The 10 most dangerous cities worth visiting

daPack lightly and forget about the travel insurance, here are 10 of the most dangerous cities in the world worth risking your life to visit.

1) Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistan has long been vaunted as the next big thing, but tourism has consistently failed to take off due to the country’s volatile security situation. And that’s everyone’s loss.

The capital, Islamabad, has the capacity to surprise like few others. A modern metropolis of cutting-edge architecture, manicured parks and world-class cultural attractions, it’s the Pakistan you rarely see in the media.

Art galleries abound, the cuisine is sensational and boutique shops and fashion shows reflect the city’s growing cosmopolitan vibe. Sadly, political instability and sporadic violence means few dare to experience it.

Despite a volatile security situation, Islamabad ain’t half bad
Daniel Berehulak / Thinkstock

2) Detroit, USA

Not just financially bankrupt, Detroit is in the red with the moral bean-counters as well, ball-parking 45 murders per 100,000 people each year. But as with every apocalypse, it’s the artists that have survived the blast, and they’re rebuilding this clapped-out old city.

From the Heidelberg Project,

A postcard from Western Sahara

sIt’s 40 years today since Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco, but life goes on in this disputed and forgotten land. Campaigner, Beccy Allen, recalls her first visit to the territory.

There was a sense of foreboding in the air. Armoured trucks, military men and scary-looking Moroccan police were scattered all over the city. The atmosphere was tense, unsettling.

I had travelled to Laayoune, Western Sahara with two friends – Sidi and Andrea – to witness first hand what life was like in the Moroccan-occupied country.

Few tourists make it down here and the authorities welcomed us with hostility. Military checkpoints were everywhere and we were constantly asked to explain our presence in Western Sahara.

It was an uncomfortable trip, but also extremely rewarding. One of the most amazing things about going to a destination most people haven’t heard of, is that feeling of venturing into unchartered territory. I felt like a pioneer.

“The atmosphere was tense”

Laayoune is not, in the traditional sense, a beautiful city (I believe it was once and could be again). But it does have a certain charm.

I

Top 10 things to see and do in San Sebastián

2From surfboards to cemeteries, via a nibble on a pintxos or three, we select the best activities to sample in San Sebastián, the European Capital of Culture 2016.

With its fiery political history and underlying tension regarding regional sovereignty, San Sebastián (or Donostia to use its Basque name) is a brave candidate for Capital of Culture 2016; a title it shares with Wroclaw, Poland.

Though small, the Basque coastal town in northern Spain squeezes in a plethora of riches to keep visitors entertained. Its crescent coastline attracts loungers and surfers, while foodies pilgrimage to its gastronomic old quarter.

With hundreds of cultural events taking place this year, it can be hard to know where to begin. Fortunately, we’ve selected the top 10 unmissable San Sebastián activities to help you on your way.

1) Tackle a favourite trek…

Along with food and wine, the outdoors plays a huge role in Basque life. Misty peaks dotted with weathered farmsteads surround the city, and it’s a common sight to see locals packing up their cars to spend a weekend scaling a summit.

Those with a proclivity for

Determine Just How You’ll Be Able To Get Somewhere Without Investing Nearly As Much Cash

Getting around without a car or truck may be difficult based on exactly where an individual lives. It might furthermore be amazingly pricey. Anytime an individual must get around and they don’t have a vehicle or perhaps their particular vehicle is not able to be utilized at the moment, they’d be required to call for a taxi previously. Unfortunately, this could be amazingly costly as well as frequently may not be a good choice for the person’s needs. Now, nevertheless, there are many choices that somebody may utilize and thus it may be less expensive to them to get precisely where they must go.

Somebody might wish to check into utilizing a rideshare service as an alternative to contacting a cab. These types of services allow anyone who qualifies to drive a car or truck and pick up others who have somewhere they need to go. Typically, the cost will likely be much less as compared to standard services because the driver will presently own their automobile as well as, occasionally, might currently be heading in the exact same direction as the one who requires a ride. This makes it best when they want to go to the store, to

ake a ferry from Dover to Calais and visit these five pretty French towns

It is only 26 miles that separates Blighty from its Gallic neighbour. Hop on a P&O ferry at Dover and within 90 minutes you can hop off at Calais. Drive a little further and there is a clutch of pretty towns. Here’s our choice of five fabulous destinations just across the channel:

This is a medieval market town, famed for its tapestries. It was destroyed in the war but so well restored that the Grand Place and the Place des Heros look very much the historic part. Flemish gabled buildings, quaint squares, fine restaurants, a rich heritage and lively vibe combine to offer an interesting Flemish-Gallic experience. Visit the fine arts museum, Musée des Beaux-Arts (entry €7.50) to see an ornate collection of horse drawn carriages donated by the Chateau de Versailles in Paris. The town is also known for its underground tunnels, such as Wellington Quarry where 1500 soldiers lived during the First World War.

From Calais: 90 minutes via A26 motorway

This pretty fortified town reaches up from the Haut Ville (town), and marks out the the town’s most beautiful section – an ancient, walled, Vieux Ville (old town). Looking upwards, the cathedral dome dominates the skyline. It’s

Five fabulous Spring destinations

1. Havana, Cuba

Havana is famous for its smoky cobbled streets, ancient Chevrolets, and crumbling Spanish colonial buildings. In the 1950s the city was a fashionable haunt of the author and journalist, Ernest Hemingway and today very little has changed. One almost feels obligated to pay a visit to La Floridita, Hemingway’s favourite watering hole, just to sip on a daiquiri and contemplate one’s own genius.

There’s no American fast food joints and gaudy advertising but there are vibrant streets and family-run paladares. These privately-owned restaurants provide authentic Cuban food and genuine local culture. Head over to the brightly painted alley, Callejón de Hammel, where rumba groups can often be found showing off their moves.

 

 

2. Las Vegas, Nevada

Practice the art of over-indulgence in Sin City. By April, temperatures in Las Vegas start to rise to an agreeable 26°C, but let’s face it, night and day have a tendency to blur together for eager party-goers. Try your luck in one of the monstrously lavish casinos, watching a spot of Cabaret, or perhaps witnessing feats of gymnastic brilliance at the Cirque du Soleil. If you are looking for an adrenaline kick,

Top 5 places to see in Havana, Cub

Cuba can be a lazy beach holiday if that’s what you’re after, but it’s also a multi-faceted gem of an island, boasting astonishing natural habitats and grand colonial buildings. The largest in the Caribbean, it’s also an island which owns both a complicated past and an exuberant modern-day culture and nowhere is this most potent than in the capital, Havana.

Once home to pirates, poets and gamblers, the city is now known for rum, cigars and a stomping good time. Here are some of the top highlights.

 


1. Old Havana (Havana Vieja)

At one time this Unesco Heritage Site was a Spanish naval port. This north-eastern section of the city dates back to the 16th century and evidence of its rich history is everywhere you look. Defensive walls still line the narrow streets, left over from pirate raids and its five European-style plazas are overlooked by Cuban Baroque facades – the most striking is the Plaza de la Catedral – and soaring spires, whilst street-level attractions like the book market and numerous cafés continue to bring in the visitors.

2. The Malecón

Five miles of seawall and esplanade divides Old Havana’s harbour and the Vedado district and is prime walking territory if

A Destination In Its own Right

St Pancras International is not just a railway station, it is a permanent home for the high-speed terminus to Ashford thanks to Southeastern, the Continent thanks to Eurostar, and with its accompanying five star Renaissance Hotel, it may well be the grandest railway station in the world.

Dressed in towering and exuberant Victorian red-brick and coloured stone, this dazzling piece of Gothic architecture looks reminiscent of a Cathedral with its clock tower and spiralling turrets

It’s sprawling interior is a hub for transport both overground and underground, but it is also a hub for humanity: around 48 million travellers and visitors per year set off or stay put to enjoy the retail, dining and cultural opportunities.

Originally built as the Midland railway in 1863 it housed Sir William Barlow’s train shed which looked awesome with high arches made of iron and glass and was one of the great engineering feats of the Victorian age. By 1873 the accompanying hotel Midland Grand Hotel was completed.

Once earmarked for demolition, it was restored instead and in 2007 it became the frontage to a vast gateway for High Speed 1 (HS1), the speedy rail service between Britain and mainland Europe and together with Southeastern provides the UK’s first

addling against the Venetian patriarchy

Almost all of Venice’s Gondolieri are men. Paula Hardy meets Jane Caporal, the renegade sticking her oar in to change all that.

“When I first started offering lessons in Venetian rowing to tourists, locals warned me, ‘they’ll burn your boat’, but I’m not superstitious,” laughs Jane as she whips back the cover to reveal the sleek hull of her rare batela coda di gambero, a curvaceous, shrimp-tailed boat, handcrafted in oak, larch and mahogany.

“Still, like some sort of Greek prophesy it came true – just not as you’d expect. Having found one of the only two coda di gambero left on the lagoon, I serendipitously won a mooring in a local lottery. My friends all laughed when they discovered that my ‘lucky’ mooring was beside two funeral hearses.”

As she talks, Jane steps up onto the poppa (the raised end of the stern), unmoors and manoeuvres us out of the marina with a few deft strokes of her oar.

Then she shows me how to voga holding the heavy 4m-long (14ft) oar with palms facing down before leaning into the prèmer (push), angling the oar downwards, and pulling back for the stalìr (return stroke). It feels like

Visiting the town that rains fish

Once a year, fish reportedly fall from the sky in the town of Yoro, Honduras. Is it a palpable example of divine intervention or is something fishy going on? Jack Palfrey investigates.

I’m led into the centre of a vast clearing, where a weathered farmstead marks the only visual break from the endless carpet of dew-damp green grass.

“Is this the place?” I ask my guide, Professor Hector Rodas, looking up at the bruised sky.

His metal cane digs into the soft earth as he swivels to face me. He’s dressed in blue trousers and loafers, with greying hair precisely parted and a thick, neatly twiddled moustache. The glass in his spectacles is so thick it magnifies his soft, wrinkle-cracked eyes, giving him an insect-like quality.

Professor Rodas recently turned 80, having taught history in Yoro’s secondary school for over 40 years. He is a self-proclaimed authority on the Lluvia de Peces (Rain of Fish).

His words come slowly.

“1km from here,” he says through his translator. “It is raining fishes 1km from here.”

The Lluvia de Peces is a seemingly unfathomable phenomenon where live fish fall from the sky in the small market town of Yoro, Honduras. It happens every

Where to go on holiday

Beach bums…

Short haul: Brighton, England
It’s summer’s defining dilemma: you want to catch the latest blockbusters but also want to be outside enjoying the weather. What is there for a cinephile to do aside from wait miserably for autumn? Fear not silver-screen scholar, now you can do both.

This July the world-famous shoreline of Brighton will play host to a giant 40sq m (430sq ft) screen erected on the sun-baked pebbles, showing the latest releases, cult classics and sporting events, including Euro 2016 and Wimbledon.

Away from the coastline, Brighton buzzes with all the fashionable flare that you’d expect from London’s east end, so expect cask ale, vintage shopping and renowned art galleries, plus a cone of fish and chips or two, this is the English seaside after all.

Brighton could be your setting for Euro 2016
alice-photo / Thinkstock

Long haul: Papeete, Tahiti
With the mercury melting at the 30-degree mark, things are beginning to sizzle in the South Pacific island paradise of Tahiti, renowned for its shallow turquoise swells and distinctive black sand shores.

It isn’t just the weather that’s hotting up, though. Each July the town of Papeete erupts as it hosts the vibrant Heiva I Tahiti festival,

The 9 quirkiest places to stay in Ireland

Looking for lodgings with a difference? From a self-catering pub to a coastal defence tower, we round up the most unusual places to spend the night in Ireland.

1) Conroy’s Old Bar, Aglish, County Tipperary

A converted traditional Irish pub, Conroy’s Old Bar is locally known as “the pub with no beer”. This old watering hole can house up to four people for the evening, and is perfect for families or a group of nomads. If you’re looking for a pint, however, it’s BYOB at Conroy’s. The owners even advise guests to keep the chain on the door of their temporary home, or they’ll find people at the bar looking for a drink.

Best for: An adventure-filled family break or group holidays.

A self-catering pub? You know you want to
Airbnb

2) Bartra Martello Tower, Dalkey, Dublin

This Dalkey destination has been a costal defence tower since 1804. Step back in time and spend the night in a castle that’s got the perfect balance of old and new: an antique exterior and a very modern interior indeed. The catch, however, is that this national monument only has room for two castle-seeking globetrotters at a time.

Best for: A romantic

Last tango in Buenos Aires

John Malathronas retells the story of Ireland’s Rebecca O’Laoire, who went from dancing for pesos on Plaza Dorrego to become one of the best tango artistes in Argentina.

With the apprehension of the first-timer, I step into the dimly litmilonga (tango club) on Avenida Cordoba. Earlier my companion Mariana had struggled to teach me the cuadrado (the basic steps), but for a novice, I didn’t do too badly.

“You are not stiff,” she’d said approvingly, “the British dance like planks.”

Fruto Dulce is more of a seductive cocoon than a swanky lounge and I’m here to complete my schooling in Argentina’s national dance.

Entry is a paltry 60 pesos (£2.85) and drinks are as cheap, although patrons are not interested in quaffing alcohol. The tango is the ultimate intimate entwine with the opposite sex and boozy breath can kill the rapport.

What’s more, the owner is a gringa (female foreigner).

Arriving from Dublin in 2009, Rebecca is a nimble, jovial blonde whose sparkling smile could light up the darkest pampas night.

“I arrived on a six-month working visa to improve my Spanish and to experience the real porteño tango,” she tells me. “Within weeks, someone with a famous surname, Nany Peralta,

Camping in England’s churches

Some of England’s oldest churches are now offering overnight stays. Our scribe, Arielle Witter, gives us the lowdown on “champing”.

Could camping in a church, affectionately known as “champing”, be one of 2016’s more unusual travel trends? The Churches Conservation Trust certainly hopes so. Inspired by peer-to-peer travel sites such as Airbnb, the organisation has opened up some of England’s oldest churches to overnight guests, with profits going towards the maintenance of these ancient places of worship.

The trust, which looks after 347 churches across England, successfully trialled “champing” last year and has so far opened 10 of its churches to travellers – with more listings in the pipeline.

Now we know what you’re thinking: what’s the policy on, you know, getting intimate in the house of God? Well, though the trust’s churches, which are no longer used for regular worship, are still considered holy, guests are able to get up to what their conscience permits.

However, some guests may be too spooked for romance: though beautiful, these churches are definitely some of the eeriest and most eccentric places to stay in Britain. But if you fancy checking into one for the night, here are the 10 currently

The eerie world of dark tourism

With a new book in the making, photographer Rebecca Bathory takes David Hillier through her favourite dark tourism spots.

Fontanelle Cemetery, Naples, Italy

Some 40,000 bodies await at Fontanelle Cemetery
Rebecca Bathory

I really love this place. It opened in the 1500s and is home to something like 40,000 bodies, most of whom were deposited there during the 1656 plague and cholera epidemics of the 1830s.

In 1872, there began a conclusive cleaning and inventorying of the bones, led by Father Gaetan Barbiti. Over time, a cult arose where people would care for the skulls and name them, bringing them flowers and gifts. This ‘cult of the dead’ carried on until 1969 when a Cardinal decided it was unhealthy and sealed up the crypt. You can now book tours. It’s great.


Pripyat, Ukraine

Abandoned gas masks in Pripyat, near Chernobyl
Rebecca Bathory

This is the town that was built for the workers of Chernobyl. It’s 3km (1.9 miles) away from the plant and its population of 49,000 was evacuated when the station erupted. There’s a 30km (19-mile) exclusion zone around it, meaning it’s forever frozen as it was in April 1986.

We found a kindergarten

Once a year, fish reportedly fall from the sky in the town of Yoro, Honduras. Is it a palpable example of divine intervention or is something fishy going on? Jack Palfrey investigates. I’m led into the centre of a vast clearing, where a weathered farmstead marks the only visual break from the endless carpet of dew-damp green grass. “Is this the place?” I ask my guide, Professor Hector Rodas, looking up at the bruised sky. His metal cane digs into the soft earth as he swivels to face me. He’s dressed in blue trousers and loafers, with greying hair precisely parted and a thick, neatly twiddled moustache. The glass in his spectacles is so thick it magnifies his soft, wrinkle-cracked eyes, giving him an insect-like quality. Professor Rodas recently turned 80, having taught history in Yoro’s secondary school for over 40 years. He is a self-proclaimed authority on the Lluvia de Peces (Rain of Fish). His words come slowly. “1km from here,” he says through his translator. “It is raining fishes 1km from here.” The Lluvia de Peces is a seemingly unfathomable phenomenon where live fish fall from the sky in the small market town of Yoro, Honduras. It happens every year at the beginning of the monsoon season. According to locals, the annual event is a divine miracle, stemming from a Spanish priest, Father José Manuel Subirana, who arrived in Yoro in the mid-19th century. Helpless to combat the poverty in the town, the priest prayed for three days and three nights asking God to provide food for the starving people. On the third night, fish miraculously fell from the sky and has done so every year between May and July. Rural Yoro, where the Lluvia de Peces is said to take place Rural Yoro, where the Lluvia de Peces is said to take place Jack Palfrey I crane my neck back and look towards the grumbling sky. It is inflicted with thick dark clouds. “When will it come?” I ask the Professor. “The sky will go black to let the people know it is coming,” he says through his translator. “Have you seen the fish fall?” I ask, surveying the empty green vista. “Nobody goes out there [to see the fish] because the lightening is so dangerous, it kills people.” The professor retracts his cane and slides it sharply back into the earth. “We go out when the fishes are on the floor,” relays the translator. “Children bring buckets to collect all the fish.” The professor tells me he wishes to show me the town’s church, Santiago de Yoro, where Father José Manuel Subirana is buried. As we retrace our footsteps through the clearing, I ask if anyone has ever seen the fish physically fall? “A team from National Geographic came to Yoro to see the rain,” he says. “And did they document it?” I enquire. “Sí.” *** Returning to London, the Yoro fish phenomenon continued to swim through my subconscious. The account of a National Geographic team documenting the marvel is not only spoken about by the locals, but is widely circulated online (including here, here and here). It is the primary source that proves the fish rain is genuine. Keen to hear from someone who has witnessed the rain first hand, I contact National Geographic to see if they can put me in touch with a member of the original team. After a few days I receive a response from a staff member named Eric, who tells me that he’s searched through the company’s virtual library that indexes National Geographic Magazines, as well as the Exploration Portal that contains records of all the grants that have been approved over the years, and there is no mention of Yoro or the Lluvia de Peces. Thinking that perhaps the name had been misconstrued, I contact the Royal Geographical Society. They confirm that they’ve never commissioned a team to research the rain either. Ultimately, the existence of the team (potentially the sole, independent source regarding the Lluvia de Peces) is ambiguous at best. Yoro is an unremarkable town until monsoon season Yoro is an unremarkable town until monsoon season Jack Palfrey Similar bizarre animal weather hoaxes have appeared online, including an infamous video of a Thai street flooded in flailing catfish that gained popularity in 2015. The video claimed to show the aftermath of a freak storm in Thailand, but was eventually revealed to be the result of a cargo door malfunction on a truck transporting catfish in Guizhou province, China. This ambiguity calls into question whether a ‘fish rain’ could even exist. To try and establish the science behind the event, I turn to Professor Mark Saunders from the Department of Space and Climate Physics at University College London. Based on the solid information provided, Mark believes that the Yoro fish rain is a purely atmospheric phenomenon. “It is physically possible for small creatures, such as small fish, to be picked up by the strong updrafts present in tornadoes and strong thunderstorms as they pass over a body of water, and be transported up into the atmosphere, where they can become frozen, before being ‘rained out’ at another location,” says Mark. However, Mark admits Yoro’s distance from the nearest ocean, the Atlantic (roughly 70km (43 miles) away), does dent the plausibility of this theory. “This may point to a more local source rather than to one in the Caribbean Sea or even the Pacific Ocean,” Mark adds. “It should be possible for a fish expert to identify the type of fish and thus trace them to a potential source.” Determined to continue digging, I send one of the more authentic appearing images, reportedly showing the fish found after the rains, to a dozen ichthyologists with knowledge of fish species in Central America. Based on the image, almost all agree the small fish are from the Characid family, and likely of the Astyanax genus. A freshwater species of fish commonly found in rivers throughout Central America. The images also appear to show a number of different fish species, including a catfish likely from the genus Rhamdia – another freshwater fish. Many of the experts also offer their own take on the cause of the phenomenon, which they unanimously agree to be a result of flash flooding. “The ‘phenomenon’ is best explained as riverine fishes becoming concentrated as result of flash flood associated with the heavy rains,” says Scott A. Schaefer, Dean of Science at the American Museum of Natural History. “As no one has ever witnessed fish actually falling from sky, it’s likely they wash into town via culverts and gullies and such, and become stranded.” Other biologists I contact concur that such flooding is a more plausible explanation for the fish getting stranded en masse, and would also be much more likely to occur on an annual basis. Faced with such sound expert backing, it is difficult to dismiss such candid reasoning in favour of a romantic notion of fish raining from the sky. But this is unlikely to sway the people of Yoro, who address the Lluvia de Peces with unwavering conviction. Nobody in the town doubts the existence of the rain: it is real and it is a miracle. *** After a brief tour of Yoro’s underwhelming market place and peach-coloured church, I’m ushered by Professor Rodas to a small buffet-style eatery. Professor Hector Rodas stands outside Yoro’s Santiago de Yoro church Professor Hector Rodas stands outside Yoro’s church Jack Palfrey We sit near the door on the only free table and the Professor orders us all baleadas (tortillas filled with beans and meat). He turns to his translator and speaks softly. “The owner here has eaten the fish,” he says. “Would you like to talk to her?” The owner, a short middle-aged woman, brings over our orders: tortillas streaked in cheese and oozing with chicken and colourful sauces. The Professor whittles away to her in Spanish before gesturing for me to ask my questions. “Have you eaten the rain fish?” I ask. The woman nods shyly when the translator relays the question. “What did it taste like?” I say, expecting a hyperbolic description of some divine, ethereal taste. She stands silently for a second, and her face skews into a look of perplexity. “It tasted like fish,” she replies, and heads off to fetch our drinks. Perhaps sometimes fallacy is more palatable than the truth. NEED TO KNOW Getting there United Airlines fly to San Pedro Sula (via Houston, Texas) from destinations throughout Europe including London. From San Pedro, Yoro is a winding four-hour bus ride away. The town is also accessible from the country’s capital Tegucigalpa, with a similar travel time. Buses range from slow and cramped public affairs, to more luxurious air-conditioned minibuses. Transport can be chartered from the main bus depots in both San Pedro and Tegucigalpa. Private car hire is also an option. Where to stay Accommodation options are limited in the small town of Yoro. Hotel Marquez (tel: +504 2671 2815) is located in the centre of town. It has an attached restaurant and Wi-Fi access. The town hosts a popular local festival in July and therefore, if visiting during this period, it is advised to book accommodation in advance.

A bombsite in Tel Aviv has become an unlikely stage for a free-spirited weekly soirée. But with developers at the door has the makeshift drumming ceremony reached its crescendo? Emilee Tombs investigates.

It starts on the beach at sundown.

At first it’s not much more than a distant pop patting, easily mistaken for a game of matkot, the bat and ball game known as Israel’s national sport.

Pop, pat, pop, pat.

But then the distinctive rasp of a snare drum joins the fray, followed by the faint rattle of a maraca. Within moments a full orchestra has sprung up from the sand, their harmony of African beats floating on the Mediterranean breeze.

This is Tel Aviv’s drumming ceremony; 20 or so male and female drummers, ranging in age from 15 to 80 years old, sit with their instruments between their legs, beating out a rhythm to the setting sun.

This unofficial party takes place every Friday evening on Banana Beach to mark the start of Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest), though for non-believers it is simply an opportunity to come together to dance, smoke and have a drink with friends.

“People from every faith, every political stance, every socio-economic background

Hike solo across Africa like an absolute hero

Yearning for adventure but hampered by the fear of flying solo? Take inspiration from the tale of Emily Hahn, a revolver-carrying, cross-dressing receptionist who single-handedly crossed the Congo on foot. Ailsa Ross reports.

“Lots of people said they’d come,” explained the eccentric anthropologist Patrick Putnam when Emily arrived at the thick of Ituri Rainforest, “but you’re the only one who did.”

That’s because the jungle, then part of the Belgian-controlled Congo Free State, was over 9,500km (5,903 miles) from New York City, where the pair had first struck up a friendship.

It was an inevitable reunion: in 1929 struggling writer Emily was working as a temporary receptionist in New York, just months after the Wall Street Crash had plunged families into famine.

Young and impulsive, Emily yearned for adventure. At 24, she’d already completed a 3,862-km (2,400-mile) road trip across the States disguised as a man, but she’d always dreamed of Africa.

One biting December morning, Emily decided to take Patrick up on his offer to help out at his camp, deep in the un-gazetted tangle of the Ituri Rainforest.

So she quit her job, threw her belongings into a bag and set off to the Congo Free State.

Emily travelled

Las Fallas Burning Valencia to the ground

Ever seen a city burn to the ground? Karl Webster relives Valencia going up in flames around him as part of the fiery Las Fallas festival.

On the night of her cremation, I lock eyes with the woman I love as she slowly disappears behind toxic clouds of thick black smoke. She’s lying in the street, naked as the day she came into creation, still smiling as hungry flames lap at her perfect polystyrene breasts.

Tears come into my eyes, but I know this is how it must be. For this is Las Fallas, where everything must burn.

It’s March in Valencia and around 400 outdoor art installations (many of them absolutely colossal) are deliberately burned to the ground in this anarchic celebration of creativity, mortality and rebirth.

The works are uniformly joyous, satirical and wildly kitsch, made from paper, wax, wood and Styrofoam. They are beautiful, beguiling and astonishingly flammable: art deco angels as tall as church spires; short-sighted skeletons straddling full-size working dungeons.

Ordinarily, the destruction of art is associated with totalitarian regimes. Not so with Las Fallas. Ariadna González and Xavier Gurrea, just two of thousands of enthusiastic artists, tell me it’s an honour to know

Is London losing its soul

London’s feted pubs, live music venues and independent shops are being replaced with bland flats and boring chains, turning a once-vibrant city into a monotonous metropolis. At least that’s what the critics think, but do they have a point? Gavin Haines reports.

Back in January, London led lachrymose tributes to one of its brightest stars, David Bowie, who lost his private battle with cancer aged 69. But as the flowers piled up outside his former home in Brixton, and on the steps of 23 Heddon Street, where he famously posed for the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust…, was the capital also subconsciously mourning the city that made him?

Was it grieving for Denmark Street’s threatened music shops, where Bowie bought his first guitar (and where the Sex Pistols, Kinks, Rolling Stones and countless other bands recorded albums)? Was it growing teary-eyed for louche, libertarian old Soho, whose famously robust sensibilities were nevertheless scandalised by the musician’s flamboyance? And was it mourning rough-and-ready Brixton, the now gentrified district of South London, through which David Jones entered the world?

Perhaps. But cities change, especially mega cities like London. It’s what makes them so vibrant and

A marathon of resistance in the Sahara Desert

Our correspondent, Beccy Allen, explains why she just ran through a refugee camp in the Saharan Desert.

Not many holidays begin in a military airport, but this trip is different. As hundreds of us, from teenagers to 80 year olds, pile off the plane at Tindouf Airport in southwest Algeria, we begin a journey to understand the plight of the Saharawi refugees of Western Sahara, and a race to raise money for much-needed repairs and projects in their refugee camps.

Navigating Tindouf Airport is an exercise in patience, as the Algerian Air Force slowly pour over our passports. But this pales into insignificance compared to the wait endured by the Saharawi people, who have spent 40 years campaigning to return to their homeland in Western Sahara.

So far they have been unsuccessful and remain scattered between three lands: refugee camps here in Tindouf; a slither of land known as the ‘Liberated Territories’, just north of Mauritania; and the resource-rich ‘Occupied Territories’, which are currently under Moroccan military control.

There isn’t a country in the world that recognises Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara, where human rights organisations say the Saharawis’ freedoms are limited and their Bedouin way of life