Abdahmani Abdelilah 37 and Rihab Gwayed 32 are a couple. Abdelilah – a Moroccan and Gwayed, Tunisian, who are on their honeymoon cycling around Africa, started the journey in December 2022 shortly after their marriage. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday in Benin City, the couple share their experiences and why they embarked on the journey. They said they’ve found out that not everything the media says about Nigeria is true.
How did you and your husband meet?
I am from Tunisia and my husband is from Morocco. I met him on the way while I was cycling around Morocco, so we cycled together, and then we fell in love. Afterwards, I stayed in Morocco for a while and explored life there with him and we decided to get married and start our journey around Africa as our honeymoon. We got married in Casablanca last year July 2022.
How long have you been in Nigeria?
We have been in Nigeria for nine days; it is part of our adventure to travel round Africa, using bicycles. We started this journey in December 2022, beginning from Morocco. We entered Mauritania and traversed other African countries till we got to Nigeria nine days ago. We will also move to South and East African countries.
How many countries have you visited so far?
We started from Morocco, then Mauritania, Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Nigeria now. Cycling together is our passion and we also want to explore Africa because we don’t know much about the continent except what we read in the media. We were curious to know how other countries in Africa are, their culture amongst others. So, curiosity made us embark on the journey to see and live with the people in their communities. We are in Nigeria to see things for ourselves, live with the people around and see how the people are. We have visited some West African countries and we have seen their culture and we have learnt a lot.
Who is sponsoring this journey?
We don’t have sponsors; we do it from our pocket expenses. I am a teacher; giving online lessons about languages in French, English and Arabic, and my husband is into video and editing on Youtube. So, we get the money we need for this trip from our pocket. We cook our food and also eat local foods in our host country. We have our tents which we put out and sleep. So, we don’t need lots of money to go on this journey.
When did you start this journey?
We started in December 2022 from Morocco. I think we need about six months to one year to get to South Africa which will be our last destination.
What has been your experiences so far?
It has been interesting and fascinating. Before we go to any country, we do some research about the country – places to visit, their language and history of the country. So, we carried out research about Nigeria before we embarked on this journey. We would be in Nigeria for one month and 15 days, and we would explore the country very well.
Now that you are in Benin City, where do you intend to visit?
We intend to visit the Oba of Benin’s palace and we would take ideas from the locals on where to visit. We would also explore the local food here.
You said you’ve spent nine days in Nigeria, so what has it been like?
When we started the journey, we wanted to skip Nigeria, Gabon and Cameroon because we heard these countries were not safe at all. But we just say let’s go and see for ourselves because what we heard in the media might not be the true position. We, however, agreed to be very careful. When we were coming, we passed through security check points and they were very welcoming and accommodating. We discovered that they were open to the people, even strangers. When we get to the villages in countries that we have visited, though the people are sceptical in the beginning (especially when we look for where to put our tents), which is normal, but they always rally round and find solutions to our problems. We have visited the police many times and they welcomed us warmly, gave us information and places to sleep. Nigerians are very nice and good people. We just discovered that not everything the media say about Nigeria is true.
What was it like going through the Sahara Desert on this journey?
We started this journey from the desert of Morocco and it took us two weeks to cross the desert. We climbed the hill. In the day it was hot and at night it is very cold. It wasn’t very difficult because we kept seeing people moving with camels and that gave us hope. We have passion for the journey and that is what one needs to be able to cross the desert. Again, when we got to Mauritania, it was the same thing because a large part of the country is also desert. They have trains which link many villages in Mauritania and lots of people take it. We put our bicycles on the train and we met some locals in the course of our train trip. It takes 24 hours for the train to go to villages and back again. We spent the night with the local people. It was really interesting and captivating. We then moved to Senegal, and from there to Nigeria.
How do you feel about Nigeria and Nigerians?
Nigerians are very generous and humble people. Before coming here, we were sceptical and suspicious because of what we heard in the media. But on getting here, what we have witnessed and seen is the complete opposite of what is in the media. Any where we go to, the people are warm and receptive, asking us to share with them their local Nigerian food. Nigerians are very lovely people.
From what you’ve experienced so far, would you stay in Nigeria if asked to stay?
Yes, I would but Nigerian visa is very expensive, and they can’t allow us to spend more than 15 days, but if I have the opportunity of getting a job here, I would love to stay in Nigeria because of the wonderful people we’ve met so far.
Your husband doesn’t understand English. How do you communicate?
I speak English, Arabic and French and my husband speaks Arabic and French. He is learning English. So, we communicate in Arabic and French.
What has been your challenges and how would you describe the African countries you have visited so far?
Initially, we thought African countries were the same but we have discovered that each country has different cultures and languages. In Nigeria, we understand there are about 250 indigenous languages and there are different tribes too; we will explore this little by little. We like adventure and when problem comes our way, we deal with it.
We discovered that Africans love to share things and that has made our adventure very comfortable and interesting. In any town or village we go to, once we bring out our tent to sleep, the people will prevent us from sleeping in the tent. They would rather give us a place. They would also tell us that it is unAfrican to sleep in tents, but we like nature and that is why we enjoy spending the night in the forest, make fire and cook our own food. However, we would like to experience local foods – see how they make cassava, eba, fufu and others.
What is your favourite food among the Nigerian delicacies you have eaten?
Unfortunately, we can’t eat spicy food because of our stomach, and that is why we did not taste all of them but the Nigeria food we like is fufu.
From Nigeria, where is your next destination?
From Nigeria, we are going to Cameroon, from there, we move to Gabon, then Congo, Angola, Namibia and South Africa, Insha Allah.