Posted 12/29/2016 11:27:47 PM
A safari is a journey to a place that's outside your trusted environment, outside your comfort zone. In Africa, the Middle East and deep into East Asia, the Turks (sefer) and the Arabs (safar) brought the word along the pre-colonial trade routes. Today for billions, safari is the word that describes the personal journey, away from home.
British colonialists have stolen the word safari from Swahili, the Lingua Franca of Africa, to denote their adventures into the bush, to see exotic wildlife or even hunt it. This semantic falsification spread in the western world. As the exotic wildlife ended up in zoos, for some people a safari evokes associations with watching the animals in the zoo, the epitome of an unequal encounter.
City Safari has returned to the real meaning of the word. The hosts are your equals and very much in control. They freely decide to participate and they determine their conditions to participate. There's nothing exploitative about that. You as a visitor will show respect and genuine interest in the host's story. And yes, you as a visitor will overcome your diffidence to reach out to someone outside of your comfort zone. It is a true safari across the divide.
I admit, there is a bit of a provocation in the name. When we started City Safari in 1998 there were some city officials who thought that sending visitors into the struggling districts of the city would be like sending them to the zoo. We found that this was primarily revealing for their own associations with life across the tracks. Our hosts never made that association. They don't like open roof buses riding their streets, or guided tours with people that talk about them instead of with them. They know that City Safari brings open minded encounters, a journey from one soul to another.