Avaes Mohammad

Zanzibar: SKETCHES OF ZANZIBAR 8-9 (200509)

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2009 at 1:09 pm


[In an off licence in Nungwi, a large village on the northern most tip of Zanzibar Island, home to some of the most picture postcard perfect beaches on the Island.]

Avaes: 20 camel lights please.

Vendor: 3000.

Avaes: ‘Ah! Hapaana! 2500 Raffiqui…you always take 2500…here!

[gives cigs]

And a lighter?

Vendor: Lighter supermarket…[looks straight at me]…where from?

Avaes: England.

Vendor: England? No…really! India?


Avaes: Well…my mother was born in Mombasa…

Vendor: Mombasa?

Avaes: Hmm…my grandfather was born here though…Zanzibar…

Vendor: Zanzibar?

Avaes: Yeah…my father’s from Pakistan, but everyone comes from India. Muhindi.

Vendor: Henh? Wewe Swahili kabeesa (Yeah? You’re absolutely Swahili then!)

Avaes: [laughing] Hapaana kabeesa…Mimi kidogo Swahili (Not totally… I’m a little Swahili)

Vendor: ‘Ah! Kidodgo!! Wewe Swahili saana, saana Swahili! (You what?! A little!! You’re Swahili a lot, very Swahili!)


[I’m walking along the coast one afternoon, making my way back to my hotel. Boats and ships sit waiting to my left. Random fella, mid-twenties, decides he’s gonna walk with me.]

Random fella: Hey…Jambo!

Avaes [disinterested]: Jambo.

Random fella: Mambo Vipi? (How are things?)

Avaes [disinterested]: Poa. (Cool.)

Random fella: Still here?! I seen you around few weeks now…Like it Zanzibar? Where your friend?


Avaes: Who?

Random fella: Mzungu (White Person)…you used to go Night Market for eating.


Avaes: He’s gone.

Random fella: Oh…He gone! So you alone now…


…and today you were walking with Suleiman, huh?…around 2 o’clock?

[I look at him sharply. He smiles]

You know…[twisting imaginary bits of hair at the back of his head] dreadlocks!

[I continue issuing my sharp gaze]

[smiling] So what about Suleiman?

Avaes: What the fuck is it to do with you man?!



[He stops walking.]

Random fella: Just go. Hakuna Matata…Just go.

Avaes: You what? Nah mate!…I asked what it’s got to do with you, who I walk with?

Random fella: Look…I’m just talking okay. I’m just talking with you…I never asked you for anything…I never asked you for money or for buying…I was just talking!

[We stand for a moment or two, facing each other.]

Avaes: [with a little more politeness] You know Suleiman?

Random fella: [smiles again] Yeah I know him.

Avaes: How do you know him?


Random fella: What were you doing with him?

Avaes: I met him for lunch. How do you know him?

[We start walking again]

Random fella: We all know him.

[I look at him to prompt him into finishing his sentences]

He likes boys.


Avaes: Right.


How do you know?

Random fella: [laughing] Coz he asked me.


Avaes: Okay.


Random fella: So where you from?

Avaes: England.

Random fella: Your friend from England too? Who gone?

Avaes: No…America.

[By this time he’s followed me off the main road and into the intricate network of tight alleys]

Avaes: Don’t you have somewhere to go fella? What you following me for?

Random fella: Just walking…not following.


Listen…don’t walk with Suleiman again.

Avaes: Why not?

Random fella: Because he’s gay!

Avaes: And you don’t like that?

Random fella: None of us like that…none of us like them…we just fuck them but we don’t like them!


Avaes: What?! You fuck them?

Random fella: Yeah! We fuck them!!

Avaes: Doesn’t that make you gay?

Random fella: What?!

Avaes: If you fuck them, then you’re gay too right?

Random fella: I’m not gay! I just like to fuck…I’ll fuck anything…Coz I like it to fuck!


And you?

Avaes: I don’t fuck men.

[He takes a right as I take a left]

Random fella: But you ask a lot of questions?!

Avaes: Just interested.


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