With a huge impetus from the African Union, an epic journey covering the length of the Mother Continent is going to become a practical reality in 2018.
Back in the 1600s, when Europeans were busily “discovering” lands already populated by peoples of color, well-to-do families would send their kids on on a journey through Europe lasting several months.
These weren’t extended vacations, but extensions of their formal education. The kids were expected to absorb local cultures, art, history and languages along the way — even if it meant stopping in one city or country long enough to — gasp! — take a class or two.
Now, the African Union isa putting its own spin on this practice with the official debut of the Grand Africa Tour, announced last month at the Africa Travel Association’s annual World Tourism Conference, held in Kigali, Rwanda.
In distances alone, the GAT leaves the original European version in the dust. It covers the length of the African continent, seven destinations from Cape Town to Cairo — more than 8,200 miles.
And with a total of 55 sovereign nations in Africa, there’s also an awful lot more to learn — especially for those of us on the western side of the Atlantic who have been kept in the dark — either through oversight or malicious intent — about the reality of Africa, its natural beauty, its history and its many cultures.
The first of these tours is set to launch in October 2018.
SO MUCH TO SEE
What might you see on such a grand tour of the Mother Continent? Here are some of the possibilities listed by the African Union:
- South Africa’s world-famous Blue Train, from which you might catch a glimpse of Table Mountain.
- Robben Island, where Nelson MAndela was imprisoned in isolation for 18 of hiis 27 years of incarceration, only to get the last laugh as the first president of an apartheid-free South Africa.
- Botswana, where a safari will give you an up-close look at wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.
- The ruggedly beautiful deserts of Nambia.
- Zimbabwe, home to the Zambezi River and to Great Zimbabwe, the largest ancient ruins south of the Sahara, second only to the Egyptian pyramids in size and grandeur.
- Victoria Falls, “the smoke that thunders, so immense that it straddles two countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
- The Serengeti plain, extending from Tanzania to Kenya, scene of the never-ending Great Migration.
- Mount Kilimanjaro, “the roof of Africa,” the tallest mountain on the continent — all 19,341 feet of it.
- Rwanda and Uganda, where you can come face-to-face with Africa’s fascinating and endangered mountain gorillas.
- Ethiopia, home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other African country, including .
- Spectacular religious sites, from the incredible rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia and the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Cote ‘dIvoire to the Grand Mosque of Hassan II in Morocco and the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
For those with the time, stamina and adventurous spirit, there’s already an 8,200-mile highway running the length of the Mother Continent, from Cairo on the Mediterranean Sea to Cape Town on the farthest reaches of the South Atlantic. So theoretically, you could make this epic journey on your own, right now.
But what will make GAT unique is the direct involvement of the African Union, which mans that you won’t be on your own.
AU PAVES THE WAY
Your epic African tour will actually start in Washington DC, where you welcomed and personally briefed by H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, the African Union Ambassador to the United States.
When you set out on your epic African journey, the AU will assign a continental guide who be with you for the entire tour as you roam from one country to another. In each of those countries, you will be met by a country guide giving you their personal introduction to their country and its cultures.
What makes the AU’s involvement so critical is that they will be arranging all your needed visas for you before you leave, taking an immense amount of hassle out of your trip before it even begins.
The Grand Africa Tour is meant to be but one of the steps toward that goal. Follow IBIT for more Tour details and pricing information as it becomes available. Use the form below to send in your questions about what is about to become the world’s greatest odyssey.
“I CAME TO WASHINGTON TO GET THINGS DONE.”
The driving — and I do mean driving — force behind The Grand Africa Tour is Amb. Arikana Chihombori Quao, a no-nonsense physician with ambitious goals for Africans, whether you were born on the continent or not.
One of those goals is a passport.
“I’m going to demand African passports for my Diaspora. Because we can’t be running around all over Africa looking for visas. We need an African passport.”
She also wants to create a Professional Diaspora Registry, to enable Black-owned businesses on both sides of the Atlantic to connect and cooperate on joint ventures.
“We want companies to come and talk about what they do on a platform that we have created, so we’re creating ways that Diaspora can begin to dialogue, so we can bring about these obvious marriages that need to take place that are not happening because we are so disjointed.”
The key to making these and other great things happen, she says, getting together and getting organized, because “as long as we’re talking as individuals, we’re going nowhere.
“When you’re organized, I can represent you. When you’re organized, I can speak for you. But until we start doing that, and think like that, like the rest of the ethnic groups…we’ll forever complain. We’ll come here next year and talk about the same issues. I don’t have time for that.
“So for me, it starts with unity. It starts with us coming together. It starts with us decolonizing ourselves. Us getting rid of the legacy of slavery. It’s us realizing that our sheer survival depends on us working together and looking from inside. Because we’re on our own as Black people.”