What was once a dream trip is soon to become the reality for intrepid explorers Sherief Zeid and Kareem Nada who have challenged themselves to travel the 45-day route from Egypt to South Africa...
National reserves and thrilling safaris, Maasai tribes and the Majestic Kilimanjaro; magnetic temples and the Victoria waterfalls... These are the wonders two young Egyptians gear up to see as they drive along the 10,404 km road between Cairo and Cape Town next winter.
“I came up with the idea when I read the news of a highway being created to link Cairo and Cape Town,” says Sherief Zeid, a student of economics whose dreams earned him the reputation of a madman. But he met Kareem Nada through a common friend, and the idea began to take shape. “Everyone I meet thinks I am crazy, or that I will never come back. But Kareem was fascinated by the challenge,” he says.
It took six months of preparation and plenty of research to plan a road trip that they estimate will take 45 days. Despite the highway being unfinished, the young travelers have designed a path that will take them through seven countries, 53 towns and villages, and countless nature spots.
Departing from the iconic Tahrir Square, the adventurers will tour through Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, to finally reach the Rainbow Nation of South Africa. “When I started looking up for possible roads, we could also pass through Botswana, but we decided not to include it because there was no embassy where we could apply for a visa,” Zeid explains. “Ironically, the closest one is in South Africa."
After submerging into research on gas prices, safety, the cities and their population, estimated costs, and the distance separating them, the duo managed to obtain their first sponsor, a South African company called Tracks for Africa. “We are also contacting sponsors who could give us a pickup truck or a 4x4,” says Nada.
The duo, who just started a Facebook page called Continents without Borders, is raising funds as their expected “perfect” budget amounts to EGP 250,000, which they will use to stock up the vehicle with safety precautions. As for lodging, they mostly plan to set up tents on camping sites. “It’s that kind of trip where we expect to meet people on the road and find places to camp as we move forward,” Nada explains, although he points out some hotel nights might be necessary to give their bodies some rest after the long drive.
Among the stops they plan to make throughout their journey, the travelers intend to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, go on a safari in Kenya, and explore the Victoria Falls, located between Zambia and Zimbabwe. “We are also very excited about visiting a Coptic hospital in Ethiopia which is full of Egyptian doctors,” says Nada.
The place that tops their expectations, however, is Sudan. “The thing with Sudan is that it is so close, but at the same time it is so far away. We think we know so much about Sudan, but we don't,” Nada says. “There are so many stereotypes about Sudanese culture, especially in Egypt, so I am kind of hoping to straighten that out.”
This is the main reason why they decided to take people on a virtual trip with them, explains Zeid. “I want to show people that Africa isn’t all about violence that you hear about. Egyptians think that anything south from Sudan are thugs,” says Nada, who has been to Mauritius and South Africa and has an insight into the African continent, although he points out we can never generalise: “We need to be open to new things, because different people do things differently.” Zeid's travelling experience in Europe left him with a crucial lesson too: Get to know the locals. “Don´t go through the countries by yourself, if you meet the people you get to know the country.”
There are no contingency plans and no emergency exits for these avid travelers: just the sheer sense of adventure. The duo is relying on GPS, allowing them to re-route in case of difficulties, and hope their vehicle gear will be sufficient to cope with all weathers and difficulties.
“You actually have to travel through several national parks along the road, so we are expecting to encounter animals, hopefully not dangerous ones,” Nada jokes. “Fears? No, I just hope not to get bitten by a tsetse fly,” he laughs, referring to a well-known African insect that can bite and paralyse the human body for hours.
“We actually thought of taking a more central route, but those areas are a bigger question mark so we decided to go for safer countries. We are a bit concerned about Ethiopia because it is close to Somalia; but a lot of people actually used to say that about Egypt during the revolution, and if you were in Heliopolis, you wouldn’t even hear about it. It is kind of unfair to assume that an entire country is dangerous,” he adds.
Difficulties in border crossings, monsoons, or insects are some of the perils the young travelers are willing to face, but it is the end of the rainy season, and they will get vaccines to prevent getting ill, they affirm. “We have done more research on the routes and the logistics, but in terms of nature and culture, we are trying to keep some parts a mystery and hoping to discover,” Zeid says.
“This trip has been a big part of my life. My only concern is actually something happening before the trip and not being able to do it,” he concludes with a smile.
As they prepare to set off in January, the duo is inviting people to follow on their Facebook page, which already garnered 1,000 fans. “We will be posting videos, photos and updates of the journey, so it´s going to be different and interesting. People don’t usually do this in Egypt; most don’t know anything about Africa other than tribes, or the figure of Nelson Mandela,” says Zeid, hoping to change perceptions and shed a light on the richness of countries “where Egyptians think there is no civilisation.”