By Yun Suh-young
There has never been a person who has traveled to every country in the world while raising his national flag. One man hopes to change this.
Ahmed Haggagovic, 27, started traveling in 2007, talking about his country, Egypt wherever he goes. He said he had always wanted to do so.
“I wanted to be the first human ever to raise his country’s flag in every country in the world. I wanted to talk about my country. I wanted to do something that people around the world would be inspired about. I wanted to travel for freedom, happiness and peace. I wanted to talk about the world united without borders, without racism,” said Haggagovic during an interview with The Korea Times on April 27, when he visited Korea for the first time as part of his world tour.
“This is my first time to Korea and this is the 83rd country I’m visiting,” he said. “I visited the April 19 Revolution Cemetery yesterday and I was very surprised at how much Koreans respect the people who died. We didn’t respect the people who sacrificed their lives for freedom during the Egypt revolution last year.”
He visits places with a message and avoids tourist attractions.
“I’m not a tourist and I don’t want to be treated like one. I believe the planet Earth is my home. I feel the same when I’m here. It’s just that people have different color and different background.”
Until the end of last year, he traveled without sponsors. Now, Egypt Air and Mobinil, an Egyptian mobile phone company, sponsor his trips. The Egyptian tourist authorities sometimes pay for the trips.
“They call me the unusual ambassador of Egypt because I’m doing what even the ambassadors don’t do,” said Haggagovic. “I use metro, buses, and go around talking to every person I meet. I’m videotaping my travels.”
But Haggagovic doesn’t plan specifically where to go.
“I started traveling alone when I was 15. The first country I went alone to was Germany. I wanted to break the borders, break the prejudice I had about the country. I wanted to see for myself what is real. So I went around without any plan. And I don’t plan where to go even now,” he said.
Because he’s not a tourist, he loves to stay at friends’ houses and taste the local food. He likes to try new things and challenge himself.
“I want to tell young people never to say never and never say there’s a limit. Limits are fears which are often an illusion,” said Haggagovic. “I want to inspire the world that you can create whatever you want to create. Think about it, protect it and dream it.”
Haggagovic’s next destination is China. He will finish all Asian countries and then move on to Europe and Scandinavia.
“It will then be the U.S., Canada and Africa. I don’t know when the trip will finish. I could be this year, if I manage to travel quickly,” he said, eyes beaming.