Thuraya was the “guardian angel” for a man who gave up his career as a lawyer to ride through 15 African countries on a motorbike.
Christian Ghammachi, who now lives in Dubai, had practised law in Cape Town for 18 years. During that time his interest in photography and motorbikes developed into twin passions, while his fascination with the continent of Africa grew ever stronger.
“Eventually the idea came to me for a road trip that would combine all the things I loved,” he said. “I decided to set out from Cape Town with as much photographic and video gear as I could carry to capture the beauty and mystery of the continent.”
Christian’s trip was potentially dangerous. Having dislocated his shoulder six months before in a motorbike accident, he was acutely aware of the risk of injury. He would be riding alone, often through sparsely populated country and on poor-quality roads. Sometimes the roads would run out and be replaced by dirt tracks.
It was essential to have some way of calling for help if anything went wrong, and that is where Thuraya stepped in. The company sponsored him by providing a Thuraya SatSleeve satellite phone and a Thuraya IP+ data terminal for use during the road trip. Not only would they help keep him safe, they also gave him the tools he needed to provide constant updates on social media.
The journey took Christian six months to complete as he wound his way for 19,000 kilometres from South Africa into Swaziland and on through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia – finishing in Djibouti.
“It was an incredible journey,” Christian says. “I got to dive in beautiful places, swim with humpback dolphins, sit with chimpanzees and gorillas in their natural habitats, play chicken with elephants and kiss a giraffe! I got to see Africa from the air thanks to Casper, my friendly drone, and watch wildlife for days and days during the most amazing safaris. I tried road food and found I actually love it.”
Christian carried Thuraya with him throughout all these wonderful experiences. The Thuraya IP+ was a daily companion, allowing him to upload photographs to his Facebook page and keep his 30,000 followers updated. He could do this from virtually any location – which led to an amusing incident towards the end of his journey.
“I was in Ethiopia and stopped for a rest at the roadside because I was getting tired,” he says. “I set up my Thuraya IP+ as usual to begin uploading and then fell asleep under a tree. When I woke up I was surrounded by five children who seemed to be trying to tell me something. Eventually one of them walked over to the IP+ and began pointing at it. It turned out they were cowherds and it was in the way of their herd. I moved it and they brought their cows through. I’m glad they asked, because I hate to think what might have happened to my data terminal!”
Christian used the Thuraya SatSleeve less frequently, but was relieved to have it to hand when a family emergency occurred. While travelling through Kenya, he received a WhatsApp message saying that his mother had been injured. He immediately took out the SatSleeve and called his family, eventually speaking to his mother who reassured him that although she had broken her shoulder she was ok. “That was an incredible relief,” says Christian. “Without the satphone it could have been hours or even days before I managed to make contact. As it was I could make the call at once. It was just like speaking to my mother from home on a regular phone.”
Many of the beautiful still and video images captured by Christian on his journey through Africa went on display in a dedicated exhibition in Dubai and are included in his documentary series, Two Wheels Across, which is available on YouTube.
“I couldn’t have done the journey in the same way without Thuraya,” Christian says. .“It gave me the freedom to roam, knowing I was able to stay constantly connected to my family and friends, and to anyone who cared to follow me. Thuraya really was my guardian angel.”