Monthly Archives: January 2017

Do you need to visit Sierra Leone

 

Sierra Leone has everything adventurous travellers could want – exquisite, empty beaches fringed by palms, rainforest jungles with monkeys swinging through the trees, a fascinating heritage and warm, welcoming people. But its troubled history of civil war and Ebola means that few visitors actually make it here.

Now fully reconciled and recovered, this beautiful West African country is moving on and it’s time to return – before everyone else does…

 

1. It’s safe and Ebola-free – and it needs tourists back

Sierra Leone has had a rough ride in recent years. First, there was a bitter civil war from 1991 to 2002, leaving more than 50,000 people dead and 2 million displaced. Graphically portrayed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s film Blood Diamonds, the conflict was fuelled by the diamond industry and characterised by extreme violence, kidnappings, child soldiers and horrific human rights abuses.

At the end of the war, Sierra Leone was one of the poorest countries in the world. Peace brought political stability and democracy, a vastly improved economy and a remarkable reconciliation of its people that still stands strong today. By 2014, the country was back on its feet, tourists were returning and the future looked bright.

Then came Ebola. The deadly virus took the lives of nearly 4000 people and the entire country ground to a halt in a state of emergency and fear. In March 2016, the nation celebrated as Sierra Leone was finally declared Ebola-free. Intrepid travellers are slowly returning, drawn by the beaches, islands and jungles of this beautiful country – but it’s the people themselves, their warmth, spirit and sense of fun, that leave such lasting memories.

 

2. Some of the world’s rarest wildlife lives here

Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Moa River, is just 12 square kilometres. But it’s home to around 80 rare and elusive pygmy hippos and an astounding 11 species of primates – one of the highest primate concentrations in the world.

Sierra Leone’s first ecotourism enterprise, the sanctuary’s profits benefit the eight communities that live near the island. Walking trails take you deep into the forests where chimpanzees, red colobus and Diana monkeys cavort in the canopy.

 

Alive and kicking in Paris

Forget about the sleazy tourist traps in Pigalle, there’s only one place to see burlesque in Paris: the Crazy Horse, opened in 1951. Eleanor Aldridge spent the night at the city’s decidedly contemporary cabaret to see for herself.

The room is dark, illuminated only by glowing champagne buckets at the centre of each red velvet booth. Then, to the strains of a sultry Britney Spears cover, the curtains open.

Launching the second half of the show at the Crazy Horse tonight is Undress to Kill, a striptease like no other, designed by Dita Von Teese. The dancer is completely nude, dressed instead in Le Crazy’s signature projections – a backless red dress slowly morphs into an intricate veil of lace as the performer leans in and out of the light.

This is Totally Crazy, the cabaret’s new show for 2017. Modern burlesque meets high fashion; it’s a riot of spectacular lighting, barely-there costumes, beat-perfect choreography and angular fluoro wigs. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

Today, the Crazy Horse is the most famous cabaret in the city. The artistic vision of Andrée Deissenberg, previously of Cirque du Soleil, it’s become a Parisian institution, renowned for its celebration of femininity and beauty. Under the guidance of Creative Director Ali Mahdavi, they aim to glorify “the powerful, dominant, insubordinate female” – essentially women who like to run the show.

Since Andrée took the reins ten years ago, Le Crazy has gone from strength to strength, with Dita Von Teese by no means the most famous collaborator. The last few years have seen famous faces such as Conchita Wurst take to the stage, and the star-studded audience range from Rihanna and John Legend to Cara Delevingne and Jean Paul Gaultier.