**From Hungary in Central Europe to Sierra Leone in West Africa, the Budapest-Bamako Rally returns to Freetown for the third time.
After days en route, these cars have traveled from Europe to Africa, traversing through various countries.
Known as the world’s largest amateur vehicular rally and Africa’s biggest humanitarian event, this year saw Sierra Leoneans participating for the first time, with three of them raising awareness for autism.
Raising awareness for autism
“For me it’s been a dream come true,” says Ibrahim Cole, Co-founder Puzzle Pieces. “I couldn’t have chosen to be in this car with two people otherthan these guys; it was a fantastic trip. Autism is very near and dear to us- he has a nephew [pointing at fellow participants] he has a nephew also now and my son.”
Another participant, Drizilik, who is also an artist, says he wants to encourage Sierra Leoneans to get involved.
“I enjoyed been part of this cause and enjoyed spending time with these two gentlemen,” he says.
For Mohamed Waritay, the experience was “amazing”.
“The landscape, the people, the culture and the food,” Waritay says. “But more importantly the awareness and the love and the support that we get from people from Sierra Leone.”
A boost to tourism
Speaking to Africanews, the Founder and Director of the Budapest Bamako Rally, Andrew Szabo, says that Freetown was chosen to host the rally due to the security situations in Mali, shifting from the original destination of Bamako.
“I’ve been organizing the Budapest Bamako Rally for 18 years; this has been going on for almost 20 years – and it’s been a fantastic experience,” says Szabo. “We love every second of it and the participants had a great time and this is a very authentic and genuine way for them to discover West Africa and the Sahara.”
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Nabeela Tunis describes the adventure as a remarkable venture noting that it will contribute to the country’s revenue generation.
“We’re looking at a multiplier effect to the economy. Just imagine you have 600 people in the country and you know that they’re definitely gonna have to take [a hotel room] and stuff like that,” says Tunis. “So certainly there will be a marked improvement in the revenue generation over the next couple of days. We’re also happy about the integration – because they’re here to see Sierra Leone as it really is.”
This year, Sierra Leone welcomed over 600 participants with over 300 vehicles, driving through major routes from Bureh Town in the Western Area Rural to the Finish Line at Lumley, Western Area Urban.