Africa… land of mystery.Africa evokes a myriad of emotions when heard, and even more when pronounced; but so much lies hidden. “Africa” after all is just a noun, just a name… or is it?

After all, the word “Africa” itself is shrouded in mystery. One school of thought believes that the word Africa comes from “afar”, Pheonecian for “dust”; while another believes that it comes from the Berber word “ifri” or cave. Either way, Afri was a name given to a group of people that lived near Carthage, and when to Romans invaded, the land of the Afri’s became the “Africa Provice”. Subsequent invasions (and there weren’t few) all maintained the name, in one form or another.

Now, history lesson aside… Africa means different things to different people. Sadly, to many people in what’s come more and more to be called the “developed world” (a term I can’t disagree with enough), Africa evokes images of a sad kid on a t.v. advert for one charity or another, usually with a fly near his face. The reality can’t be further from the advert. I’m not denying poverty, hunger, terrorism, war, and a range of other terrible things happen all over Africa (and frankly, all over the world) – but I am denying that during any period of time in Africa your lasting memory will be a sad child. Shocking as it may be, children have an incredible ability to make the best of any situation, turning events that would send a mature adult into fits of depression into games, fantasy or to coin a phrase… child’s play. Children are destroyed by many of the events in their lives, but at the same time, you wont find as many smiling faces in the biggest of cities anywhere in the world as you will in Africa. Take a stroll down Oxford street in London, of Broadway in New York. Smile at someone and greet them; you’ll be lucky if they don’t tell you that they don’t have any change! Try the same in any African city/town and you’ll find smiles shining back.

To me, Africa was perfectly coined by an Italian friend called ‘Mario’; and while he didn’t wear a red hat, nor had a big moustache – he sort of was a plumber as his job was creating wells in African countries as part of NGO work. Mario felt that Africa (or Mama Africa as many in Gambia call her) has a calling. Once you spend time there, you can’t wait to get out…. but once you leave, you can’t wait to get back, she calls you – and few can resist the call of Mama Africa!

So, at the end of my massive ramble, with little coherence to anything related to travelling in Africa… I shall summarize it in one sentence. If you haven’t been to Africa, you’ve missed out on one of lives biggest adventures… and you definetly don’t hear Mama Africa’s voice!

As always, here’s the list!

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