Flights with layovers are often cheaper than direct flights, but sitting around in an airport for eight hours while you wait for a connection can be dreadful. However, many African airports have hidden attractions inside or nearby that passengers don’t know about, which can turn an agonizing layover into a memorable part of your trip. Here are 12 African airports that make layovers (almost) fun.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
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 in Tunis, Tunisia, travelers can actually find local produce sold market-style in the shopping area.
Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport is known for having a unique type of duty-free shopping. In addition to the brand-name stores, the shopping area also boasts traditional Arab-style bazaars. These mini-souks are enclosed marketplaces filled with kiosks and stands where local fabrics, clothing and other goods are sold. When you’re in it, you don’t feel like you’re in an airport at all. Pictured above is a standard bazaar set up.
Johannesburg – OR Tambo Airport
If you’re feeling grubby during your layover at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, visit the Shongololo Lounge in Terminal A. The lounge has showers — yes, real showers — which you can book online or pay for at the door. The facility is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
The city of Port Elizabeth is known for its gorgeous beaches that are always full of sun worshippers and those seeking stress relief. So if you’re stuck at Port Elizabeth International Airport, how about a beach layover? The golden sand is just a five-minute drive from the beachfront. This might be the only place in Africa where you can actually leave the airport, take in some sun, and make it back to your next flight on time.
Travelers have voted for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi as having some of the best airport food on the continent. One of the venues talked about the most is Nairobi Java House, a branch of the popular coffee company. The café offers hand-roasted coffee and homestyle food in a warm environment. You won’t feel like you’re in an airport coffee shop at all.
Cape Town Airport
Cape Town International Airport in South Africa has a J&M Biltong shop, one of the country’s most popular makers of the national snack food. Biltong is often wrongly compared to American beef jerky, but it’s actually quite different, and comes in various shapes and is made from various animals. The J&M 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 King Shaka International Airport in Durban, South Africa, 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.
Mauritius — SSR International Airport
Business class passengers and members of Kestrelflyer Elite can relax between flights at the buffet in the Amédée Maingard Lounge at Mauritius’ SSR International Airport. 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 personalized attention courtesy of 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 offers the service.
Addis Ababa Airport
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.