I recently completed a mapping and profiling of tourism across the entire African continent for the African Union. The eye-popping and jaw-dropping breadth and depth of the continent’s product, made this no mean feat. One of the questions that I admittedly have been battling to answer is what I learned from this study. Because the results quite literally fill a book, if not 2 or 3. You get the picture.
Talking of pictures, it reminds me of the African saying that “the best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him up into little pieces.” Which now that I think of it is a pretty awful saying. So instead I will say that I have decided the best way to convey the exquisite picture that is Africa is one brushstroke at a time.
So with this first brush I will paint a picture of 5 of the epic things I learned on this journey that made me just go WOW_this is the next big thing. Trust me it was difficult to just pick 5. So count this as a trend taster rather than an exhaustive list:
Move over Iceland! Iceland may currently top the list as one of the hottest (excuse the pun) destinations globally because of its jaw-dropping otherworldly volcanic scenery. But that is only because Djibouti is still one of Africa’s best kept secrets. How, is hard to understand. What other place on earth can you dive in a nursery of whale sharks (Devil’s Cauldron at Goubet Al Kharab). And then go float in an inland sea saltier than the Dead Sea (Lake Assal). Before donning hiking shoes to explore a ‘slice of the moon’ here on earth (Lake Abbe). What other place on earth is witnessing the birth of a new sea, just as it beheld the birth of civilisation. And that is barely scratching the surface of what Djibouti has to offer.
Move over Mediterranean diet! The Mediterranean diet is often been lauded as the best diet on earth. But its place in the plant-eating sun may be coming to an end as the world cottons onto the realisation that there is a much more flavourful alternative on offer. West African cuisine! Where big bold flavours of chilies, ginger, peanuts, tamarind and lemongrass meet superfoods like moringa, okra, sorghum, fonio, teff and millet. It is no wonder that Whole Foods Market named West African food as one of its top food trends of 2020. And Pinterest searches for West African recipes grew by 311% in 2019 alone. I, for one, am waiting for it to explode. But before it does I am booking my culinary trip to West Africa to get in before the crowds!
Move over Pirates of the Caribbean! Did you know that the mighty Barborossa was no Pirate of the Caribbean. Barborrosa is actually one of the most infamous Barbary Pirates of North Africa. These pirates scourged the Mediterranean. Hijacking ships and capturing over 1,25 million slaves from coastal villages across Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, England, and Ireland, all the way to the Netherlands and Iceland. No you did not misread that. Between the 16th and the 19th century the Barbary Pirates ran the biggest white slave trade in the world. Mind blown? Mine certainly was. And this is just one of the countless stories and experiences of Africa that we have not even scratched the surface of tourism-wise.
Move over Okavango! Don’t get me wrong, the watery wildlife-filled landscape of the Okavango Delta is completely and utterly breath-taking (especially when your pilot flips the plane for a lark). Really it is in all seriousness. But did you know that the Okavango (while being the world’s largest inland delta) is just one of the smaller wetland systems that we have in Africa? Top on my bucketlist is the Sudd Wetland (the biggest freshwater ecosystem in the world) which lies in the Jonglei plains of South Sudan. Imagine the Okavango meeting the Serengeti on steroids (serious steroids) and you come close to picturing what this wonderscape has to offer.
Move over Nashville! The next war in Africa may be fought over who can rightfully claim to be the Capital of African Music. And what a fight this is going to be. In one corner, rumba-ing away is Brazzaville. Home of the world-renowned Pan-African Music Festival and the dazzling Feux de Brazza. Holding up its UNESCO title, “City of Music,” to adoring fans of its dizzying Afro-pop. In the other corner, is Kinshasa the birthplace of African Jazz and the cradle of rumba. Thrusting its own “City of Music” title to a cheering crowd high on soukous. In the next corner, is Nigeria calling on its devoted Afrobeats fans from as far afield as the UK and US. While Ghana, South Africa, and Morocco clamour for the next corner. Who will win is hard to tell. But I cannot wait to see the dance-offs begin!
Want more? I hope this post has wet your appetite just a bit. If it has please connect and share your thoughts! And if you want to learn more you can sign up here to be the first in the know.