31 October 2010

Conversations with a Masaai ‘Warrior’

It is our last night in Zanzibar and we are contemplating a mutiny.  It has been such a wonderful ‘getaway’ from our journey in Afric,  and we want a few more days here in the Spice Islands.  Alas it is not to be. 

A few of us spend the evening having cocktails at the Sunset Bar on the beach.  I get chatting to the local Masaai guys who are selling their JPEGS 2010 10 21 Stone Town-115wonderful jewellery.  Samuel (his adopted name) was the first Masaai I photographed when I arrived here.  Unlike many Africans who are very reluctant to have their photograph taken or want to be reimbursed for the privilege, he was really happy to model for me and even pleased I had asked.  He is quite chatty and friendly today and seems really happy to see me.   

He shows me his wares but I’ve got my little stash of Masaai bracelets.  He insists on giving me a bracelet anyway and ties a lovely leather bracelet with blue beads on my wrist.  I want you to remember me he says and I smile back.   

We spend a lovely evening enjoying the music from our youth, the passion fruit daiquiris and the  Zanzibar sunset.  Someone lights the candles and lanterns that were strung out on the beach and gets a fire going.  It is a romantic setting and the sunset just adds to the atmosphere!

JPEGS 2010 10 24 Ngunwe Beach Zanzibar-100Rob orders a sheesha and the smell of apple and tobacco mingles with the salty breeze blowing in from the ocean.  Zanzibar is truly a stunningly wonderful place to get away from it all!

All too soon it is dinner time.  Julie and I have dinner at this wonderful restaurant which sits high above the water on stilts.  We order seafood tapas and as we eat, we enjoy the sound of waves  gently breaking below us.  This is not an Australian beach.  There is no surf here – just a very calm ocean.  It is absolute bliss.

Tonight is the full moon party here on the island and I have agreed to go along.  I have never been to one previously and I am not quite sure what to expect.  I am always a little apprehensive about these parties as I wonder if it will be just a mass of drunk people on the beach but my curiosity gets the better of me and I cave in.  Fortunately, my preconceived notions are proved wrong and I am pleasantly surprised.

We arrive at the beachside location around 9.30 at night to find we are early.  It looks far too civilised to start with.  People appear to be having dinner at candle lit tables!  Obviously the night is still young.

The party kicks off with a troupe of African acrobats doing ‘Cirque du Soleil’ stunts on a very small stage.  They are very athletic and the crowd very appreciative of their efforts.  The second act consists of a very young Michael Jackson wannabe who moon dancers to ‘Dangerous’.  The party has begun!!

We go back to our little spot on the beach.  We have dragged enough deck chairs and benches to relax on and we just lie there, listening to the music pick up and people watch.  I am pleasantly surprised by a flash of red Masaai blanket in front of my face and the sound of Samuel’s voice saying, ‘Karibu’ (welcome).  My Masaai friend has made it to the party and come looking for me. 

JPEGS 2010 10 24 Ngunwe Beach Zanzibar-104 We chat for awhile before he asks me to dance.  I haven’t been on a dance floor in ages but what a great way to end my stay in Zanzibar.  The music is great and Samuel a good dancer.  I wonder where a man who grew up in a mud hut tending cattle learnt to dance this well!  But then he is a black African man and these men are just born with a sense of rhythm coursing through their veins!  

My fellow travellers join us on the floor and the party is now well and truly under way.  It is a beautiful night and full moon sheds its light on our little gathering here on the beaches of Northern Zanzibar.  Did I mention this place was magic? :)

After dancing for awhile, we go back for a rest and a couple of drinks.  I walk down to the beach with Samuel and he lays out his blanket on the sand and we sit down for a chat.  When I came to Zanzibar I had mentioned to Julie that I wished we could have dinner with a Masaai so I could get a bit more insight into their culture.  My wish has come true once again!

Samuel starts to tell me about his life.  He is now 26 years old.  He was born in a Masaai village near the Ngorongoro Crater.  He has grown up tending cattle and in fact owns a few himself.  He has just recently come to Zanzibar to earn a bit of cash so he can learn English and better educate himself.  He is also learning to wait tables and does a few hours a day for practice.  I am just intrigued by this man who has grown up in a place with no running water or electricity, as cut off from the modern world as you possibly could be and yet has aspirations and dreams for his future just as someone from a big city would!  He speaks pretty good English and seems far more worldly than I would have expected him to be.  He misses his life in the bush but comes away to make a living so he can finance his dreams!   

I glance at my watch.  It is past midnight and we had all agreed we would go back after a few hours.  Our taxis are waiting!  My goodness – time flies when you are having fun.  I walk back to find my mates.  I find Julie chatting to Norbett, one of the local guys who she had met earlier at the Sunset bar.  They want us to stay but it is now almost one in them morning and we should really be heading back.

When we get back to base, we find the gates have been locked.   We hadn’t even thought of this possibility – surely weren’t other people at the full moon party?  Fortunately we find a security guard who lets us in.  The next challenge proves to be getting in to our room, as reception has also shut up shop and turned in.  The security guard comes to our rescue once again and after having obtained our room number, mysteriously turns up with our room key.  This would never happen in OZ but I find that nothing is ever a problem in Africa and people are incredibly resourceful and inventive when things don’t quite go to plan!   

We have an early morning breakfast as we are catching the noon ferry from Stone Town and we still need to drive back there from the Northern Beaches were we are based.  I have almost finished eating when I find Samuel standing over our table.  He has come along to say goodbye.  We had hoped to go back to the Sunset Bar and meet our local friends for one last drink after the party last night but faced with the fiasco of locked gates, we had not dared venture anywhere.   So he has come looking for us to say goodbye.

He has written me a lovely note and gives me his contact details.  He says he will keep his fingers crossed that we will meet again once more.  There is little chance of that but we take a few happy snaps and say goodbye.  He carries my backpack down to our transfer vehicle.  I just love the Masaai culture and it has been absolutely delightful making friends with a man who has had such a completely different upbringing to my own privileged life.  

I hug him goodbye and wish him all the best.  I think I have left a little piece of my heart in Zan- zibar and hope to return here one day to recapture the magic!JPEGS 2010 10 24 Ngunwe Beach Zanzibar-109

The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this:  decide what you want.  ~Ben Stein

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