Levison Wood, the first explorer to brave the length of the Nile
"I think it's really important for the Egyptian economy, to encourage people to return and the only way they can do that is through having political stability and encourage dialogue between the different ethnic groups that live there."
"I've always had a passion for Africa and studied the region for a long time. I'm fascinated by the people living along the Nile" says Levison Wood, who will shortly become the first person to walk the entire length of the river. Starting in Rwanda, Wood will finish his voyage at the sea in Alexandria, Egypt, crossing four countries to get there and passing by Lake Victoria, the largest swamp in the world Sudd Sudan, the Sahara desert and Lake Nasser.
At over 4,000 miles long, many say the Nile is the longest river in the world. Dubbed 'The gift of the Nile' by the Greek historian Herodotus, it is the key source of water for Egypt and so most cities and ancient sites mushroomed along its banks. A Channel 4 camera crew will join him for parts of the trip alongside the water, which will be screened as a four part seriesnext year. He will be raising money for the charities Tusk, Space for Giants and Ameca.
On the 1 December, the 31 year old former parachute regiment captain turned explorer – who is also a writer and photographer - will start his journey, trekking through countries that have been rocked by civil war and dodging crocodiles, lions and hippos along the way in what will push the limits of both his mental and his physical confines. Wood says he is more nervous about the animals he will encounter, rather than the political unrest.
Still, Egypt is not a safe place for journalists at the moment. It is listed as one of the top five most dangerous countries for reporters and there have been countless incidents of censorship, deportation and arrest. So is Levison apprehensive? "I think getting the right people on board, the right guides and local fixers is really important. I generally believe that most people in Egypt or everywhere are really kind, good and hospitable. I'm not there to cause any waves and will keep a low profile so I think we'll be fine" he told MEMO.
Wood has said that the expedition will be a means to raise awareness of the contemporary issues that face Africa and encourage dialogue between nations. "Egypt has for a long time been a fairly stable place and tourists and travellers have always been encouraged to go there" he says. "I think it's really important for the Egyptian economy, to encourage people to return and the only way they can do that is through having political stability and encourage dialogue between the different ethnic groups that live there."
In the end, Wood hopes viewers watching or reading about his trip will take away from it that "people are generally good and kind and will help you out where they can - I think that will be apparent throughout the trip."
Published in Middle East Monitor