Karibu Tanzania (Welcome to Tanzania)

2010-11-25 12:06

“Hi Loyiso, hope you’re fine in South Africa”.

I had barely woken up after my first night back in Johannesburg when my new Tanzanian friend, Maasai warrior Mwenesi, enquired about my health after a week of late nights in Zanzibar.

A tall and skinny fellow, the 26-year-old briefly introduced me to his culture while on his night shift as a security guard at a seaside resort.

The devout Arsenal fan was unhappy his team gave away a 2-0 half-time lead to lose 3-2 to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

The Maasai people are extremely proud and do not compromise on their culture, Mwenesi told me.

They confidently walk the streets in most of Tanzania’s urban centres wearing resplendent red shukas – cloths wrapped around their waists and shoulders.

Like Zulu warriors in traditional regalia carrying spears, Maasai youths walk around with swords on their waists.

Young Maasai men, mostly hunters, always have a long knife with them.

The few young Maasai women I saw spotted bald heads but their colour of choice was blue.

Some of the gentlemen in our group even complained that Tanzania had an oversupply of men. My fellow South African men suggested that Tanzanian women were either housewives or hidden away from randy tourists.

A Kenyan woman was the only female African in swimwear at the two beaches in Zanzibar we visited.

As an aside, while they are one of east Africa’s biggest selling points, some South Africans can be ignorant.

Legend has it that a first-time South African traveller once frantically called her father on arrival in Tanzania.

With a suburban accent, the caller apparently told her embarrassed father: “Dad, dad these people look like us.”

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