” In Africa a thing is true at first light and a lie by noon and you
have no more respect for it than for the lovely.perfect weed-
fringed lake you see across the sun-baked salt plain. You have
walked across that plain in the morning and you know that no
such lake is there. But now it is there absolutely true, beautiful
- Ernest Hemingway
I found this work of Ernest Hemingway in one of the book stalls on the corner of the street of my new home and “The House of Wonders”.
If you’re a little familiar with the labyrinth of Stone Town, you’ll know that I can see the ocean from my patio. My girlfriend Zakia knows how much I enjoy being home but still like to be outside, so this patio is our ‘heaven’ in paradise and the main reason to rent this house. When the first rays of sunlight reach the patio early in the morning and the scent of the Jasmine plants fill the air, meditating becomes an almost transcending experience.
My visits to the second hand book stalls have become a tradition, especially now everyone knows I am a photographer who will be staying here, especially “now he found his Love.” The welcoming, small cups of coffee and the conversations during these visits I truly enjoy.
My Zambian beauty is known here as a very strong and intelligent woman and the local people treat her with respect. This makes my stay here a lot simpler: when the small renovations in my new home are not done appropriately, the problem is solved very quickly.
Some of the books I find in the stalls were left behind in hotel rooms and have inscriptions that tell about the recovery after a disease or a love, lost and found.
I appreciate these personal touches, left by strangers, and am buying myself a new library for a very reasonable price.
My reputation as practitioner of meditation and Zen Buddhism is enough for some of the book salesmen to offer me their books on Buddhism for free.
I choose not to have a TV so the old American movies pass me by. Most evenings are filled with a good book, of course in English since my English is a little rusty, and the scent of Jasmine.
Some evenings I spend, with my beauty at my side, visiting a “tarab”, an evening filled with traditional music, in Zanzibar oftentimes held in the auditorium of a school.
The Arabic word “tarab” has to do with a ‘mood or atmosphere of enchantment’ created by a performance.
My friend, like most other women on these evenings, is dressed in one of her best gala dresses and smells like a red rose. The room is filled with ladies in creations of eye catching colors and breathtaking scents. Their evening attire is carefully selected and well put together.
The ladies experience their highlight of the evening when the singer recites a beautiful line about loves lost. As touched by Cupid, the dark beauties stand up and move, hips swaying and singing along with the performer, towards the small stage.
With a few paper bills in hand, they raise their arms to offer him their money and buy the heartfelt line they are yearning to hear. Most of them will take their dream home to an empty bed.
At the end of our evening, Zakia and I walk home, softly talking in the dark night.
The shadows we meet, greet us with respect. Respect is giving freely in Stone Town.
After escorting my evening sweetheart to her door, I walk home to my heaven, full of warm feelings and beautiful photographs.