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Safwan's Travel Page

So I've been to every major city in South Africa and most of the charming, small towns. Now I will be venturing into Africa starting with the Congo. This page will hopefully give you a glimpse of my travels and experiences, so keep checking back as I will update frequently...

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Hi all,

Well Easter is past and i had a wonderful break at Goudini Spa, a hot springs resort near Worcester.

I will update my photo page soon, so just bear with me.



Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Hi all,

Back home! What a relief when we finally got to board and the flight took off.

One more trip back to DRC and then off to Tanzania.

See you all soon.


Saturday, 10 March 2007

Location: Gombe, Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)

Hi all,

Ok - my colleague is fine and at least have his passport and ticket home with him.

Two men parading as policemen with badges forced my colleague into their car -drove him to a dodgy area, robbed him of his cellphone, money and valuables and disappeared.

He is lucky to have escaped with his life and passport!

Is this worth it? I dont know.


Saturday, 10 March 2007

Location: Gombe, Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)

Hi all,

THis place is becoming unpleasant. One of my colleagues was hijacked on the way to the office and relieved of his cellphone and other valuables!
He's at the Police station currently. I just pray he still has his passport and tickets!

It is time to leave here. A pity that a trip that was overall not bad is ending with such a sour note.
This is Africa. And soldiers in Africa...well.

I guess I understand why there is no tourism here, even with all the natural beauty and wonders.

Monday please COME!!!!


Friday, 09 March 2007

Location: Gome, Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)

Hi all,

Things are getting worse. We worked a 25 hour shift from yesterday morning till this morning and in that period of time many things have happened here.

It seems that the opposition's army is to be disarmed and they are not too keen on this idea. Everywhere we go and look you see these soldiers standing around menacingly with their rifles, ak47s and guns.

They stopped us this morning and demanded to know where we were going when we were on our way to the hotel. They are angry, illiterate and anything can set them off.
I cannot believe I ever considered bringing my family here.

We are not taking any chances and are simply moving between the office and the hotel with escorts. God I cannot wait to be back home on Monday! I do pray that the road to the airport is not blocked off by the militia. Even the locals are scared and do not go out unneccessarily.

Went to mosque today and was in time, but what a strange experience. Turns out to be a Shia mosque and the differences between us (Sunnis) and them are telling.

However with no other option, we performed Thur namaaz with them as there was not enough people to perform Jumuah.
We got some strange glances, as our method fo praying is quite different from theirs, but I give them credit though. If the roles had been reversed and some of them woalked into a Sunni mosque in Cape Town, the Capetonians would not have treated them as muslims first and Shia's second!

I made duah that we are kept safe for this next few days and that we arrive home safely on Monday.

I will get to see you all soon back home!



Wednesday, 07 March 2007

Location: Gombe, Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)


Not sure what is going down currently. Things are a bit tense. All foreigners are being stopped and questioned about everything currently.
The DRC consulate in South Africa has closed down and is not issueing any visas - DONT KNOW WHY.

We have been advised not to move around. So we're going to go and buy in crackers and tuna and survival foods, so we dont have to go out for food.
Monday should come now. Things are becoming unpleasant if only in terms of the uncertainties.

Current political factions are having disagreements and this plus about 30 soldiers getting life imprisonment for whatever has contributed to the current tense athmosphere. Soldiers are everywhere. So is the UN.
Have to make sure we know where the SA consulate is - just in case.
Anyway - nobody needs to worry - we're just on high alert and being extra careful.

Make duah for us.


Sunday, 04 March 2007

Location: Gommbe, Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)


After another very taxing and very annoying power outage which lasted for most of yesterday and the evening, I appreciated the Airline Pilots comment when we came in to land at Ndjili airport "Welcome to the Heart of Darkness" he said. And I remember thinking that it was not the most flattering way fo describing Kinshasa, but now I know what he meant.

For those back home in Cape Town - at least when we have power outages, we can still get around and there are generators that kicks in and government buildings and other major sites will still have power. In Kinshasa, when there are power outages, the world goes black. Yes black. You cannot see a single thing. Driving becomes a nightmare, because the vehicles have only their inadequate headlights to rely on and cannot highlight the potholes in the roads (which occur every 5 meters at least!).

Now you need to understand that because of the proximity of the Congo river, the amount of pollution and the general haze that envelopes Kinshasa, you dont see the stars and even rarely the moon. so when the lights go out - they go out!
What is worse in 35 degrees heat at night and during the day - your airconditioner is no longer working, you have to open the windows for the psychological benefit because there is no breeze that you can benefit from, and of course you now allow the mozzies in!
They are like vampires! Once you have let them in - you cannot get them out. You are so hot and clammy that you dont even try and swat them away anymore. Your body is covered in Taberd, but because of your profuse sweating, this is running down your body, into your face and eyes. It is generally unpleasant.

So - welcome to Africa's heart of darkness....

Au revoir


Friday, 02 March 2007

Location: Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)

Bonjour - wasalaam,

Jumuah-Mubarak. Today we went to a new venue for Jumuah. The most unexpectedly beautiful mosque. It is 3 storeys high and airconditioned and certainly not only comparable but even surpasses many of the mosques back home.

Unfortunately we were too late for Jumuah salaah which they started at 12 noon already.

So I got the opportunity to lead the Thur namaaz for my colleagues and the Congolese congregation. Alhamdullilah.

I sensed surprise when we recited Ayat Ul Qursi and recited our duah after the Fard, but it was well accepted.

See some of my attached pics of the mosque.




Monday, 26 February 2007

Location: Kinshasa, Gombe, Congo (Dem. Rep.)

Bonjour all,

After spending a day and a half without any electricity and listening to the incoming news of the "unrest" currently in Bas-Congo, which is less than hour away, I started to re-evaluate an extended stay here...

Also the ex-pats here might be having a great go of it, but I spoke to some of the wives, who does not find it to be a picnic at all.

I could easily sacrifice 3 years and do this, but would not be able to subject my wife and son to this environment right now. Perhaps things will improve over the next year, but right now - no.

So thanks for all your inputs and comments - it helped me focus on what is important for this type of decisionmaking.

That does not eman this is not a place to come visit! A new store called Kin-Mart has just opened and looks just like our Woolies back home. They have all the RSA imported fruit and products and then some other we dont get at home. So yes - things are changing and perhaps in a year's time I will re-evaluate if the offer still exists.

I have been bitten by mozzies during this blackouts and I am struggling not to scratch the bites. So yes it is back to long sleeves and taberd all over, but it does not seem to deter the mozzies anymore.

At least I think it's Mozzie bites - moved to a "new" hotel closer to the office and finding it a bit basic. THink it might be tick bites. Ughhhh - now I'm itching all over. Let me concentrate on something else.

Later all.

Au Revoir


Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Location: Gombe, Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)

Bonjour all,

WEll - Kinshasa this time around is a completely different experience thus far. Had no problems with customs at the Ndjili airport this time! :)

Also met up with a number of expats and I am seeing this city in a different light.

We have visited places like Chateau Margeaux, where you sit under the Rubber trees with an old colonial style house/restaurant and enjoy the atmosphere.
The best part of this trip - Dawood - I actually played golf (YES GOLF) at the stunning Kinshasa golf course. (Did not do too badly either!)

Last time here - I experienced the Congo as experienced by the natives, but now I have made friends with some expats living in Kinshasa and it is a whole different experience!

Gombe - a suburb of Kinshasa has the most stunning restaurants, Pool places, and nightclubs (OK have not tried these - not my thing).

All in all - a very pleasant stay this time around and now...I have an offer to make it semi-permanent (for 3 years)....
It is tempting.
From a consideration point of view, there is an international American school of Kinshasa here with American teachers and a great curriculum and reputation, there is accommodation on the golf course and the provision of a LandCruiser (And even driver if you require)....
I could move here with my family and basically only have to pay for food PLUS we would be entitled to one flight home per family per month.
I am sorely tempted and will have to get Nobie out here so she can decide.

Dont get me wrong guys - there is still poverty and this is still the heart of darkness, however an expats life here can be very luxurious and your family can be taken care of...
Also after 3 years - you can go home with all of your earned dollars and probably be much better off financially.

I wonder what Nobie is going to say.

Let me have your thoughts people. It's decision time again!



Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Hi all,

I am preparing for my next trip to the DRC. Staying a bit longer this time (1 month). So I'll be celebrating my birthday in the Congo. Ah well.

Due to the extended stay I will be visiting Bonobos (the monkey sanctuary) and taking the river cruise.
So I will keep ou posted on those events adn any other interesting happenings in Kinshasa.

Feel free to leave me a message as t helps me to retain my sanity while travelling. :)



Friday, 02 February 2007

Location: Mowbray, South Africa

Hello all,

Well I'm back in the land of milk and honey! I left Kinshasa last Friday and other than interminably long waits and very manual check ins and of course checking of my luggage about 4 times. I made it out of there in one piece.

It is good to be back home and I will never complain about the condition of our roads again!
My house is a bit of a mess as we're currently renovating and therefore camping out in our own home, but even that I can now stoically accept. As even at our worst inconvenience we are still better off than 95% of the Congolese people.

I am going back to the DRC in a couple of weeks time again, and this time we have booked ourselves a river cruise (Although this sounds romantic - I doubt we'll find it so!).

The best thing about the Congo - are the wonderful people. Although I heard on the news this morning that some new faction who calls themselves the BDK has apparently killed about 58 people just south of Kinshasa last night in spouts of politcal unrest. I have to monitor this situation closely as this could impact my planned return.

Anyway later.


Thursday, 25 January 2007

Location: Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)


Tomorrow I get to go home! The experience in Congo has been thrilling, but I am really missing home now. Also I am feeling lousy today - been up most of the night with a bad case of the runs. :(
Had to visit the SAA offices to confirm my ticket back home - even this was an experience.
I waited in a queue for about 15 minutes and then was told by the helpful assistant that I need to stand in another queue with someone who has a computer. So I did this- after all I DO want to go home and if you dont confirm and your name is not on the list when you get to the airport - guess get to stay another few days.
Finally got to the front of the next queue and asked the lady to confirm my ticket. She wrote down my name in an exercise book, smiled and told me it is now confirmed! Get this - she did not even touch her PC!!!!
God I hope my name is on the list tomorrow.
Tomorrow I have to leave Kinshasa at 8am to get to the airport by 10am. Check in - AND if all goes well and I dont have another run in with Customs, then I get to fly home at 12h55 (Kinshasa time). Four flight hours later I am in Jhb. Then get the 8pm flight home to CT.
So guess what - I am going to be bushed!

PS! All muslims who visit Kinshasa - there are a couple of halaal restaurants, but my favorite is Al Dar. It is a Lebanese restaurant that makes the best Chawarma Poulet (Chicken swarma). And it only costs a thousand Congolese francs. This converts to about $2 or R14. True value for money! AS for Jumuah - this I went and performed at the Egyptian embassy.
DRC is a predominantly Catholic country, but has a number of Muslims and some other African tribal religions.

To all at home:- SEE YOU SOON!
To all the rest: WIll update my pics as soon as I am home and had a chance to recover!

Au revoir


Monday, 22 January 2007

Location: Kinshasa, Congo (Dem. Rep.)


I have met some fantastic Congolese people the past week, none more so than Mwepu, who took myself and Steven out last Saturday to the jungle.
I need to explain that the journey was the experience here, not the destination! We drove with Mwepu and Stephane out of Kinshasa, all along the mighty Congo river to the south to get ot Mbudi Nature reserve.
The amazing thing about the Congo, is the sound of the rapids and the power of the river! See some of my pics when I upload.
The Congo river is also the border between the DRC and the Congo Republic. So you have Kinshasa the capital with more than 8 milliion people on the one side and Brazzaville the Congo republic capital on the other bank.
Stephane had a Suzuki Junior 4x4 vehicle. This was good as the road (if it can be called that) becomes impassable in places.
The temperature was a cool 35 degrees celsius when we left Kinshasa and then got progressively hotter as we entered the jungle, until it reached a sapping 40 degrees!!!!
The sights and sounds of the jungle was amazing! I also realised that all Congolese have the friendliest dispositions and are always smiling and waving. Also no matter how poor the infrastructure or their surroundings, the Congolese take pride in their appearance, and are always smartly or cleanly dressed!
We passed a village where the Ebola virus first occurred and thankfully did not stop there!!
It took us 3 hours to traverse the jungle to get to the Mbudi Nature reserve on the Congo river (see pics). Now let me explain what 40 degrees in the jungle feels like: You cannot breathe, you are sticky and wet, the insects are buzzing all around you, shade does not help. I guess the large river makes the humidity so aweful.
We spent a couple of relaxing hours at the reserve, where I politely declined the local Congolese prepared dish of barbecued crocodile, and bananas served with grubs. For some reason I just had no appetite. LOL.

Anyway we returned back to the city and by this time I was soaking wet and the insects was clinging to me for dear life. I no longer even bothered to swat them away...

Of course Mwepu and Stephane decided we needed to immediately experience the "true" Kinshasa - meaning - let's go to the local market. BEfore I could protest we pulled up at the river's edge where a smorgasbord of people. smells and sounds greeted us. And yes it was still a cool 35 degrees in Kinshasa!
THe market was truly wonderful though, the vendors are like vendors anywhere in the world, who simply will not let you go without trying to smear some sort of trinket off on you.
I was exhasted, convinced by now that I had Malaria or something worse and at this point we go to the "food" section of the market...
HOw do I describe the sights and smells. Let me start by saying that it is a miracle I did not puke! At this part of the market you can see people slaughtering baby goats, Black Crocodiles!!!!, poulet (chicken supposedly), and other freh and still alive animals. River Eels, entrails, and probably the worse of the LOT! Grubs - you know the white maggots. You betcha - it is a delicacy as is the crocodile and it is all so much alive. I basically ran through the market with my mouth and nose covered trying my best not to smell or look at anything anymore and not ot retch!!
I made it out - needless to say - my companions being so damn hospitable decided to buy me some grubs as a snack. I think the look on my face must have been comical because he actually laughed in my face - and he is not a rude person....
Just the thought of the poor little goat heads, their trotters, the entrails, the stench, and of course the vendors swinging their wares practically in your face....gulp.
OKay I'm alright now. I took no photos at this market. I do not think that if I did these could be published anyway!!!
OKay - so seeing the crocodiles being manhandled was cool - they only tie an elastic band around the jaws and belive it or not Mr croc cannot open it. The tail however is a different matter - the amount of power in there - -jeessh.
They use machetes to chop up the living crocodile - this of course added to my horror. Am I a wuss? Who cares. Give me Woolworths anyday. I will never even complain about their prices ever again. For that matter - give me GATESVILLE!!! Those who know me, knows I dont say that lightly.

I have not eaten much since the visit to the market....

Anyway later - gotta go.

Au Revoir



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Recent Messages

From Debbie
Hey Safwaan,
Fats just sent me your website URL and I've spent a wonderful half hour reading your journals. Seems as if you are really having a good time (even with the mozzies and the general unrest) in Kinshasa. AND you can imagine how much I envy you your travels :-)
Life on this side pretty much the same, except that Rob has an offer for us to move to Bahrain for 5 years! Little nervous - we're not too sure what to do as yet - have until end April to decide - so in the meantime I'm getting our passports etc sorted out - Who knows! Keep in touch - I'll be reading your journals and looking at the pics. Rgds Deb
Hiya Debs,
U wont elieve how gr8 it is to hear from u! I really miss u guys, especially our "chats". Yep the adventure continues here. Bahrain huh? Debs - it's not easy to uproot your family, but I know you will consider all the factors. Money is good over there, but remember money is not everything. You have to makse sure you guys go over there to suss things out first (and not just Rob, but u as well!) Then only make your decision. Chat to some expats and see what their experience is like. Remember your kids have a say too! I'm back next week - so hope to see you.
Au Revoir
From Raamy
Hi, now I can finally view your page, it looks great.

Raamy and family
Response: Shukran boeta. Hope u're enjoying the new job!
From nisa
great news. can hardly wait. lets talk when you get back but will call Nobie in the meantime.Start looking for good ticket deals as June is peak season
Response: Will do.
From Nisa
Sounds like a wonderful idea, although I would much rather have you all over here. The best time to make a life altering decison like this, is when your kids are still in elementary school. I believe that most kids are extremely resilient but it is tough to move them into a new environment half way around the world when the are in junior high or high school. I would encourage you to go, but do think seriously about the security risks. I am always supportive of opportunities that will enrich your lives.
Take good care
Response: I know and DRC presents it's own challenges, but it is largely going to depend on Nobie.
Security risks - well I've chatted to some of the expats here and even during their worst period of violence last year, they were fairly safe. Of course they all sent their wives back to SA for that period. Anyway - not a decision that can be made in isolation and Nobes is going to have to come experience it for herself with an initial visit first. Will keep you posted.
From Lamya
Hello! Hello! this site is wonderful! i really enjoy reading about your adventures! the pics are amazing! they really make me miss home! hope you are doing well!!!
Take care!
Tx Lamya! We miss you too. So the good news is that Nobie and Tashreeq will come and visit in June! I need to chat to your mom regarding a letter of invitation and then we can commence with visa applications on our side.
From Tasneem
Salaam Uncle Safwaan

I realy enjoy reading this web page, as it is well written and reads like one of my many favourite books. I just thought i would tell Uncle Safwaan that Harry Potter and the deathly hallows will be released on 1st July 2007 :) I cant wait!
Hope to see uncle Safwaan soon

Le Gra
Response: Shukran Tasneem. I know it's coming out soon and we are definitely going to camp out for it! Finished Eragon and Eldest and found it awesome!. See you soon.
From Shana
What a lovely site !

Hope you have arrived safely and manage to wash the Congo mossies of ?

Hope to see you soon

Response: Thanks Shana. Back home and enjoying the "cool" CT weather.
From Zah
Hi Saffy. Your story of customs in Kinshasa was extremely funny. while i was reading i could picture your polite smile and the thousand questions seeking answers in your mind as you try to make sense of what was going on! Anyway, glad you survived ... just keep some dollars handy when you need to bribe customs on the way out :) xxx
Response: Yep I'm aware of this!!!
From Dawood
This is truly a most enjoyable website. Everytime you visit the sight you will be able to relive the magic. Thats great and whats better is, its shared with people that appreciate the same things. I'll send you the Kraalbaai pics tomorrow.
Response: Shuks!
From Sameega
Cannot wait to see the next load of pictures.
May there be many more. Inshallah.

Response: Watch this space for the Wild Olive experience.
From Abdallah
This is lovely stuff man.
Response: Shukran. I must still upload our Kariba photos from our trip in Limpopo.
send me some choice pics to upload.