Lumai Mira De Smidt pictured with her restaurateur and author mother, Portia Mbau, on their travels.
Lumai Mira De Smidt pictured with her restaurateur and author mother, Portia Mbau, on their travels.

Lumai Mira De Smidt explored Africa with the best travel companion - her mom

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Apr 16, 2020

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While Lumai Mira De Smidt shares her mom Portia Mbau’s passion for cooking, it also gave birth to another interest - photography. And for Mbau’s "The Africa Cook Book", Smidt is credited as a compiler and photographer. 

Travel has always been a huge part of her life. 

For this book, she got to make memories with her mom, who she reckons is an awesome travel companion.

She adds: “The important ingredients of a travel companion is someone who wants to do the same things you do. Nothing is worse than when the party is divided. My mom is great because we're both adventurous, we like going off the beaten path and exploring. We also both love shopping which is essential.”

Scenic shots captured from Smidt's travels with her mom. Picture: Supplied

On how they complement each other on their travels, Smidt shares, “I usually take the role of the organiser, making the bookings and calling the Ubers. Mom is great at bargaining in markets, checking the quality of the spices we buy and telling if we're being ripped off. But altogether we have similar interests when it comes to travelling, we both enjoy eating at local places, adventuring on foot around a city and hiking in nature. We always support each other and give each other the freedom to go whichever way we want to if the time allows.”

Lumai Mira De Smidt pictured with her restaurateur and author mother, Portia Mbau, on their travels.

As for the last place she travelled to before the lockdown, she says, “Last August,I travelled to India and Bali. These are two of my favourite places in the world and I have visited them both several times. 

"In India, I am exposed to a range of experiences, as is India's gift. While visiting local friends in Delhi,I visited the hottest cocktail lounge, and then in Pushkar, a small town, I was treated to a humble meal of Aloo Parantha with seasonal nomads. 

"Neon fuchsia and orange sari's sweeping around bare-feet with shimmering anklets on dusty roads; a leaning vegetable stand, buzzing with flies beside a spotless white lake palace - this is the dichotomy of India. For the creative mind, it's endlessly inspiring. A cacophony of sights, sounds and smells constantly spark ideas, and the people are just as bold, welcoming and engaging.”

Smidt continues, “We flew via Dubai to get to Bali, Indonesia, where the pace is very different from India but no less inspiring. Bali is an island of languid luxuries, the ocean is warm and the climate tropical. Bali is the only Hindu island in Indonesia and this culture imbues everything the Balinese do. 

"From their intricate, decorated hand-crafts and architecture to their scented ceremonies, the Balinese welcome you to feel a part of their beautified life. Abundant with fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables, in Ubud it is only too easy to stop off for a coconut and banana smoothie after a morning yoga class. Or for even more profound relaxation, I'd take a deep tissue massage to end off a day of calm sketching under the coconut palms.”

Scenic shots captured from Smidt's travels with her mom. Picture: Supplied

Where to next when the lockdown is lifted?

She shares, “Yes, we were hoping to visit Islands around Africa. We are interested in the fusion of African cuisine with the island culture and colonial influences.

HER TOP FIVE PLACES IN AFRICA:

Namibia: For its abundance in natural beauty. We drove there from South Africa in our 4x4 and camped throughout Namibia. It's a magical and grounding experience, you feel close to the elements and close to nature. It's also very hot, which I love. We cooked our own food, made braai and when your Mom's a chef, every meal in the bush tastes better.

Morocco: With beautiful architecture and a sense of ancient culture, Morocco is fascinating. I remember visiting the Jama al Fana in Marrakech every day to buy dates and nuts, the bartering was exciting, the vendors are loud and insistent. In the market my parents bought brass and coloured glass light fixtures, they were blue and shaped like pineapples. We also sat on ruby coloured, velvet carpets in a rug shop, the smell of camel leather in our noses, while the vendor and all his family rolled out carpet after carpet for us to see. 

Kenya: Nairobi is a well-developed city with a glow of modernity. The Kenyan people are incredibly friendly; one of my best friends is Kenyan and I visited her family there and ate a lovely local meal with them. The dinner included slow-cooked tripe, whole grain pap and pilau rice. It was amazing!

Senegal: We visited Gorée, a half-day ferry ride off the coast of Dakar, the island sits on a weathered rock outcropping in the sea. It is a significant historical sight for the African slave trade. It was a fort where the slaves were gathered and kept before getting shipped off the to Americas. There is an infamous 'door of no return' which signified the final departure point where slaves would leave the island, it was a very moving place to visit.

Mali: I have to rank Mali in my top five because it was one of the most adventurous trips we ever took. It included hiking the vast, rocky Dogon plateau (where the ancient Telem and Dogon people are from); sailing up the Niger River in a long dug-out boat to Timbuktu, where we partook in a tea ceremony in a tent with a Tuareg nomad. 

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