One lucky traveller is Egyptian doctor Ahmed Abdelkader who backpacked around the continent for 120 days in 9 countries and contributed to the establishment of an NGO to promote healthcare and education for kids. Africa is a beautiful continent of 54 countries with diverse cultures but similar values. Travelling around the continent is the best experience one can ever have in a lifetime.
He shared his experience with Face2Face Africa below:
Growing up in a small town in Egypt, I was eager to find out what life is like outside of the boundaries I knew. I spent hours looking through National Geographic magazines and maps trying to figure out how people live in deserts, on mountain slopes, in lush forests. Chasing my dream, I started working as a travel organizer and also had many trips on my own. Today, I‘d like to share with you the experience that has changed my life. Hi, my name is Ahmed, and this is a story about my journey around Africa.
The goal of my trip was to discover similarities and differences in the lives of people scattered in remote parts of the continent. I was especially keen on learning cultural, religious, and traditional aspects of various nationalities. There are thousands of kilometers between the countries I’ve visited but I was delighted to find things that unite all of us.
For me, Africa was a huge unexplored continent promising never-to-be-forgotten impressions. From endless golden sands of deserts, acacia-covered plains, islets of pristine nature to vibrant national marketplaces, Africa has a lot to wow travelers with. Since the very first day of my trip, I realized that Africa was stashing hidden gems at every turn. That’s why my experience became even more unexpected, colorful, and enjoyable when I abandoned a clear plan. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to travel from Kenya to Uganda, stopping by at 7 more countries in between – Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Congo, and Uganda.
With a little patience, an adventurous attitude, and perseverance, I managed to reach every milestone of my journey. Countless times I found myself in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest village but there was always a pick-up, bus, van, or even tractor to pick me up and deliver me closer to my ultimate goal.
The media have portrayed a rather negative image of Africa imbued with poverty, conflicts, inequality, and a multitude of social and political issues coming to the fore. Indeed, Africa has a long way to go towards stability and peace, but the continent is much more than that. Strong, sympathetic, and hardy people living there is its main asset. I was struck by their cordiality, hospitality, and desire to help me, a stranger, as if they had known me all their lives.
Once, I thought that sub-Saharan countries would look alike. Well, I couldn’t be more wrong. Now I know that Africa is inhabited by thousands of ethnic groups and tribes who speak more than 2000 languages and boast of drastically divergent cultures. Nowhere else in the world can you find such diversity? Crossing thousands of kilometers and borders, you will come in contact with numerous dialects from English to Swahili, fasten on Orthodox churches and Muslim mosques, check out modern hipster areas with all blessings of modernity or vice versa.
I must admit that traveling around Africa is not always fun. A lot of time it is frustrating, disappointing, and bewildering. You never know what a new day will bring – your bus may break down, you might catch one of the local diseases, your backpack along with all it possesses might suddenly disappear into thin air – this is only a brief list of ‘surprises’ lying in wait for you in the continent. On the other hand, this mix of pleasure and pain is what makes your experience truly valuable.
Remember the most important rule of traveling along Africa – you have to bargain. No matter what country you get to, the first thing in the morning is to learn the name of the currency and numbers in the local language. Believe me, this knowledge will come in handy because as soon as the natives figure out you are a foreigner, prices will instantly skyrocket. You must fully master the art of bargaining; otherwise, the journey will cost you an arm and a leg in the end.
Despite all the challenges, this trip had a huge impact on me and changed my outlook completely. Scrolling through the photos taken in Africa, I can hardly realize that all this happened to me. Every bus ride on bumpy roads I took, every café or hostel I explored, and every people I met on my way made me understand how rich I am with what I own. Life is frantic, chaotic, fleeting, we are constantly worried about what is going to be tomorrow while forgetting to enjoy moments we have now. The African way of life taught me to meet every new day with gratitude, joy, and excitement.
Be spontaneous, be ready for any adventures, and try to comprehend people around you, both Africans and travelers like you. No matter how much time you spend on this beautiful continent, be it days, weeks, or months, learn to appreciate every moment, because you will start craving for more as soon as your trip is over.
Traveling around Africa all by myself, I found it to be the best experience, and here’s why:
1. The world is not as bad as it seems.
The media is persistently trying to convince us that the world is not ok. It’s time to bust this myth. There is a lot of good stuff around us and you, as a tourist, have a chance to get to know it.
2. There is nothing worse than our “comfort zone”.
If you are always in your own cocoon, you will never learn anything other than this. It can be nice and cozy there but it won’t let you think outside the box, won’t allow meeting new people, and won’t give a chance to broaden your mind. Only when traveling solo, you immerse yourself in a completely uncharted environment, comprehend a new experience, and develop yourself as a multi-faceted person.
3. The best possessions are, in fact, non-material.
We live in the material world where a good car or a house is a sign of status, where manufacturers force us to buy a new phone every year, and fashion brands make us throw out barely worn jeans because they are ‘out of style’. But keep in mind that we can’t take our gadgets, belongings, and money to the grave. When your day comes, what will you remember – your past possessions or your experience? Just by embarking on a trip you’ll enrich your life with indelible impressions.
4. Traveling is an opportunity to make your contribution to society.
When visiting a new place, we always take a piece of it in our heart. Along with that, you can leave your mark wherever you go, either in the memory of people or through the good deeds you do. Having met volunteers during one of my trips, I realized that each of us can do many good things for people who need our help.
5. Our lives are in our own hands – that’s the most precious lesson you learn when traveling.
Africa is a striking continent with vast open spaces, diverse landscapes, and beautiful people whose positive attitude is contagious. Africa is where you can find:
– The most diverse nature ranging from deserts, Savannah, beaches, to impassable thickets;
– More than 600 species of animals and countless species of plants;
– Food harvested in the jungle;
– Authentic art, dance, and music;
– Opportunities for volunteering;
– Good-natured, friendly, unspoiled people who are always happy to see you
Come to Africa and you’ll love it as much as I do!
This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on face2faceafrica.com