What better way to start the new year than
daydreaming planning about where you would like to spend your holiday? I know for a fact that some people actually look at the calendar, find out when and how many days off they’re going to have and plan their holiday. I don’t exactly plan my holiday that way, nor do I have that privilege to do so. I could only create a wishlist and from time to time and somehow could magically tick stuff off of my list. This year is no difference. So I hereby share my current wishlist – African edition.
Everyone has been talking about the continent of Africa within the past year due to Ebola. Not to mention there’s this crazy guy called Boko Haram that has been kidnapping random girls and using Islam as a silly reasoning. These things irritate me because everyone in the world practically associates the continent with endless horrible nightmares. My first encounter with the continent was extremely brief – I traveled within Morocco for a few weeks, a few years back. This brief encounter made me believe that there’s absolutely a certain charm about Africa that most people forget. This is why I created this list. Frankly, if I don’t limit myself to five places, this list could be endless.
1. Timbuktu, Mali
I know, to put Mali as one of my dream destinations is the craziest thing that I could ever think of. The negative news about the country is never-ending. It has everything from crazy and unreasonable Muslims fanatics, to civil wars, to nasty nation-wide politics, to restless and not-to-mention useless UN aid, to the super hot and dry weather due to its location being in the Sahara.
So, why do I want to go to Timbuktu, Mali?
My reason is extremely simple and – I guess – shallow. I grew up reading Donald Duck comics. Everytime Donald – or other characters – need to get away and run as far away as possible, they always head to Timbuktu. I was so curious back then. What is it with Timbuktu? Where is Timbuktu? What’s there in Timbuktu? Why do they want to run away to Timbuktu? And of course, how do I get to Timbuktu? Frankly, for the most part of my childhood, I thought of Timbuktu was a fictional place, like Hogwarts or Middle Earth.
As I grow old, I read more about Timbuktu and my desire to go has grown stronger. I remember reading and seeing pictures about the iconic and ancient mosque in Timbuktu. I remember thinking about a proper outfit if I get to visit the city and the mosque – do I have to cover myself? If I do, I bet it’s gonna be hell to cover up and be that close to the Sahara. Then I read about Ibn Battuta, one of the first Islam scholars and travelers that I learned about, and his journey through Africa. He has been one of my role models since I was about 8 and the fact that he went on a trip to Timbuktu and all over Mali makes me respect him even more – I mean, if Ibn Battuta could travel all the way to Timbuktu hundreds of years ago, why can’t I do it now?
Lastly, I would really like to visit Timbuktu because of those Islamist rebels and what they’ve been doing/have trying to do to the heritage sites. I read somewhere that those rebels justify themselves by saying that the sites have turned into shrines that everyone idolised, which is considered a sin in Islam. I mean, I don’t know what’s Malian been doing to the sites or how they’re idolising them, but to destroy an archaeological sites and using a religion as a justification is disgusting. It is beyond stupid and I feel like all scholars in the world, regardless of what religion they believe or lack thereof, should murder those Islamist rebels. Their reason is unthinkable and preposterous, they should be banished.
Unfortunately, there is not much I can do to protect those precious sites. After realising that, I made peace with myself and decided that I need to get to Timbuktu before all the heritage sites are destroyed by the rebels. I mean, the UN has been there forever and they can’t do anything. So best for me to just visit, pay my respect, satisfy my curiosity, save the memory within my deepest heart and smallest neuron of my brain, and then simply left and never look back. Super selfish, I know, but the hell with it. I just need to get to Timbuktu soon!
2. Essaouira, Morocco
Number two in my list is Essaouira in Morocco. I actually had a super long list of cities I’d like to visit in Morocco, back when I was there. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have time. One of the cities I wanted to visit while I was in Morocco was Meknes. I did not get to Meknes, unfortunately – I spent sometime in a nameless village, staying with the locals, eating the best food and experiencing Moroccan hospitality instead. Just for Meknes, I would definitely go back to Morocco.
However, the one city I would like to visit is actually Essaouira. I heard about the city a lot from my Moroccan friends. They told me how they like going there, especially in the summer. My Moroccan friends are native to Fez, which is located in a somewhat higher location in the country. They love going to Essaouira, as it is a city by the beach, very different to what they’re used to. As for me, I was intrigued on going to another port city in Morocco long before I was planning to do an actual Moroccan trip. I wanted to go to Tangier, during a trip to Europe. The idea of taking the ferry from Andalusia to Tangier planted in my mind when I was in Spain. It did not happen then and it has not happen since. So, I think my desire to go to Essaouira is basically driven by my desire to see a beach in the country.
I mean, what can I say? I’m a sucker for beaches. Besides, going to Morocco to see the Sahara, how mainstream can you be? To top it off, I read that Essaouira is a hippie town. I can only become curious-er and curious-er.
Kenya is next on my list, thanks to several friends that have shared their stories with me. A friend of mine went for a 3-month internship in Kenya and she loved it there. Another friend I met in London calls Kenya home, even though she has Canadian passport and is Indian (as in the country India) descendant. To be honest, I don’t exactly know where I would like to go or what I would like to do when I arrive in Kenya. I simply put Kenya on the list because of those stories that my friends shared. Yes, it’s easy to lure me to an exotic place. Yes, I’m that easy to be convinced.
When in Kenya, I definitely would like to see Nairobi – I think it would be quite amazing to compare Jakarta and Nairobi; I bet the two cities have a lot of similarities. Other than Nairobi, I don’t have any preference on where to go or what to do. One thing though, I would not want to do the whole African safari thing. I still have heart and I value my money. The way I see it, when it is my time to visit Kenya, I’ll be visiting it with a friend or accompanying a friend who has been or live in Kenya, in order to lessen the hassle in my part. A bit selfish, but oh well. I just have to make sure I’m still friends with the people who introduce me to Kenya, sometime ago.
4. South Africa
South Africa has been on the back of my head for a long time. However, it officially entered my bucket list back in 2010, when the country hosted the World Cup. I remember that my dad was offered a couple tickets to see one of the matches – I can’t remember his reasons on declining the great offer (maybe it was fear of being accused of accepting some forms of gratification or other), but I remember that I was busy finishing my undergrad degree that summer, therefore I did not have time or energy to really care for the World Cup.
Thanks to the World Cup, South Africa was and is still getting a lot of buzz. Its amazing landscape came to the view, its history was in the spotlight again, its economy was improved. For me, the thing that makes me put South Africa into the deepest end of my bucket list is my fascination of the country’s ability to host the World Cup. I would like to know what the country has to offer, which makes the world turns to watch matches after matches of football in its various city. What does South Africa has that Indonesia doesn’t, which enables them to host a huge international event, like the World Cup? I mean, South Africa was once colonised by the Dutch too, as was Indonesia. How can they become more developed than Indonesia? This curiosity was enough to make me want to see South Africa’s development with my own eyes. I need to see what they do differently there, maybe it will help me understand how the world works and value my country more.
Furthermore, my desire to go to South Africa got stronger when I lived in London. I don’t exactly know what’s with the Brits, but a lot of them seem to have visited South Africa one way or another – especially those privilege people who practice the volunturism thing. Plus, I’m really curious to see that fake slum tourism that was and is still getting a lot of love/hate response – mind you, I would rather die eaten alive by a South African leopard than to pay staying in that oxymoron accommodation.
I was and am (still) a bit skeptical about Egypt, thanks to an Indonesian book series and movies called Ayat-Ayat Cinta. The saga was so horrible, it was enough to make me don’t want to think about going to Egypt.
However, when hundreds of Indonesians were sent back home in order to protect them from the uprising, that was when my desire to visit Egypt came back on. You know that feeling? The feeling of rules are there to be broken? That was exactly what I had in mind. I suddenly have the urge to visit Egypt right after the world is putting the spotlight on its uprising, even though travel warnings were announced from across the globe.
I didn’t end up going, unfortunately. I ended up spending sometime in London. And that was where I was bombarded with endless tourism advertisement of Egypt. It was the non stop ads on the black cabs and double-deckers that really strengthen my will to go to Egypt. Which makes me want to congratulate the Egyptian tourism department or agency for their successful advertisement – well, not quite as successful because I haven’t actually got there, but you know, still. So there you go, Egypt, is definitely on my current wishlist.
May I remind you that this list has no deadlines. This is not a crazy 2015 resolutions. Simply a wishlist, which I just wish it would come true, sooner rather than later, mostly because of what I wrote in number 1. And also because, you know, while I’m still young. I have no idea how to fulfill this African dreams, so I welcome any suggestions on how it is best for me to live it all. Now, I guess fingers crossing and working super hard are the only two things I could do.