Kuku Na Chipsi
A trip to Tanzania, my birth country, especially in the temperate winter month of July, bodes well with my temperament. I can see the rapid construction progress of the long awaited new terminal as my Emirates flight taxis towards the current one; it looks beautiful and modern. The arrival hall is crowded, and it takes me a while to pay for my visa and clear immigration. I temporarily lose my suitcase until I realize it has been pulled off the belt and sits waiting for me by the side while I am patiently scouring for it among the hordes of luggage that whirl around the conveyor belt.
Yahya, my usual taxi driver, races his car and miraculously manages to be outside the gates of Tanzanite Executive Suites in twenty-five minutes from the time we leave the airport, a record of sorts. In this period, Yahya fills me in with the usual litany of ailments in his and other Tanzanian lives; cost of living going up, business going down, Mugufuli’s heavy handed leadership causing havoc to people used to accumulating wealth the magendo way… Yahya says nothing about the relatively safe city, potholes free roads, litter-free streets, stable power and water supply, the rapidly rising flyovers that’ll soon ease the traffic snarls …
I don’t want to hear about all the complaining, so I ask him about what fruits I can stuff my face with in the short two-day trip I am here. Yahya’s gloomy face lightens up. He tells me the city is full of sweet citrus machenza and machungwa, juicy pineapples, blood-red leeches and my favorite, the sweeter version of passion fruit, the snot fruit matunda. Ahhh, I can already taste these and my mouth waters in anticipatory delight.
I check into the once fine Tanzanite Executive Suites, a clean, comfortable, familiar and strategically located hotel minutes from the Khoja center and several lip-smacking Kuku Na Chipsi joints within a safe five-minute walking radius. I can, from the entrance of the hotel, already smell the aroma of the charcoal grilling the kukus and mishkaaki and nundu, and it’s not even magreeb yet. I can’t wait.
After a nice short nap, I head over to the mosque for salaat donning my senses delighting ittar. Alas, it is no match for the cloud of kuku aroma that engulfs the entire street leading towards the mosque, and all I can smell are the remnants of charred chicken flesh on me as I join the jamaat salaat. You can’t win it all, I guess.
I have been very fortunate to travel distant lands and sample some of the most exotic fruits and foods from many countries. However, very few, if any, match the flavor and aroma of the ones I eat in E. Africa, and Tanzania in particular. And so, I go on a rampage of culinary delights with fresh fruits served by Roshan Jessa at his office, to various Kuku Na Chipsi outlets and a sumptuous dinner of ugaali and kuku paaka at Murtaza Bhimani’s.
The Dar es Salaam skyline has changed profoundly in the last few years. When Roshan Jessa takes me up to the rooftop of Samora Towers, I am stunned at the high-rise buildings adorning this city. The view of the skyline from up here is astonishingly beautiful. I cannot believe the development progress, especially in housing construction, that Dar has made. I doubt any of us growing up here could have imagined a break from the gloom and doom of the misguided and ruthlessly enforced crippling Ujamaa policies that had compelled me to queue early mornings for everyday essentials, from milk to bread and pine for non-existing butter and cheese. Bravo.
Sadly, I am in Dar for only two days. A much more challenging tour of Ouagadougou (a mouthful, no?) in Burkina Faso and Bamako in Mali, accompanied by fellow CAI Trustees Sohail Abdullah and Murtaza Bhimani, to inspect current and future CAI schools under construction coming up shortly. Joining us will be well-wishers Amirali Somji from Dubai and Mushtaq Fazal from Dar es Salaam.
A Gay Marriage Gone Sour
As I tuck into the fruits and flesh akin to the janna in the hereafter here in Dar, a gay marriage in faraway Vancouver rocks the global Khoja fraternity and causes fissures among the community and leadership, denting, somewhat, some of my culinary pleasures. The haraam act and unwise publicity of the union by the parents of one partner have profound and immediate consequences. That one of the partner’s mother is (now was) the Secretary General of NASIMCO causes tremors, uncontained outrage and a flurry of condemnation. From everybody.
The event is a discussion subject for many a baraaza dinner meets; discussed, debated, dissected, digested and excreted many times over. So much so, that a visiting friend from Brampton, Canada, jokingly introduces himself to the baraaza group I am with thus:
Sallam, I am so and so from Canada, and I am a happily married man…
Funny yes, but sad. Without proper thought and throwing caution aside, a flurry of messages on social media, some in atrocious English, cook up a storm, lynching the parents of the union for partaking in the public gaiety that follows the union. Understandable perhaps? As if our cupboards are without skeletons and we are the infallibles. Then the rage is diverted to the NASIMCO leadership, and to the alleged coercion of the mother to resign from her post. Again, understandable perhaps, given her very unwise deed, except I fret about the legal consequence if the compulsion is indeed a fact. Given that this apparent ugly episode takes place in the jurisdiction of NASIMCO, individual jamaats, from Africa to Pakistan, incredibly, join in the mob mentality, all with relentless condemnations and unstoppable admonishment. Understandable perhaps, given the severity of events? Resignations follow like a domino effect, and the entire leadership of NASIMCO is rendered history.
The onslaughts from every corner of the world are relentless in the days ahead, with a whirlwind of WA messages, accusations targeting the leadership of NASIMCO and the WF as well. It is a full-blown circus now, except rather painful and not funny as at all. Past leaders, both at NASIMCO and WF are vilified, and wild allegations of improper behavior, including that of nepotism, election fraud, and funds embezzlement is shamelessly leveled, sparing very few.
Homosexuality, lesbianism, alcohol and drug use and abuse are real, albeit unsavory issues. Yes, the individuals in a leadership role in this instance erred seriously and used severely unwise judgment in publicizing the blunder. None of us are without issues, however, and we should all spend time in profound sajda of grateful and perpetual thanks if our children are saleh. Surely a more respectable response, from us all - one of constraint, maturity, and unity, one befitting from the followers and lovers of Ahlebeyt (a) - should have followed this unfortunate episode?
Allah knows best.