Avaes Mohammad

Zanzibar: SKETCHES OF ZANZIBAR 5-6 (200509)

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2009 at 12:54 pm


[Midnight. Sat on the Baraaza outside my hotel with Mustapha, a local fella. Baraaza’s are purpose built walls attached on most houses of the Swahili coast, designed just for sitting on.]

Mustapha: No money in Zanzibar. No selling, no making…just tourist. High season good business. Good money everybody. Low season no money. Everybody no money. No industry! Just tourist.

Avaes: Hmmm.


You got family? Married?

Mustapha: No.

Avaes: How come?

Mustapha: Don’t want.

Avaes: Why? [jokingly] Someone break your heart?


Mustapha: Yes.




I loved her very much. Neeta. She loved me too. She loved me Neeta. Five years!


Avaes: Long time.

Mustapha: Long time! She loved me. She say marry. I say marry. Her father! Her father say no…you Muslim! No Muslim…her father! Neeta say yes! I love very much! I say I love very much your daughter…No! You Muslim! No Muslim!…


Mustapha: She gone Canada now…married someone else.

Avaes: Canada? When?

Mustapha: Six years ago.


Avaes: Shit.


Mustapha: Her father problem! Neeta love me very much…five years she love me very much. So beautiful…like actress. Neeta so beautiful. Really!


Her father problem.


Five years.

[He takes out a box of cigarettes and offers me one with red eyes and a smile]

No problem…Bad luck!


[One Thursday evening, after sunset prayer, children are rehearsing the singing of Mawlid in a mosque. Mawlid songs are kind of like hymns, with wonderfully soaring melodies, traditionally accompanied by deep pulsating rhythms of a Douf, the Persian frame drum. Outside the mosque is a large open square with a tree at the end of it. From the tree a light bulb hangs and men are congregated beneath it on a Baraaza: a purpose built wall on most houses of the Swahili coast, designed for sitting on. I’m initially sat on my own outside the mosque, listening. I smell coffee and walk over to the Baraaza.]

Avaes: Can I sit down?

Taha: Why not!…Do you want coffee?

Avaes: Why not!

[Coffee is already on it’s way to me, with sweetmeats. We chat.]

Taha: This is our Baraaza. We sit here at the end of the day. Enjoy this breeze. Drink coffee, joke, talk. Helps get rid of any stresses, you know, worries.

[A short fella is lead down the row of men to be greeted one by one. As he comes closer I see he’s blind. The lamp turns off.]

We’re going to pray. Want to pray with us?

Avaes: Why not!

[The blind fella leads the prayer, the most beautifully recited I think I’ve been part of.]


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