I came back home in September 2001 two weeks after Osama Bin Laden decided that bombing East Africa wasn’t getting him the attention he as a true evil genius deserved. This he did by orchestrating an attack on several American sites the most remarkable of which was the bringing down the World Trade Centre in New York.
I had a really simple plan when I came home; travel the African continent and write about my experiences. It was simple but it was also very complicated as I had no history in the written word except for compliments from my email buddies once in a while when I regaled them with my adventures in London. This was not enough surely? As it does, life caught up with and did a number on me and I never did do that “move around Africa and write about it” idea I had back in ’01.
Fast forward to 2013 and I recently found Sihle Khumalo’s first book Dark Continent My Black Arse where he talks about his trip traversing the African continent from Cape Town to Cairo when he turned thirty. That journey was undertaken in 2005. I have previously read his other book Heart of Africa and reviewed it on this very blog. That book is about his journey to the source of the river Nile and I have to say I enjoyed it very much.
Dark Continent is a very engaging read. Khumalo is very much the travel writer who speaks to the reader as he goes along the road with his observations from the external environment and within his own mind. He kept me engaged for the few hours I had the book when I was on holiday as he talked about seeing his home continent.
The man is as honest as they come starting with leaving narrative as he bids farewell to his then fiancée and child. As he waits to get his bus from Durban to Cape Town the young couple proceeds to make love in the ladies office. As I was concerned that perhaps that might have not been ideal for her career at the place you later on learn that she had actually quit her “job from hell.”
The honestly extends to the battle with his need to get laid in spite of the fact that he had a beautiful wife waiting for him back home. This struggle between his two heads leads him to nearly getting his block knocked out in the Nairobi Hilton.
Apart from his personal battles with dealing with everything that Africa had thrown at him; bad food, lousy accommodation, unsafe service, currency traders and the like he gives you a face of the continent one can rarely find anywhere. It is Africa as it is from an African perspective. He details his experience as he leaves South Africa and goes through Namibia, Zambia, passes by Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan and finally ending past Cairo to Egypt’s Alexandria.
One of the best parts of the book for me is its explanation of things that I really should know. Like the origin of the word Kiswahili which is a combination of the Arab word “Sahel” for peninsula and “ki” which is comes from the Bantu folks who gave the language a lot of its flavor.
Ultimately, this book awoke that dream that I had over a decade ago to see the continent. Khumalo makes me believe that if he can do it, so can I. The riches that the continent has to see portrayed in this book left me yearning to see more of the continent. Ethiopia is to the north for instance – probably Kshs30k or US$450 with KQ or Ethiopian – has amazing sights to see as does Egypt. It’s on my calendar of places to see in the next year.
Thanks Sihle, great book. It brought back the heady days after Osama now late made me want to see my land more.