By Naadiya Adams
A Tunisian man has walked across the face of Africa from the Northern tip to the most Southern Edge of the continent. In 2018 he undertook the journey where he sought to prove that Africa could be safely crossed.
Mehdi Belhadj is a writer who wishes to tell the world of a peaceful Africa, one where harmony and humility are shown to a stranger simply passing through, Belhadj says his experiences over the past three years have introduced him to an array of cultures.
“I wanted to prove to the world that the African people, despite difficult position, difficult life uhh… remain sometimes among the best and simplest people in the world,” said Belhadj.
During his journey Belhadj encountered many people that he would get to know on a human level, familiarizing himself with their day-to-day lives.
“Even in the dangerous areas, I believe there is good in every African country. Also, traveling by land allowed me to see a lot of beautiful landscapes, most importantly to discover many cultures and traditions,” said Belhadj.
Belhadj says while his journey was fruitful, he had many challenges. He says to undertake such a journey you have to be patient and have the will to push on even in the worst conditions.
“I got malaria many times, I was sick with typhoid…uh I was in jail sometimes, I was even kidnapped in Congo but uh… all the time I have this dream uh I want to finish the trip,” explained Belhadj.
And while the young traveler faced many challenges, his time on the continent was brought to life by the memorable experiences he took along the way.
“I was in Senegal with uh 6 million uh African Muslim people… also I was in Timbuktu, the historical capital of Africa and Mali to see the manuscript of books that are 1200 years old. I have been with lots of tribes like the native tribes in Guinea, also in Namibia, and in the DRC,” said Belhadj.
Belhadj was set to have an authentic experience and while humans are not easily adaptable when it comes to food, Belhadj said he would eat what the locals were eating. And he was open to trying everything.
“I eat with the local people, the local food, I want to try everything in my way but if I am in the bush of course I use my gear to prepare the food. I don’t go to the restaurants or the hotel to eat because for me it’s very very expensive to go there so I prefer all the time to go to the smaller shops to buy some fruits, vegetables and prepare my food,” said Belhadj.
The traveler also detailed how he would simply knock on people’s doors requesting to share their kitchens and be invited in to discover new things.
By the time the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Belhadj was in the midst of his journey through Africa and was forced to stay and work in the DRC for over a year while the pandemic ravaged the world. He said life in the DRC was not cheap.
“Now people are very afraid to see me on the road, they think I am tourist and I could have Covid with me. Sometimes they refuse to pick me when I am hitchhiking. Even to cross the border now is very different, I need to do the PCR test every time.”
He says that the test fees are even more than the visas and traveling has become a lot more difficult. Belhadj believes the world has changed after Covid, but his quest to prove that good lives on the African continent has been achieved.
Belhadj has just arrived in South Africa where he will spend the final leg of his journey, a month in the country. His final destination is Cape Point, the tip of Africa and the most Southern part of the continent.