Africa, the mother continent of the human race where the first human skulls were discovered. A continent so misunderstood, yet rich in its history and culture as it merged with its many colonizers. Its vast resources, its people and natural beauty are unmistakably one of mystery and exoticism. A place so captivating in furthering our exploration and understanding of our humanity. So fortunate to have visited Morocco, Senegal, and Ghana — three very distinct countries that make up the 54 that represent Africa. Fourteen days later, there are too many experiences and discoveries to share. Here is my best shot at it…

This is a six-part-story series on traveling to Morocco—Senegal—Ghana, part of North and West Africa

Origin of the Trip

This is the first time I have ever been on a trip that I did not plan. This unique visit was work-related, although truly a gift in disguise. As a community development consultant, I have been working in Miami for the last 12 years with a nonprofit corporation, developing and implementing strategies for building wealth and economic prosperity in African American communities. For those that may be familiar with the city of Opa-locka in Miami, it has a rich Moorish architecture that has been in decline for decades. It is also a Black and Brown city under-resourced that is being impacted by the escalating real estate market, climate change and the growing art and hospitality industries that is slowly gentrifying the city’s low-income communities. North Ten, formerly OLCDC, is rebuilding parts of the city through its housing, community building projects and its African Diaspora Arts initiative as part of a strategy known as creative place-making. The trip afforded us the opportunity to develop alliances and partnerships with government institutions, museums, galleries, emerging artists, including trade schools that focus on Moroccan/Moorish designs. The opportunities are endless, the next step is the execution. Now, what about the trip?

Africa, A Bit of History and Geography

Africa is a big continent with enormous diversity. Visiting 3 out of  54  distinct countries is a drop in the bucket. Within those three countries, we visited 7 cities and towns, hardly a dent. In the northern part of Africa, most people are unaware that there are 10 Arab countries in Africa with very distinct histories, cultures, and languages (who knew?). We visited one Arab country—Morocco and two western African countries—Senegal and Ghana–each quite different in many ways.

Some Facts about Africa

It has a population exceeding 1 billion, the youngest among the world. At least 30 countries are underdeveloped, with tremendous challenges from food shortages to a weak infrastructure. I was profoundly impacted by what I saw in Ghana, where there are countless miles of shanty towns with limited resources. The entrepreneurial spirt of Africans is undeniable as it is so aligned with their day-to-day survival.

Almost all of Africa has been colonized by Europeans advanced by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. We visited two slave trading ports, the island of Goree in Senegal and the Elmira castle in Ghana; both haunting and overwhelming to learn of the horrific conditions humans were subjected to.

Over the centuries, most of the African countries have become independent from their colonizers, yet they continue to indirectly impact Africa’s economy and future growth. This, along with the political instability of many of these countries, has held back this continent from prospering.

Getting to Africa

Besides securing several vaccines for Covid, typhoid, yellow fever and malaria, there was at least one health visa needed to enter Ghana. This was my first time on Royal Maroc, an African airline leaving out of JFK airport in New York. The overnight flight arriving in the morning to Casa Blanca was fairly routine. However, getting from one African country to the next and eventually back to the US was not as routine.   Warning: you need to be at the airport preferably three hours to ensure you don’t miss your flight. The immigration processing is tedious and time-consuming. In a span of two hours, you will have shown your passport to a half dozen security persons. Beware there are no Global Entry, TSA or Clear to shorten your lines… and there are many lines to wait on. The airports in Africa are not English friendly as the preferred languages are Arabic, French and their native tongue. Not everyone who works at the airport speaks English and if they do, you may still not understand them. I always say that I love traveling but hate flying.

My Photos and Stories to Come

For this story, I attempted to provide a compilation of photos that reflect all three countries as an overview of what this series of stories and photos will look like. I probably took over 600 photos from every aspect of African life—the people, historic sites, art, cuisine, architecture and cultural norms. These photos will be distributed throughout my stories. Over the next several months, starting with this month’s newsletter, I will share my itinerary and discoveries for each country along with photos. Stay tuned to learn about:

Morocco—the architecture, food, medinas, art and customs among the following cities—Casa Blanca, Rabat, Fes

Senegal—the art, outdoor markets, cultural custom, and the island of Goree and

Ghana— the landscape, the outdoor markets, cultural customs, and the castle of Elmira.

As always, I will share a bit of history, customs as well as experiences that I know will stay with me for a very long time.  Remember to click the center of the photo to get a full view.

Moving on to Morocco next!

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