If we make our travel decisions purely on how the media portrays a country, how many countries would we strike from our list? Many of the nations in Africa, and throughout the Middle East, and Asia are depicted as unsafe for visitors. As a traveler and sometimes resident in many of these places, I know that the media is telling only half a story.
They fail to represent the natural beauty, the diverse cultures and the beautiful people living in each of these regions. The continent of Africa is much maligned. The television shows the contentious imagery of poverty, fighting, and hunger. Is this the Africa that I have personally experienced? Is this the continent I love to return to at every chance I get?
The myth behind one of the greatest continents on the planet!
The Africa I know is a beautiful tapestry showing exciting adventures, traditional cultures, fantastic stories and an ancient history. How does this line up with the television view? I want to travel to each of the 50 countries in Africa. So far I have visited 32. I feel like each country is a piece of an exquisite puzzle. Each piece tells its own story of local traditions, cultural heritage, different qualities, and the unique identities seeping through language, food, and music.
Every traveler has a favorite continent where we leave a piece of our heart. We identify with it, and it represents everything that is good in us. For me that continent is Africa. It feels like the epic landscapes and the unique history are rooted in me. There are countless hidden treasures in this great continent waiting for me to discover. As the pieces of the puzzle come together, I see that there is a common thread. It is their love for one another!
The Africa I know, has a pure awareness of community. This sense of community permeates through every level of their culture, their awareness of each other, and a shared harmony through their art, religion, and literature. Some of the small experiences serve to illustrate how it feels to travel across Africa; like the afternoon in Bamako sitting with the children under a tree listening to the oral traditions and music of a Wiseman bringing the past alive, restoring my love for African literature.
Being suddenly invited to share a meal with a family in Senegal was a typical African experience. One moment I am out on the street and the next I am sharing a room with strangers, and a huge pan of thieboudienne, the traditional Senegalese dish. I was made to feel welcome, sitting on the living room floor, asked all kinds of questions about my trip.
With so much warm and friendly banter going on, I felt at home in that place. How important the small everyday connections are in our lives, taking time out to enjoy each other’s company.
I have another beautiful memory of a woman market stall holder in Lagos whose expression while talking to her non-paying customers, reminded me of the way my grandmother looked when she was chiding us as children years ago. The same expression across entirely different cultures reminded me how much more we have in common than those things that divide.
In Abidjan, you can dance to the sounds of Coupé Decalé, a pop culture that allows young people to express their frustrations creatively, and Marrakech I tasted couscous for the first time and fell in love! Then there are the colorful street markets of Ethiopia where you can buy beautiful fabric and taste the best coffee in Africa.
Yes! My Africa is filled with happy memories, I look through a different lens to that of the media. While walking the streets of amazing capital cities, I can discover African art and music through the eyes of local people and share their culture, their fantastic food, and their love.
Welcome to my Africa!