“I am thinking about my family. I loved what home was,” 20-year-old Othmane Zolati from Morocco stated when he arrived in Nairobi, having cycled and walked all the way from Morocco.

Othmane walked, hitchhiked, cycled and skateboarded over 30,000 kilometres through 24 countries to South Africa.

“When you are sick your mother takes care of you. Your father sorts you when you do not have money,” he missed home, as stated in Africa and I, a 90-minute documentary about his trip.

Zolati left Morocco at 10 am on January 29, 2015, when he was just a teen, a 16-year-old boy, ready to explore Africa. However, he never knew his journey would take up to 4 years, surviving three bouts of malaria; trying to escape border police on a skateboard and getting lost for five days in a desert without enough water.

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Othmane Zolati in South Africa Showmax

Further, he was stopped in the middle of a no man’s land by an armed militia, ended in Zambia with nearly Ksh500 only, and slept in the rain and sand.

When he started his nearly four-year journey to Cape Town, South Africa, he only had Ksh8,724, a small backpack, and a borrowed cheap pocket camera.

For every near-death experience, there were many more moments of marvelling at the beauty and diversity of Africa, not to mention the kindness and generosity of her people.

He arrived in Kenya through Turkana County where he was forced to seek refuge at a military base due to the tribal clashes in the region.

“I saw AK-47 everywhere. I reached the border at 4 pm and was told I could not cross as it was dangerous. I heard gunshots and footsteps. I was scared but I tried my best to sleep,” he stated.

He also encountered an armed militia while crossing through Rift Valley, sparking fears that he would be kidnapped. However, the group was friendly, shared his drinking water and shook his hand.

“This is not what I’ve seen in the media all my life; this is not the Africa I was warned about. This is why I’m here, to see things differently, to have my own experiences, and to change my way of thinking about this continent,” he recalled.

In Nairobi, he met a group of Moroccans who were surprised at seeing their compatriot arrive aboard a bicycle. The group hosted him, provided him with some cash to facilitate his journey.

Having travelled across almost the entire continent, Othmane had his final visa application rejected four times by South Africa – from four different countries. He never gave up, even when he was told to return to Morocco and apply from there.

When he finally reached Cape Agulhas in South Africa, he broke down. “I was crying because this was one of the happiest moments of my life. They told me that you can’t do it. They told me that they are going to eat you. They told me that it is impossible to achieve. But here I am. Looking at my goal. The southernmost tip of Africa.”

After over four years on the road, he is now a resident of Cape Town and looking forward to his next adventure: sailing around the world.

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Othmane Zolati shot, directed and produced Africa and I, a 90-minute documentary about his trip
Instagram

Othmane grew up in El Jadida, a little coastal town south of Casablanca. Morocco, like South Africa, has a complicated relationship with the rest of the continent and its sense of identity. “The majority of us Moroccans think that Morocco exists on another continent. We always put Morocco as an Arab country and not Africa. But it’s not,” Othmane stated.

“The diversity that we have on this continent is unbelievable. In East Africa, everything was different. It’s just like another continent… It’s mind-blowing to be in the same continent but different cultures, different colours, different climates,” he added.

Africa and I

Othmane directed and executively produced the documentary using the 100s of hours of footage he taught himself to shoot along the way.

Awards

Othmane was named Adventurer of the Year at the 2018 Moroccan Adventure Film Festival and was recognised and awarded as one of the world’s best travellers at the Dubai Travelers Festival in 2017.

“I always think about the entire universe that ultimately exists when you walk out of the door. And if I said no to these dreams, I would have had regrets all my life,” he recalled how he motivated himself to take on the journey.

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Moroccan Othmane Zolati (left) poses for a photo with hosts in one of the 24 countries he toured.
Showma.
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