By Lori Gordon
By Lori Gordon
Marrakech – The recent massacre in Tunisia has again raised fears of travel to Africa by Westerners. While there are indeed areas that are dangerous for foreigners and citizens alike on this massive continent, it is a fact that many people do not understand the geographical dimensions of the planet’s second largest continent.
Part of this is due to the wall maps from which we get our sense of the world. The problem is that these maps exaggerate the size of the countries at high latitudes, and shrink places near the equator. In reality Africa is so large that it could it contain the entirety of the USA, all of China, India, Japan and pretty much all of Europe as well.
The result of this misconception is often confusion and misplaced fears about the proximity of dangerous areas and events. For instance, the Ebola crisis in West Africa has led to fears of contamination by persons traveling from any part of Africa. In reality, the outbreak has been limited to a specific region in West Africa that includes the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The northernmost border of the country closest to Morocco (Guinea) is over 2,200 miles from Marrakech; that is equal to the distance from San Francisco to Pittsburgh.
The massacre in Sousse, Tunisia took place 1,108 miles from Marrakech-equal to the distance from Newtown, Connecticut to Orlando, Florida. While our whole nation mourned over the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, parents of elementary school children in the rest of the country did not pull their children out of schools for fear of the same thing happening in their towns.
The same is true in regards to the terrorist attacks our country has suffered from forces and persons both American and foreign; none of us can forget Virginia Tech, Killeen, Dallas, San Ysidro, Edmond, Fort Hood, Columbine, Aurora, or the horrific events of 9/11. All frightening, horrible and incomprehensible. All in our beautiful country, all close to home.
Yes, travelers need to be aware of the dangers of travel just as we need to be aware of the dangers in our own country. Common sense is vital, and information on travelers’ safety can be easily found on the internet, as well as through our State Department. It is a shame when people forego the marvelous benefits of travel due to unfounded fears based on erroneous information. The world may indeed be a dangerous place at certain times and in certain places, but it is also one filled with wondrous places, experiences and people.
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