Flights with layovers are often cheaper than direct flights, but sitting around in an airport for five hours can be dreadful. Many airports have hidden attractions inside or nearby that passengers don’t know about. They could turn a layover into a memorable part of your African trip. Here are 12 unique things about African airports.
When you think of airports you usually think of stale sandwiches and nearly plastic fruit that have been injected with chemicals, but at Carthage International Airport travelers can actually find local produce sold market-style in the shopping area.
Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport is known for having a particular style of duty-free shopping. On top of the brand-label stores, the shopping area also boasts traditional style bazaars. The airport bazaars are enclosed marketplaces filled with kiosks and stands where local fabrics, clothing and other goods are sold. You won’t feel like you’re in an airport at all. Pictured above is a standard bazaar set up. And yes, the debate still rages over which continent Sharm el-Sheikh is in.
If you have a layover at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa, visit the Shongololo Lounge in Terminal A. Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the lounge has showers. Yes, real showers. You can book online or pay at the door.
The Port Elizabeth International Airport in South Africa is just a five-minute drive from the beachfront. The city of Port Elizabeth is known for it’s gorgeous beaches, full of activity. How about a beach layover? It might be the only time you can actually leave the airport, take in some sun, and make it back to your next flight on time.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi has been voted as having some of the best airport food in the continent. But what many leave talking about is Nairobi Java House, one of the most popular coffee companies in the country with more than 25 branches. The café offers hand-roasted coffee and homestyle food in a warm environment. You don’t feel like you’re in an airport coffee shop at all.
Cape Town International Airport in South Africa has a J&M Biltong, one of the country’s most popular makers of everything beef. Of course their specialty is biltong—one of the country’s favorite snacks often wrongly compared to American beef jerky (it’s nothing like it). The meat experts also serve up delicious droëwors — dry sausage.
At Cairo International Airport in Egypt, you can get the patio dining experience in the new Air Mall. Separate from the chains like Starbucks and McDonalds, this little area feels like a plaza in Cairo, with a Segafredo café (a popular espresso chain), an oriental restaurant and the healthy Chez Eddy chain with outdoor seating where you can watch planes arrive. It’s far more relaxing than your typical airport food court.
At the King Shaka International Airport in Durban you can visit the Urban Retreat, a full service spa that includes a full menu of massages from sports and reflexology to Swedish and deep tissue. The spa also offers hair coloring and cuts, waxing (including everything from a bikini to an eyebrow wax) and facials.
Business class passengers along with members of Kestrelflyer Elite can relax between flights in the Mauritius SSR International Airport Amédée Maingard Lounge. The lounge is truly stunning with fountains, small gardens and a buffet with a changing variety of delights including cheeses, naan bread and sauces.
At Marrakech Menara International Airport in Morocco travelers who have signed up for it can enjoy the luxurious Salon Convives de Marque. This VIP service includes special treatment in every part of the airport experience from assistance at check in, fast lanes for passport control and security to luggage retrieval and VIP lounges. Marrakech is one of only six airports that offer the service.
At Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia, members of the Cloud Nine Club can visit the Cloud Nine Lounge. Here, passengers don’t need to worry about flight times and changes. Personnel in the lounge will come up to you to let you know your flight status. Personal computers and refreshments are available as well.
It’s a real place and it’s a five-minute drive from the Seychelles International Airport. A charming and serene retreat called The Wharf Hotel & Marina, it overlooks the bay, has a spa and a restaurant that combines Oriental, Indian, Creole and European cuisine. The reason we bring it up is that it’s nothing like the usual mega-chain business hotels you find close to airports.