a city where no one sleeps
Harare the capital of The Great Zimbabwe – what a pleasant surprise ! The immediate thing that struck me right from the airport was the warmth of the people. I cannot remember the number of times I have been referred to as “Sir” on this trip. In the beginning it was very strange to get used to. Coming with my own prejudice based on media reports and conversations with nationals and foreigners my expectations were very low.
I must confess that the picture in my mind of what it would be like and the experience I have had are worlds apart. I was expecting shops that are run down due to lack of food, people that are demoralized due to the political climate etc. However this trip confronted my own privilege and prejudices.
Food Lovers, Foodie_Things
One of the key expressions of culture I try to experience in every part of my travels is the food of the said country. I have been blessed with a strong stomach that can pretty much handle foreign flavours and seemingly strange mixes. When my airport shuttle driver picked me up in a black Lexus, the first thing I asked him was about the traditional and/or strictly Zimbabwean food.
I told him that hotel food is not expressive of the local culture and cuisine. He told me that Braai and Sadza (Pap) is a staple hang out meal. I was slightly disappointed as we have those in Namibia. I took up the mission to explore the city with another friend. We ate Sadza with chicken feet on the street. It was a total party in my mouth. Though I have had these before, the meticulous preparation awoke new taste buds. For the first time I felt right at home eating in this buzzing street off the grill. As we continued to walk through downtown the amount of fresh produce that is sold was overwhelming. We had carts full of bananas, tomatoes, African cucumbers, nuts, tangerines etc. There was an abundance of fresh food at every corner.
People of Harare
As mentioned before I love to meet the locals and I go to their spaces to get a better sense of their day to day life doing the mundane. I connected with a few locals who were kind to give me a glimpse into their world. I have found from my conversations that the environment is not enabling many to self-actualize. They told me about the rate of unemployment amongst youth and university graduates. We spoke about issues around healthcare, limited access and sometimes lack thereof. These various social issues could cause many to retire, be without hope and become depressed. However the smiles on the people’s faces, the warmth in their eyes and hearty laughter painted a different picture.
Throughout all these challenges people are generous, kind and full of humour. The pulse of the city is vibrant as many have positioned themselves as entrepreneurs and small business owners through which they can make a living. One of the vendors selling the chicken feet, in his early twenties, said that he would make at least $18 a day. This he uses to support himself and his family.
Similar to other countries I have visited, the public transport through the use of small buses is the main form of movement for locals. The 30 seater bus would be filled to capacity and other times even double. Many people live outside the capital and commute as far as 100km daily. The mini buses create their own traffic rules, sometimes driving the opposite direction on a one way road just like Nam. That was a nostalgic moment for me. The once functioning train systems are no more thus putting pressure on the small buses to absorb the population.
The Sky-scraping City
Harare, I have found, gets a bad rap due to limited experiences that sometimes stem from unfounded external information. While it has its challenges it’s a pretty chilled city. City is relatively safe due to limited crime. Harare has wide spaces and tall sky scrapers. The rain that we experienced the past weeks and over the few months has caused Harare to blossom with a variety of trees, plants and flowers. Whatever your fancy Harare will take care of it – there is five star dining and there is street dining. There are high end shops and there is the market. There are large supermarkets and mobile shops on wheels.
Finally, my admonishment to young Africans is, let us continue to change the narrative of our countries and continent. When we travel we are able to empathize and see the world- even for a few days- through the eyes of the locals. I encourage us to try the food, walk the streets, and get lost in a new city. In us shedding our own worldviews we can learn a thing or two about ourselves and the world we find ourselves in. To my wonderful hosts in Harare truly I had a Kingly reception and stay. #inspiredliving #worldchangerstoday #SBH
Facebook: Steven Bernardus Harageib | Twitter: SBHroyal