Ubuntu Times Two


It’s time to go home.
October 1, 2009, 1:25 am
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All good things have to come to an end, and so after 10 months &  20 countries, we’re going home.

This adventure has been nothing short of amazing.

We played with chimpanzees in the wild, ran away from armed policemen at sketchy border crossings, huddled through a massive sandstorm in the Sahara, and made our way through the true the heart of the jungle by canoe.

We travelled by literally every means available in covering approximately 10,000kms : plane, train, bus, car, truck, canoe, boat, camel, horse, and perhaps too much on our feet.

We learned about countless cultures and religions – many of which made us question what we think, what we value, and why. It also made us appreciate the life we have in Canada more than ever. This has prompted rather deep thoughts about both Canada’s role in the world and what Canada delivers to its citizens at home.

Thus it’s time to go home and start thinking about what’s next and about what we just experienced and how it fits into something bigger.

We hope you enjoyed our stories.

Dan and Meg.

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Where East meets West
September 30, 2009, 7:18 pm
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Having already spent  two months in the Islam-influenced regions of North and West Africa, our travels to the Middle East and the heart of Islam promised to continue our lessons about a culture and religion we know little about.

Our first stop, however, wasn’t exactly what we expected.

Beirut, capital of the Lebanon, is one of the most-confused cities we’ve travelled to. Newly built skyscrapers and beautiful condominiums lie beside the bullet and bombshell-scarred reminders of the country’s fifteen year civil war. Scantily clad women travel in packs down the streets of the city’s Christian quarter passing the awe-inspiring Al Salam mosque and the crowd of niqab-covered women outside. And Hezbollah and American flags vie for numerical supremacy in balconies across the city.

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The war, which began in 1975 and ended in 1990, pitted the country’s two large religious communities against eachother, and pitted many of each groups’ various factions against eachother as well. And in the midst of it were thousands of Israeli soldiers looking to protect Israel from attacks from the then-Beirut based Palestinian Liberation Organization; thousands of American soldiers looking to protect someone; and increasing interference from the country’s neighbours in Syria. In addition, and perhaps understandably, stability in a country whose demographic composition is marked by two groups, near-equal in size but so different in terms of wealth, power and ideology, has been hard to find.

And nearly 20 years after its official conclusion, the tension that drove the war to its climax is still present when speaking to youth around the country. We were amazed at the level of mistrust and angst that still pervades one groups comments about the other – amongst both young and old. The continued attacks against Israel that originate in the country’s south, and the subsequent reprisals from Israel, do little to help the matter.

That said, the country itself is wonderful. We toured magnificent Roman ruins in Baalbeck, drank wine in ancient Roman caves that stretch over two-kilometres beneath a winery established by Jesuit monks in 1857, and ate like kings with the fashionistas and well-to-do in Beirut’s trendy Gemmayzah district. In some ways, Beirut is a bit like Dubai – an oasis of wealth and ultra-modernity surrounded by poverty and tradition.

Not far from Beirut, just a couple hours drive, lies the Syrian border and Damascus.  Dramatically more conservative than Beirut, the Syrian capital is still light years more modern than we expected. Thanks to a new friend, Mirzan, we toured the city and its mix of gleaming shopping malls, fluorescent-green lit mosques, and open-until-the-sun-rises courtyard cafes. Mirzan had actually emigrated to Canada years earlier but having struggled to find meaningful work, decided to return to his country of birth. And buoyed by petrol and natural gas sales, the largely centrally-planned economy has managed to keep most people happy, despite the fact that the country’s democracy isn’t quite what we’d define as democratic!

Beyond the capital we travelled north-east, skirting the border with Iraq, to arrive in Palmyra. On the bus ride there we were both struggled as to whether the passing road signs noting “Baghdad 150 km” were a good or bad thing. We just hoped the bus didn’t turn right.

Palmyra was all about Rome. The small town is home to the rather amazing ruins of a former Roman settlement, complete with massive granite pillars that run up and down a kilometre-long highway towards the main temples. It ranks up there with El Jem and Bulla Regia in Tunisia as the most well-preserved ruins we’ve seen. From Palmyra we decided to splurge and hired a driver to take us along the Euphrates (including the obligatory dip in the river), through an area which is widely recognized as home to the world’s oldest cities and civilizations. The fertile banks of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers hosted settlements as early as the mid-4th Millennium BC. Along the way we picked up a copy of the world’s oldest alphabet, dating back to 1500-2000 BC, whose 30 sound-based letters marked the transition from symbols (hieroglypics) to form the basis of our modern, Latin alphabet.

Our last stop was Aleppo, home to over 4 million Syrians, not far from the border with Turkey. The city is thought to have been inhabited in some form since the 11th Millennium BC. Between then and now it’s seen pretty much everyone possible pass through, including Alexander the Great, the Mongols, and more recently, Dan and Meg.

Aleppo is also home to, according to us, the world’s friendliest population. Between the two of us we’ve visited nearly 70 countries, and never before have we been made to feel so welcome by the locals. We were welcomed into people’s home, fed, quizzed, and sent off on our way at nearly every turn. I realize that everyone says that “somewhere” has the friendliest people ever but go to Aleppo first and then I’ll let you argue with me.

Syria was a fascinating country: at times conservative and traditional, at times modern and very Western though always retaining a close bond to its Islamic roots.  Defined as a pariah-state and part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ by the American government in 2002, our visit painted a very different narrative, one formed in large part by a people who have little that ties them to those who govern. Syria’s continued support of Hezbollah will evidently ensure that it remains on the list of the world’s rogue states, but it would be a pity for people not to visit and experience a population who went out of their way to show us that despite religion, language and the cultures, we’re altogether very similar people.

Added bonus: two shawarma, salad, kebbeh along with a freshly-pressed strawberry and kiwi juice ring in at under $4CDN.

Crossing the border from Aleppo we progressed into Turkey – a country the world defines as being primarily in Asia and part of the Middle East, but whose young population and urban metropolis’ feel much closer to Europe.  Long home to the Ottoman Empire, the latter’s collapse post-1918 saw Turkey distance itself from its Middle Eastern neighbours and establish an independant Turkish identity and nation under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. His decisions at the onset of the Republic to adopt Latin script rather Arabic, to grant full rights to women, and to promote the separation of religion and state (as the “the liberation of a nation is only achieved through the separation of education from Dogma”) have left Ataturk as an enlightened hero who singlehandedly created a modern Turkish state and identity.

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Those decisions are visible today throughout Turkey. Istanbul and Ankara are modern, well-built, cosmopolitan cities. The two feel much more like their European neighbours to the West than their Middle Eastern and Asian neighbours to the East. Even throughout rural Turkey, the culture and environment are markedly different from their former Ottoman partners.

But as many noted to us, the country is nor Asian, Arabic or European. It’s Turkish. And while entry to the EU is on the agenda, those we spoke to repeated the belief that while membership in the EU would hold benefits, it cannot come at the expense of a country that holds its Muslim faith and Turkish identity proudly. Moreover, many maintain that the issue of Turkish membership will down to Europe’s willingness to accept that a Muslim country can be part of Europe – a question that few can confidently answer today.

But no matter which world it actually sits in, Turkey represents the physical meeting point of two worlds, East and West, and of two religions and the cultures they underpin. With its large population of cosmopolitan, educated, bilingual youth — over 50% of the country’s 72 million population is under 30 — it offers a glowing example of how those two world’s might co-exist. And given that most of Turkey’s Asian and Middle Eastern neighbours share a similar demographic composition, and a similar reliance on trade to promote economic growth, perhaps we can expect a similar push towards a more moderate middle-ground and a greater understanding of the people on both sides of the Bosphorus.



Back on the road.
September 9, 2009, 3:05 pm
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After a couple of weeks spent enjoying the comforts of home, Meg and I are back on the road. First stop: Tunis, Tunisia. Having already spent a couple of weeks in North Africa, namely Morocco, before heading home, we’re trying hard not to simply zip through in order to fast-track the Middle-Eastern portion of our trip. Tunis itself is rather nice. More European than any of the Moroccan cities we visited, it’s also quite a bit rougher around the edges, making it feel quite real. Morocco felt like a giant tourist trap so Tunis has proved to be a very welcome alternative.

That said, it’s also been a massive adjustment for us as our visit coincides with Ramadan and a month long period of fasting for locals. As a result, pretty much everything shuts down during the day and food is nearly unavailable until the sun sets and people break their fasts. We’ve tried our best to do as the locals but in the 35-45 degree heat, not drinking water has proven quite the challenge. I mentioned this to a friendly taxi driver in Tozeur, in the desert-laden south of the country, and he explained that Ramadan was meant to equate rich and poor, i.e. so that the rich could feel the challenges and pains of those who lived daily without. It’s tough to argue against that rationale and the perspective it grants no matter what religion you follow.

Philosophy aside, both of us were pretty peeved when we arrived in Tunis to find that our bags where still somewhere between Toronto and Tunis, likely laying face-down in a ditch at the airport in Rome. I’m not actually kidding about what we feared – we saw several bags strewn across the roads leading from the runway to the terminal in Rome…. We were told they’d be there the next flight, that night. So we waited. Nothing. Next day, two more flights, nothing. By now we’re desperate, need to brush our teeth and desperately need a change of clothes. Don’t worry we splurged and bought the necessary things. Next day, one more flight, nothing. Now we’re just angry. So we jump in a cab and drive to the airport for a face-to-face with the Alitalia rep. We arrive and the first woman we speak to starts laughing when we explain our problem – apparently this is quite common – great. Then her face looks up from behind the counter and says calmly, but sir, your bags are here. WHAT! Yep, they came in this morning but apparently no one thought about putting it into the system or contacting us….. anyways.

After a couple of days in Tunis we travelled back and forth to some awe-inspiring Roman ruins (2nd century BC) both east and west of Tunis. Bulla Regia, a two-hour train journey west, shows the excavated ruins of an entire village. The area receives quite few tourists and as a result we toured the site alone with a phenomenal guide who showed us the brilliantly-preserved houses, baths, kitchens, etc of those who had settled there some 2200 years ago. Some of the houses were in near perfect condition, having been encased by metres of sand for nearly 1500 years, and included some awe-inspiring art work, still intact, such as traditional Roman and Byzantine (300 AD or so) mosaic drawings and frescoes. Moreover, the site demonstrates the ingenuity of the Romans, with complete sewage and drainage systems built across the settlement, and given the 40 degree + heat, full basements built to escape the heat.

Our next stop was a blip on the map called El-Jem, two hours south-east of Tunis. Like Bulla Regia, El-Jem contains near-perfect remains of a Roman settlement, in particular, a massive 30,000 seat coliseum that hosted gladiators, beasts and slaves. While the building itself is quite a marvel, what was most interesting was touring the underground cellars and walkways where one could imagine men and beasts training and preparing for battle in the dark and damp cells under the Coliseum’s stands. And back to Roman ingenuity, the Coliseum comes complete with a retractable floor that allowed the bodies of the vanquished to be quickly dumped underground…  You can read more about the El-Jem Coliseum here: http://www.roman-empire.net/articles/article-026.html .

But enough about the Romans.

We were going to stay the night in El-Jem but the only hotel had closed down so we jumped back on the train and headed to Sfax, the Hamilton/Detroit of Tunisia. It’s a transit point going all-ways across the country and we figured we’d be able to get a good night sleep and then head south to the desert. Unfortunately, hotel prices were slightly out of our budget so we ended up at “Hotel de la Paix,” an ironically-named establishment that gave us nothing nearing peace during our stay. With no ac, no fan, several insect friends,  a sorry excuse of a bathroom and a rowdy coffee-bar (yes, surprisingly, coffee-bars in non-drinking countries do get rowdy!) we were up most of the night, perhaps finally getting to sleep around the time of morning prayers (4.15am). This hotel gets mention as possible the worst establishment we’ve visisted since we began travelling in March (which says a lot given that Tunisia’s per capita GDP is about double the wealthiest sub-Saharan country’s) . Woken up  by honking traffic two hours later, we weren’t in the mood for much so we decided to shelve our plans to travel to the Libyan border and instead took the easy route west on a direct bus to the desert-town of Tozeur. Here there was supposed to be a beautiful salt-encrusted lake bed, dried from the heat, that shone with varying colours as the sun moved across the sky. Well… arriving at night we checked into our hotel (this time a fantastic, cheap, clean and friendly place!)  and were really excited to head out the next morning to see the lake. After breakfast we organized to tour the city and the lake by horse-drawn carriage, not so much as a romantic option but rather as the most common form of local transportation). Our guide Farouk promised that we’d see the salt craters. Great! So we set off with our horse Sonya, passing through massive palm-tree plantations that feed much of the world’s demand for fresh and dried dates, and through field of pomegranates, olives and abricots, all very beautiful. Then we start heading towards the empty expanse in front of us that should be the lake. But the further we go, the more we notice that there’s no water, no salt. Nothing. Just rocks and sand. But after about a half hour Farouk gets excited and jumps down from his drivers seat and runs towards a hole yelling “c’est ici!”

Indeed, our salt crater was what looked like a man-made hole, about a square-metre in size, that did indeed contain a thick crust of pink, desert-lake salt. Quite cool though a tad disappointing given our expectations. Apparently in the hot months the lake retreats some 15 kms into the desert, a bit beyond the reach of trusty Sonya.

With that, we decided we were ready to move on and headed back to Tunis for our flight to Beirut and the beginning of our tour of the middle east.

Next update from Beirut in a couple of days.

Cheers, Dan and Meg.



Mauritania: Sand, sea and Al Queda
July 14, 2009, 10:34 am
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Mauritania is possibly the coolest place either of us has ever been.

Where else can you spend days wandering through the vast expanses of the Sahara with a train of camels, then explore shipwrecks and seal colonies off the coast of the Atlantic, all the while fearing for your safety and the presence of Al Queda?!

We didn’t plan on spending long in Mauritania, in fact, the day we arrived in Nouakchott we almost decided to leave immediately. You see, Mauritania has suffered the unfortunate fate of having been labelled home to some rather unfriendly Al Queda sympathizers. Since 2007 they’ve been blamed for several murders in the country, notably of four French tourists in 2007, and on the day of our arrival, of a American teacher based in the capital. This murder, attributed to Al Queda, and the subsequent flow of media reports on how risky the country was had us both rather terrified. Suddenly curious looks from passerbyes turned menacing, friendly conversation was perceived as attempts to track our movements, etc. We were literally scared. Evidently, for little reason given overall crime, including against foreigners, is almost non-existant in the country, but the thought that foreigners were being specifically targeted was enough to have us seriously weigh the option of leaving.

Luckily we didn’t.

Many however have chosen to steer well clear of the country. Most government travel advisories state cleary you shouldn’t set foot in the country. As a result, tourism in the country, the primary industry outside of fishing and iron ore mining, has dropped 60% since those deaths in 2007. Our host in Nouakchott, Saif, noted that while pre-2007 he could expect to have 75% occupancy in his small guesthouse, since then he’s lucky to have one or two visitors a month. Everywhere we went we were met with deserted hotels, closed down tourist boutiques, and a lot of conversations about former-guides, etc, having been forced to find something new to do in order to eek out a living.

What a pity.

The country is home to some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen on this trip – empty seas of red, yellow and white sand dunes with almost surreal apparitions of camel trains and lonely desert nomads crossing them. 75% of the country is covered by sand, even the capital Nouakchott is essentially paved over desert – the sea shells and sand from the sea are evident throughout the city. And the coast is replete with gorgeous, deserted beaches from where you can spot the schools of fish and accompanying predators in the worlds most fertile fishing grounds.

 Literally at the crossroads of African and Arab culture, Mauritanians proved to be the most welcoming and hospitable people we’ve met. Several times we were invited into peoples home for tea and meals, offered accomodation in their homes, and on almost every journey been urged to join them in drinking their warm, oily, greasy, watered-down fresh goat milk and countless glasses of scalding mint tea. Our last night was spent with our new friend Mohamed, and his welcoming family, eating roast camel and drinking mint tea while watching arab pop music videos. We had met him on our journey from Atar to Choum, a small village on the imaginary border between safe and non-safe Mauritania, from where we planned to catch a 15 hour train across the desert to Nouadhibou. Unfortunately the train was late… by about 12 hours… and so luckily Mohamed rescued us and found a place to wait out the delay, provided us with food, and made sure we had a comfortable spot on the sand to sleep at night. This was one of several nights we slept in the desert in Mauritania, nice on the budget but less so on our backs! 

Our time here was unforgettable and a very fitting way to end the adventurous portion of our travels through Africa that began 4.5 months ago. After almost two weeks in Mauritania we crossed a 4km no-mans-land into Morocco and the occupied Western Sahara. For the two of us, this marks the end of our African adventure. Morocco, and all of North Africa, share little more than a landmass with the countries and cultures south of it. So with that in mind, we’re taking a little break after Morocco and heading home to refuel. 

See you soon. DH and Meg.



Islam and the veil
July 8, 2009, 2:44 pm
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Having spent the past month in countries with various degrees of Islamic following – from religious extremism in parts of Mali to very loose adoption in Senegal – we were curious as to what life would be life in an Islamic Republic. Mauritania is known as a moderate nation, friendly to the west, but with very conservative and traditional values and ideals, i.e., modest clothing, no alcohol, pray five times a day.

In preparation for our trip to Mauritania I had purchased a long loose fitting skirt, a few loose fitting long sleeve shirts and a head scarf.  The overall rule of thumb in this country is modesty! And I am happy to say that this goes for both men and women; most men in Mauritania where what is called a booboo which is very Julius Caesar-esque with its draping like fashion but also with the purpose of hiding any shape or form of the body especially the mid-section – which is why tight fitting pants are considered to be distasteful.

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So despite the 40+ degree weather I chose to don my baggiest pants, my loose fitting long sleeve shirt and of course the head scarf for this journey into Mauritania; hoping that this outfit would not only put the notorious border guards on our side but also reduce the amount of attention I/we were bound to get in a country with such a strong Muslim culture. And although I was extremely hot in all of these clothes the decision to cover up ended up being to our benefit.

It started at the border where I decided to sit passively in the background and let Dan -“the man” do all of the talking on our behalf. Despite all of the horror stories we read prior to our arrival at the border we had quite an opposite experience and we believe it was due to our extra effort in respecting the local culture; starting with Dan’s ability to speak a few words of Arabic and my obvious attempt to conform to the modesty of the culture; something we later found was very unusual for tourists in Mauritania (despite the very obvious modest/conservative dress of the locals).

After crossing the border we took a shared taxi to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. Now according to the guide book, foreign women are to prepare themselves for a large quantity of attention from the local males – something I was not looking forward to but was prepared for given my experiences in other testosterone filled cities of the past. However, this time there was something I could do to try and reduce this irritating attention and this was to dress modestly and to wear a headscarf. This worked wonderfully! Dan and I were free to walk around the streets of the city with little to no hassle from strange men. We even found the people to be very polite and courteous compared to their neighbours to the South – stepping to the side to let me pass and not accelerating their cars as we crossed the intersection but rather slowing down so as to not splash us with the puddle.

With my dark hair and my now tanned skin the addition of this head scarf to my image created a bit of confusion given my very Caucasian looking travel companion. We even had a lot of people ask us if we were Muslim which although we had to tell them the truth we did feel a sense of accomplishment that we were fitting in more than the average tourist!

My experience wearing the headscarf ended up not only acting as extremely beneficial to our comfort in this country but is was also very insightful. As a woman born and raised in the west – an extremely liberated region in comparison – my initial thoughts on wearing a head scarf were somewhat defensive – questioning why a women had to essentially “hide” themselves from the world?

And while I will not say I agree with dress so extreme as the Wahabi-influenced burka, I will say that wearing the headscarf provided me with a safe haven that we as women have all yearned for regardless of our location.  In combination with loose fitting clothes, the head scarf leaves literally nothing for creepy men to look at!

I  hesitate to come across as an avid supporter of covering up our women because some men have yet to develop the respect-for-women-gene but I am left understanding why women in countries such as Mauritania feel greater comfort in covering up as they do.

Sure, it would be nice to think that women could be free of such harrassment no matter their dress, but even civilized Canadian men at construction sites and at nightclubs have a tendency to be less than civil despite our belief in equality and human rights.

But then again, in such male dominated societies, do women have a choice to cover up or not? Or it is simply the way things are? I, as a foreign woman, have the choice (thanks Dan!) to wear what I want, whereas here relations between men and women, and the legal and societal codes that frame them, leave little to no rights to the woman. Thus while wearing the headscarf left me feeling safe, it may leave local women feeling quite the opposite.

Nonetheless, a great opportunity for me to gain a perspective of how women are treated and what rights they have on this side of the world



Into the heat…
June 24, 2009, 12:38 pm
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It’s been hot since we arrived in Cape Town four months ago but since arriving in Burkina Faso, and then crossing over into Southern Mali, it’s been almost unbearable. 40 degrees plus most days, making hikes through Dogon Country in Mali almost unbearable. Dogon country, btw, is a rather phenomenal collection of villages and settlements set up along a rocky escarpment.

About 500 years ago a tribe called the Tellem lived in the escarpment itself, rapelling up and down to their birdnest-like homes with ropes mades from baobab trees.

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They were subsequently chased out by the Dogon people, who came from the  northwest areas of Mali and eastern Senegal. This later tribe set themselves up in small villages made completely of mud, which with a red sand desert backdrop makes for a beautiful sight. One of the real highlights was camping in the desert, a top a rooftop of a local villagers home, listening to the drumming emanating from the neighbouring village.

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We had next hoped to  travel by pirogue (canoe) up the Niger River to legendary Timbouctou but decided that the price, weather and our general lethargic state (!) made this a trip we would be best to hold for a future vacation.

So instead we made our way to Djenne, one of Islam’s holiest cities, home to the world’s largest mud structure – a rather massive mud mosque – pictures to come.

Most impressive from our trip to Djenne, however, was the massive sandstorm we witnessed literally engulf the town. We were sitting on the rooftop of our hotel, enjoying a pop, when in the distance we could see a front of massive, and extremely dark clouds, making their way towards us. But as they got closer they began to change colour – eventually turning various shades of red as the sand grew thicker in the wind. Here are a couple of pics – they don’t do justice to the mix of awe and fear that we felt as the wall of sand got closer and closer!

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Updates from Senegal and Mauritania to come shortly!

Dan and Meg



Vacation time
June 6, 2009, 7:49 pm
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Without  a doubt, Meg and I are ridiculously fortunate to take the time necessary to take such a long trip. But as many of the last posts have noted, it’s not all exactly a holiday! Luckily we just spent 10 days in Ghana – without a doubt the easiest country in Africa to travel in. Who knew buses could carry a maximum of one person per seat? Or leave according to a schedule, and on time?! And what about all these paved roads, there are more paved KM’s here than (likely) in the last three or four countries we’ve visited combined.  No surprise then that Ghana is also the most touristed place we’ve been to since leaving South Africa – and after a couple of months in the middle of nowhere it’s subsequently been nice to take advantage of the amenities of touristville throughout the country. From good restaurants, clean hotel rooms and easy-as-pie transport; what more could you ask for?

And good for Ghana. Despite being surrounded by at-one-time basket cases, it has put together a string of 27 stable and mostly positive growth years since Jerry Rawlings took over in a coup in 1979, and has amazingly avoided any-and-all conflict since independence. The result is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s best economies and most well developed urban cores. Downtown Accra might be a newish suburb in Canada (let’s say Brampton) with nice neighbourhoods, a couple of tall buildings and an increasingly middle class population.

Unfortunately Ghana’s growth hasn’t benefitted everyone equally and the North of the country is still very impoverished. Thus while its politicians talk of being a middle income country by 2020, the reality will likely be marked by tremendous levels of inequality between north and south/urban and rural. Nothing new in development circles but nonetheless a little dirt to take the shine off of Ghana’s media/tourist darling glow.

Now being in such a conducive place for travel is nice but as we learned after the first couple of days, it can be a touch boring when things are too easy. We subsequently tried to speed our way through the big city and jumped on a ferry for a two day trip up the world’s biggest man made lake enroute to Burkina Faso. This latter country is perhaps best known for nothing, save for once being led by a young army general named Thomas Sankara who in the span of four years tried to turn his country’s fate around by building schools, training doctors and ending the corrupt practices of many of his peers. The experiment didn’t last long though as he was assassinated and much returned to the status wuo, miring the country in desperate poverty until a more recent push for good governance has led to an upswing. In the capital Ougadougou, there’s evidently quite a bit of money floating around given the impressive infrastructure and both public and private development. It’s quite like Brazzaville with a very calm and friendly people, and a nice and relaxed atmosphere. Unfortunately there’s not a great deal to do so after just a couple of days in Ouga and the “land of honest men” (translation of Burkina Faso – renamed from fomer name Upper Volta by Sankara to emphasize the revolution he was trying to lead) we’re off to Mali later this week to seekout Timbuktu.

All the best from Ouga.

Dan  and  Meg.