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African Safari Journal May 1st

June 12, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

May 1:  Mbare Flea Market

Shirts were dry, so put myself together, had an English breakfast again. Went back to the room and got the eight year old Kodak digital and headed off to the marketl with my driver Watson.

It was only a seven kilometer trip, paid Watson $7 and said I would text him when I was ready.  He was to text me back within five minutes, but would not if he was with a passenger off in the other direction.

The market is laid out in rows almost a kilometer in length, or at least it feels like it in retrospect, and had approximately 25 aisles. Produce aisle ran perpendicular to these at one end.  This approximate layout is in hindsight, no map.  🙃

The guide book said "has heady mix of fresh produce and random goods - there's a big collection of Shona sculpture, wooden crafts, and basketry.” So off I went in search of Shona artifacts.

Having experienced getting turned around in these markets, I spotted a cell tower at the edge and noted it was on my right as I ventured down the first aisle.

Fortunately I was doing this on Sunday morning, so there were not as many shoppers.  But school is starting soon so the first several aisles were filled with mothers holding uniforms up against their children to check size and with the latest addition to the family bundled to their back. Mothers in their bright dresses and the choice of uniforms exploded in a cacophony of color in contrast to the rustic booths and dusty, but paved floor.

As I passed booth to booth I was often greeted with "boss" or  "hey safari" to get my attention. ( I was wearing my khakis and safari hat) We would exchange pleasantries, but no sales pressure unlike the vendors in Victoria Falls.    As I progressed  from aisle to aisle I carefully noted whether my entry point was now on my right or left and checked the position of the sun through one of myriad holes in the canvas tarps that created some protection from the sun.

As I turned at the end of an aisle a woman was selling bags that would accommodate 2, 4, 6, 8 kilos of grain for people that did not want all 50 kilos in the standard bag.  I turned into the next aisle noting the exit again on my right.

The "random" became evident now as booths offered solar panels, sewing notions, bath products, CDs, phones, tools, hardware items - it was like a  big box store with each vendor having their own department.  The greetings of hi safari or boss became more frequent and we talked more about their country, the other cities visited and the USA.  As I photographed some of the booths, men would often ask me to take their picture with their merchandise,  but the women never asked.

Turning a corner by the produce end of the market, there were neat, stacks of tomatoes, three forming a base itch three more balanced on top.  I took a photo of them - then the proprietor wanted his photo taken, the water melon vendor next door did not want to be left out.  Those taken I quickly retreated back into the random area so I did not spend the day in produce, still searching for those Shona artifacts.

Forging on found a vendor with all kinds of dried goods. Thought one was some kind of grain until I saw the tiny eye.  He explained it was a dried fish from Mozambique.  Another photo.

At the end of the next aisle a graffiti artist had executed a painting of a white man with dread locks, smoking and blowing smoke against a background of the Zambabwean flag colors.  May try to show it to Watson and see if he has a comment,

Approaching another corner, another picture request, but this time a request "take one of my women".  He then asked which was prettier - not going to get in that trap I said they were both very lovely.  I believe they were his wife and daughter, anyway he was pleased with the response.

It was now getting on toward 1:30 P.M. And getting hotter.  The Shona artifacts were as elusive as a leopard.  - as was my driver Watson, no answer to the text.

Started looking for a taxi, but all I saw were combos- vans hauling 12-14 people in lieu of a bus system.  Finally saw  a taxi and asked how much to my hotel and he said $10 so I looked horrified and said I was only charged $7 coming out (the truth).  He said $8, not wanting to go on to another cab, or worse yet take a combo, I agreed.

As we pulled out, a man hollered at him.  He explained his relative wanted a ride, was it okay with me.  I said if my fare was $7 it was okay.    We left his relative - more than yelling at him now!

Rest of the day was kind of non-eventful.  Spent some time reviewing brokerage account, updating trip expense records, and watching CNN on the iPad.


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