The Thief

The man dodged between vendors as he hurried through one of the busiest quarters of Dar es Salaam. Kariako was never quiet and never particularly safe. The people here were of mixed races, tribes and religions. It was close to the city centre and renowned for shady characters and unlawful dealings. For the uninitiated it was a dangerous place. Kassim did not stop at any of the bustling lively markets, shops, eating places or small businesses. Only once did he look wistfully for a moment at a gold chain worn by a young woman he passed. No, he would continue on his way. First he must sell the watch.

He picked his way along the dirty streets. Frequently he had to step out of the way of cars, motorbikes, small trucks and large wooden barrows loaded up with goods and pushed manually. More than once he was forced to stride over an open sewer — its treacly contents reeking in the heat. Occasionally he climbed onto a small stretch of pavement, but these were few and far between; and even then they presented a multitude of obstacles, from passing people and vendors with objects paraded on pieces of cloth, to the overflowing contents of small shops.

The road was quicker and easier. He sidestepped the splayed carcass of a rat whose entrails seeped into the surrounding dirt. Then he turned down a narrow passage. A woman dressed in two pieces of bright yellow and black kanga — one tied around her body, the other around head and shoulders — was sweeping the path he wanted to take. It cut between the mosque and a modern building. Inadvertently she brushed dirt onto Kassim’s feet. He berated her, but went on walking.

When he entered the bar, Kassim glanced around. Majogo’s bulky figure was squashed into a small cane chair. At his table sat another man who wore a garishly bright shirt, but what drew Kassim’s attention was the long scar, puckering his left cheek. Majogo carried on speaking to the other man, although his eyes followed Kassim as he approached the table.

Salama alekum!“ Kassim greeted the two men.

The men both placed their hands over their hearts as they replied. “Wa alekum issalam!”

Kassim leant across the table to shake hands then sat down. A waitress, long legs, short tight skirt and figure hugging top, sashayed towards them.


Extract from the (unpublished) novel ‘The Tanzanite’