Destination: Africa

Odd Jobs: Interview With a Nigerian Garment Fixer

Odd Jobs: Interview With a Nigerian Garment Fixer Photo: Lola Akinmade

Lola Akinmade meets a guy in Lagos who'll fix the shirt right off your back

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World Travel Watch: Tube Strike in London, Election Worries in Egypt and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Mapped: Sexual Harassment in Cairo

And speaking of street harassment—a group of women’s rights activists in Cairo has created a new site aimed at raising awareness of the problem in their city. The project, HarassMap, uses crowd-sourced emails and text messages to map harassment on the streets—divided into categories like “catcalls,” “touching,” “stalking or following” and “indecent exposure.” The second step? Approaching community leaders in harassment “hotspots” and enlisting their help in combating the problem.


‘Mozambique is a Good Place to Disappear’

Over at The Smart Set, World Hum contributor Christopher Vourlias recalls an encounter with Captain Ian, a boozy expat who’d fought against Robert Mugabe’s guerillas in Rhodesia-turned-Zimbabwe before embarking on a 20-year journey around southern Africa:

During the night he had described himself to me as, alternately, a thief, an assassin, “the grumpiest, most irritable captain on the sea,” and “the last rebel in Africa.” Now he was at the helm of a fishing boat on Ibo, offering day trips to the few tourists who straggled out to the island each year. He gave me a very complicated look as he described his newfound fate. It seemed like an awfully long fall from grace—or, at least, violence—for this unlikely rebel.

It’s a good read.


Will a Road Through the Serengeti Kill Tanzania’s Giant Tourism A.T.M.?

Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete wants to build a highway through the Serengeti, the location of the Great Migration, which, Jeffrey Gettleman writes, is “widely considered one of the most spectacular assemblies of animal life on the planet.” What will happen if the proposed road gets built?

Scientists and conservation groups paint a grim picture of what could happen next: rare animals like rhinos getting knocked down as roadkill; fences going up; invasive seeds sticking to car tires and being spread throughout the park; the migration getting blocked and the entire ecosystem becoming irreversibly damaged.

Tourism could also be a casualty.

Hundreds of thousands of people here depend on tourism for a living. And the Serengeti is like a giant A.T.M. for Tanzania, attracting more than 100,000 visitors each year, producing millions of dollars in park fees and helping drive Tanzania’s billion-dollar safari business, an economic pillar. “If anything bad happens to the Serengeti,” said Charles Ngereza, a Tanzanian tour operator, “we’re finished.”

Jeffrey Gettleman narrates an accompanying video.


‘I Studied Abroad in Africa!’: Fair or Unfair?

Students who have ventured to Africa are getting called out on the Tumblr I Studied Abroad in Africa! for “wearing your ‘traditional’ African clothes, eating ‘weird’ foods and taking as many photos of black children as possible.” Fair or unfair? (Via urlesque)


Meet the Traveler Who Saved Graham Greene’s Life

In the Telegraph, Tim Butcher tells the little-known story of Barbara Greene, a cousin of the well-traveled author—and, apparently, his savior on a 1935 trip through Sierra Leone and Liberia. Here’s Butcher:

At the off, the adventure was the property of Graham Greene. He made all the arrangements and took all the decisions, hiring a team of 24 bearers, three servants and a cook. A child of the late Edwardian era, Barbara Greene was happy to go along with this.

But after crossing into Liberia and beginning the trek, a reversal took place. Graham fell ill, dangerously ill, while Barbara got stronger and stronger. They had various adventures and almost lost each other in the thick forest, but the key moment came about three weeks into the walk when his illness worsened dramatically and he lost consciousness.

“Graham would die,’’ she later wrote. “I never doubted it for a minute. He looked like a dead man already ... I was incapable of feeling anything. I worked out quietly how I would have my cousin buried, how I would go down to the coast, to whom I would send telegrams.’‘

Calmly Barbara Greene took over responsibility for the trip, settling on the route, arranging food and motivating the bearers. Having completed the same trek last year for my book, staying in the same villages and enduring the same climate, I am in awe of her achievement. And I am in no doubt that she saved her cousin’s life.

(Via The Book Bench)


What We Loved This Week: Rachid Taha, Fall Colors at Alaska’s Denali Park and More

Jim Benning
Algerian musician Rachid Taha. I discovered him recently on a flight—he was a featured artist on Delta’s in-flight audio entertainment system. He has covered the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah.” Here’s a taste of something perhaps slightly less familiar:

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Slum Tourism: ‘It’s Not Worth It’

The New York Times has an op-ed from a former resident of Kibera, an area of Nairobi that’s become a popular destination for slum tourists. Here’s writer Kennedy Odede:

I was 16 when I first saw a slum tour. I was outside my 100-square-foot house washing dishes, looking at the utensils with longing because I hadn’t eaten in two days. Suddenly a white woman was taking my picture. I felt like a tiger in a cage. Before I could say anything, she had moved on.

We’ve talked slum tourism on World Hum before: Columnist Eric Weiner asked whether it can ever be done right while Rob Verger reported from a favela tour in Rio de Janeiro. (Via @nobauerm and @robverger)


World Travel Watch: Dress Code in Vatican City, Taxi Kidnappings in Nicaragua and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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The Travel Writing of Paul Bowles

Paul Bowles is best known for his 1949 novel The Sheltering Sky, but he produced quite a bit of travel writing during his lifetime, including one of our 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time (see #87). Much of his shorter stuff, covering places as diverse as the Costa del Sol and Sri Lanka,  has just been collected into an anthology edited by Rough Guides founder Mark Ellingham. It just earned a positive review in The Independent.

Michael Jacobs calls particular attention to a piece included in the anthology about travel writing itself.

In this 1958 piece, Bowles voices concerns only too relevant today.

At a time when “in theory anyone can go anywhere”, he saw the genre as having shifted in emphasis “from the place to the effect of the place upon the person”. However, he thought that the sort of people likely now to travel would be generally unsympathetic towards subjective impressions and prefer a work containing practical information. Bowles believed that a travel book should be nothing more than “the story of what happened to one person in a particular place”, but he feared “such books form a category which is doomed to extinction”.

Fortunately for those of us who love great travel writing, they’re not quite extinct yet.


Kristof and the Challenge of Race in Africa Stories

Kristof and the Challenge of Race in Africa Stories Photo by Fred R. Conrad
Photo by Fred R. Conrad

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof is answering reader questions on video, and one answer, in particular—see the video below—touches on a sensitive topic: coverage of black Africans as victims and white visitors as their saviors.

Kristof admits to sometimes using white people as “bridge” characters in his Times stories to help draw in readers in America who might otherwise turn the page upon seeing a story about Central Africa.

San Francisco Chronicle Editor at Large Phil Bronstein likes Kristof’s answer: “[A]dmitting that there’s a white reporter’s burden in writing about Africa is among the braver things he’s done. It’s the bold revelation of a messy little secret not so mysterious to those of us in the profession.”

Bronstein’s blog post about it, which draws on his own reporting experiences, is a good read.

A quick note on related World Hum coverage: Kristof has talked about his own formative travel experiences in a World Hum interview, and Frank Bures has tackled the “white man’s burden” in Africa—and the perspective of Bono, among others—in a provocative World Hum essay, Suffering and Smiling: Vanity Fair Does Africa.

Here’s the Kristof video:

(Via Romenesko)


World Travel Watch: New Trekking in Kashmir, Dengue in Venezuela and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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A Return to Zimbabwe

The theme for Granta’s latest issue is “Going Back,” and it features a compelling story from Owen Sheers about a return trip to Zimbabwe. I love the feel of the opening:

The knees of the soldier from the Presidential Guard are pressing against my spine through the driver’s seat. When he shifts his position they roll across my back like the mechanism of an airport massage chair.

The issue also includes an interview with Sheers.


‘Is There a Place We Can Watch Television in the Camp?’

In Slate’s latest Well-Traveled series, Robin Shulman tours South Africa in the midst of World Cup madness. The latest installment? Watching France lose to Mexico from a Kruger safari camp. It’s a good read.