Africa and I: From Morocco to Cape Town with only R1000 in his pocket

Othmane Zolati walked, hitchhiked, and skateboarded over 30 000 km through 24 countries, over 4 years. He had never travelled outside of Morocco when he started his journey to Cape Town in 2015. With around R1100, a small backpack, and a borrowed cheap pocket camera, Zolati made the documentary, Africa and I. 

Zolati hails from El Jadida, a little coastal town south of Casablanca, Morocco. He never travelled outside of the country, and was only 20-years-old at the beginning of his journey. Zolati says his curiosity grew so much that he had to see Africa for himself.

Africa and I is a 90-minute documentary about Zolati’s trip, and is streaming exclusively on Showmax. Zolati directed and executive produced the documentary using hundreds of hours of self-shot footage.  At the end of his trip, he collaborated with South African creatives on the documentary’s post-production

Zolati told the Daily Vox he’s so relieved after the four years of travelling and two years of post-production. “This documentary is proof that if you put 100% of your energy into something, without giving up –  that anything is possible,” Zolati said. 

Speaking about his time so far in South Africa, Zolati says it’s similar to Morocco in that both countries have a complicated relationship with the rest of the continent around its sense of identity.

 “The majority of us Moroccans think that Morocco exists in another continent,”  Zolati said. “We always put Morocco as an Arab country and not Africa. But it’s not.”

Zolati saw everything a person can only imagine while thinking about travelling through Africa. He experienced a skateboarding tour of Ethiopia and boating through the “Venice of Africa” in Benin. He also spent time with the Maasai, Hamer and the Himba people. To pay his way around, Zolati worked many different jobs. He worked as a fisherman in Senegal,  a mechanic in Mali, a photographer and tour guide in Zanzibar, and sold shoes in Cote d’Ivoire. 

Zolati survived three bouts with malaria, got lost in the desert for five days. He also ended up in Zambia with only $5 in his pocket. For every challenge he faced, he said he got to experience the kindness of people and the diversity of Africa. 

“I had normal fears from animals or getting robbed or getting killed at night […] and getting into an accident. But the main fear was losing my hard drive and all the footage I had,” Zolati said.

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

Zolati blogged regularly about his experiences and started building up a social media following. He had his visa application rejected four times by South Africa. Morocco and South Africa have been in a diplomatic spat as South Africa supports Western Sahara in their territorial dispute with Morocco.

When he finally reached Cape Agulhas, he said, “I was crying, because this was one of the happiest moments of my life. They told me that you can’t do it. And 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 which is the southernmost tip of Africa.”

Africa and I is about more than just traversing the beaten paths. It is about Zolati and his journey that counters the traditional, and often stereotypical narrative about Africa. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional music. The principal photography is majestic and the landscapes will leave you lingering in thought.  

Zolati is currently planning to solo circumnavigate around the globe on a sailing boat for a few years. He was named Adventurer of the Year at the 2018 Moroccan Adventure Film Festival, Zolati was also awarded as one of the world’s best travellers at the Dubai Travelers Festival in 2017.

“Once you start traveling and adventures you can’t stop,” he said. 

Africa and I is available to watch on Showmax

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Featured image provided by Showmax