The Day I Almost Crashed a Zanzibari Fashion Show

One of the stores in town is owned by a man named Mwarabu. The store is called Kihaga, and I had hoped I would be able to do my internship here because the store doubles as a nonprofit that provides training in sewing, tailoring, and design to local youth. A few weeks ago, in conversation with an American Expat living in Zanzibar I mentioned Mwarabu and she informed me, “he’s known around these parts.” And rightfully so, his store is undoubtedly ‘with the times’ compared to the rest.

Meghan and I stopped in the store on a random Sunday evening to chat with Mwarabu. It turns out he was preparing for a fashion show that night at the new Double Tree Hotel (which is rumored to sell really great chocolate chip cookies). I mentioned I would be interested in going and he told me it would start at 7:30.

Which of course in Swahili time means it actually started at 8:30. We showed up announced while the organizers were still preparing everything. It took a few minutes of wandering around before developing the courage to ask someone what the heck was going on. The hotel staff directed us to a woman, whom I am assuming was the HBIC. She was super friendly and really excited we were there.. an hour early. It turns out there was a ticket price of 30,000 shillings and neither Meghan nor I had or were willing to pay that much money. In an attempt to make a seemingly graceful exit I told the lady we would walk around town and come back at the appropriate time.

“Kweli, mtarudi? Msiondoke!”

“You will come back, right? You guys better not leave!” I was frozen. This charismatic and welcoming lady caught me trying to secretly dash away into the night. I continued to stumble over my Swahili trying to explain to her that 1. we didn’t have any money and 2. We had just ran into Mwarabu an hour earlier and he told us to come and 3. We really had no idea what any of this was about. In usual Swahili fashion she wasn’t satisfied until we got what we came there for, so she started yelling to the people on the second floor balcony to find the man from Kihaga because some white girls wanted to talk to him. It was more than a scene I was bargaining for that night.

Mwarabu came down and chatted with us for a second. I explained to him that we didn’t have money with us since it was a last minute affair. He said that if we had met up with him earlier he would have been able to get us in for free as his ‘assistants’ and assured me next time there was a show we would do just that. Stay tuned for the next episode of “The Adventures of the White Girl who Crashes Zanzibari Fashion Shows.”

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