Arusha Times (Arusha)

10 November 2012

Tanzania: Cairo-to-Cape Motoring Convoy Enters Arusha

An adventure convoy, currently making its daring, long journey of cutting across the African continent by road, from Cairo to Cape-Town, drove into Serengeti National Park and the adjacent Ngorongoro Crater here last weekend.

Their sampling of the country's two leading tourist attractions was enough to make the group of cross-country motorists decide that from North, down South, (the Northern) Tanzania was the possibly the best destination ever.

"Most of the people making this journey had never seen wild animals in real life and natural surroundings, we only watch wildlife episodes on Television," said the leader of the expedition Mr Rami Siag, who is the Chairman and founder of the Cairo-based, Siag Travel of Egypt.

The aim of the tour is to open Africa to the world, with Egyptian Coastal City of Alexander seeming as potential gate to the continent. The convoy however has great interest in parts of Africa and so far Tanzania tends to top the favorite destinations' listing.

"The Serengeti Migration was unbelievable; it was like watching thousands of giant animals on a very large 3D screen; awesome!" said Mr Siag who was again lost for words upon entering the crater where the group got rare sighting of the endangered rhinos, a hunting pride of lions and some of the largest buffaloes ever walked earth.

The crater itself proved to be a spellbinding natural feature in its own right and even before the expedition drove to Dar-es-salaam, via Moshi where they were to catch a glimpse of Africa's highest peak (Mount Kilimanjaro), they had made up their minds to organize annual trips from Egypt to Tanzania.

"You have an excellent ambassador in Cairo, very cooperative and is selling Tanzania extremely well," said Mr Siag whose company, in conjunction with Team Koro Aquittaine and the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) are working to organize the 'Cairo to Dar,' adventure trips that will be taking place every year from January 2013.

Mr Geoffrey Tengeneza the Public Relations Officer with TTB said the opening of the Northern parts of Africa to Tanzania will help bring new types of tourists especially from North Africa, Middle-East and South of Europe.

Also driving across Africa may create another form of leisure touring which is free from air travel inconveniences because just as the dubbed 'Egypt Gateway to Africa,' recently proved, people can simply use their own cars for such expeditions.

"Unlike what is being speculated across the world, we have encountered no problems in all the countries that our expedition went through, which means it is possible to drive across the continent safely and sound," said the French speaking Mr Andre Koro, through an interpreter.

Even ordinary things like trees, grass, rivers and rocks, that we have been taking for granted here seem to impress people from other areas as proved by the Cairo-to-Cape travelers.

Covering a total of 12,500 kilometers in the journey from the North-most point of Africa to the Southern tip of the continent, the convoy of 40 motorists, covering 13 countries in an expedition spanning 58 days drove at a leisurely pace of 500 kilometers per day.

French author, Jules Verne who penned the legendary 'Around the world in eighty days,' would have been proud.

And sure enough, though the adventure journey was billed as starting from Cairo City of Egypt, heading south to Cape-Town via Tanzania, the Egyptian led convoy technically started its expedition in the South-West French City of Biarritz.

Their vehicles are mostly Toyotas (the 70 and 100 series Land-Cruisers), Prados and Hiluxes the only exception being the large Iveco truck which carries additional equipment and provisions.

The convoy consisting of 31 French Nationals, Eight Egyptians and One Briton. They may be going around Africa in 58 days but while here, they are driving around Tanzania in eight days before crossing to Zambia.

Siag travel which is currently based in Egypt plans in the future to expand its operations to neighboring Sudan, Libya, Chad, Ethiopia and possibly also Tanzania.

"My motivation is to have African countries, especially in eastern Africa, retain strong links with Egypt" said Rami Siag, adding that authorities in all the countries they have passed through so far have been very cooperative.

The tour delegation will also be sampling Pare and Usambara Mountains, Mikumi, Udzungwa and Ruaha (Tanzania's largest) National Park during their drive across Tanzania.

Expenses for the trip are reportedly covered by the Egyptian government, and private sector companies from both Egypt and elsewhere in the joint mission to connect Cairo with East and Southern parts of Africa for mutual tourism cooperation.

With scarcity of direct flights connecting African countries, the new concept of driving from one destination on the continent to another may help open up Tanzania to the rest of Africa especially the Sahel and countries North of the Sahara.

The planned annual 'Cairo-Dar-Cairo' expeditions starting in January 2013 will pioneer this form of on-ground, cross-country tourism.

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