Swila Diary: AFCON a melting pot of cultures
This year’s edition of the Africa Cup of Nations has served not only as a meeting point of races and souls from various diverse nationalities but a melting pot of cultures.
Nowhere else is this manifested than at the media centres within the six stadia hosting the competition as journalists representing diverse media houses from across the globe have pitched camp here to cover the 36th edition of the event making the centres bear a stark semblance to a UN General Assembly meeting.
From those of Arabic backgrounds mainly Egypt, Algeria and Morocco to black Africans like yours truly, to Caucasians who are mainly French and English journalists, the media centre is ever abuzz.
Interestingly, French, English and Arabic are the most spoken languages at the Zone. The last category is mainly from the Arabic world while scribes from West Africa and other European countries such as Belgium and France have not been left behind in making the French presence felt.
Since I began my sojourn here, I have also made a few new friends, Francesc, a French journalist working with Le Monde newspaper in Paris, and very recently a Syrian journalist Fatma, who works with the BBC at its head office in London.
The two are beautiful souls with impeccable command of the Queens language, their backgrounds notwithstanding.
Fatma told me she works at the BBC Digital Desk and is here to work on a piece titled ‘Women in Football’ which I found quite intriguing.
The exchange of cultures aside, it’s been a painstaking exercise for journalists covering the event. Waking up early to file reports for their various publications and broadcast outlets, and sleeping in the wee hours of the morning is the norm here so much so that sampling the night life and what Cairo has to offer is in the backburner, a remote luxury not thought of.
Matters are not helped by the fact that the scribes have to register for SADs (Supplementary Access Device), a name adopted by tournament organizers. It is a must for every journalist the accreditation card notwithstanding.
That means shuffling from one corner of Cairo to the next considering this is Africa’s largest city teeming with some 20 million residents.
For all the trouble and sacrifice involved, the rewards are networking and the invaluable experience gathered.