of the ”incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt”. The Polish Academy of Science is responsible for the study and restoration of the three levels of the temple and they have a building close by where they work. 

The relief sculpture within Hatshepsut’s temple recites the tale of the divine birth of a female pharaoh – the first of its kind. Unfortunately, many of the statues and ornamentation have been stolen or destroyed, the temple once was home to many sculptures of the Queen in different attitudes – standing, sitting, or kneeling. Many of these portraits were destroyed at the order of her stepson Thutmose III after her death.

Hatshepsut lived from 1507 to 1458 BC, she was the fifth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt and the second historically confirmed female pharaoh. She is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an Egyptian dynasty. She showed persistence in demanding her Godly right to rule as pharaoh even though she was a woman. When in Egypt, she became somewhat of an idol for me and an important person in history claiming the rights of women. 

Egyptian Museum – Cairo

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, is home to an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. It has 120,000 items, with a representative amount on display for public. You need an extra ticket to see the mummy room, but otherwise everything else is open for public on a regular ticket. The current museum was built in 1902, placed in the Tahrir Square in the middle of Cairo. There’s a new museum being built in Giza, but the project has been delayed a couple of times and now it’s scheduled to open in May 2018.

The museum has so much impressive content, it’s hard to imagine they have found so much artefacts still intact and in such great shape as they have, it’s remarkable. I bought an extra ticket to be able to photograph in the museum, this was around 100 Egyptian pounds (5 EUR), well worth it! We took a guided tour in the museum, otherwise you can spend a couple of days in the museum. We got shown the most important antiquities, which was really great. The most impressive things we got to see was the burial mask of Tutankhamun and all of the other things found in his intact tomb in Valley of the Kings

The burial mask of Tutankhamun

The cow cries when her child starves due to the humans taking her milk