Monday, 30 June 2014


Cities smell. This is normal. And...
 Each has its own scent. Just like the legendary Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, wrote at the beginning of “Anna Karenina” (a novel published 1873). “All happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Mkokoteni pusher - Magomeni, Dar es Salaam, 2009.

First time I arrived in Dar es Salaam in 1970, aged fifteen, I recall the smell of the sea salt and water. Nothing else. These days Dar stinks of dust, smoke and car fumes. The sea salt and fish can only be found closer to the beaches of Kigamboni, Jangwani, Kunduchi, etc. These palm trees (below) are hard to find in the mid city today.

 City smells tell you something about inhabitants and their activities. When I first set foot in Copenhagen in 1984 I recall the pleasant aroma of bread, cakes and alcohol.

During nights, I noticed many immigrants and delinquents sleeping rough, begging and fighting. It made me realise that rich countries have poverty too.
 Cities are class rooms. When we are little we tend to think that class-rooms are small places. We never imagine years later, life will offer extended Madrassa, to paraphrase the Arab word for school.

In 1994 I was shocked beyond belief.
 I was travelling across Latin America and was in this particular city that had a permanent aroma of Nyama Choma (fried meat). Asuncion is the capital city of Paraguay, not far from Uruguay, where I had a few friends.
Those days, Luis Suarez, the excellent striker (and terror of the English football team  in Brazil) was only a seven year old. Paraguay, Uruguay, South Brazil and Argentina share fertile plains, ideal for animal feeding, called Pampas. No wonder there was such tasteful meat in Paraguay.  It was Easter. Oh boy, I have never eaten so much delicious meat. Superb.
Cities’ aromas speak volumes.
There is one particular city, which I lived for months and loved- but don’t want to name- that had a continuous stink of urine and faeces.  Pause.
London, Minneapolis, Vienna, Stockholm, Nairobi and Rio de Janeiro, in my experience, all share a similar reek of gas, cars, trains, industrial smoke and waste. There is, nevertheless, something about London these days.
Bow, London, 2014...Cars and concrete.

The smell of weed. That word. A word with several accomplices. Cannabis. Ganja. Spliff. Reefer. Majani or Bangi (Swahili).
Just step out of your flat. Sit indoors, open windows, an occasional whiff of the plant whips you. Going out at night close to crowded places and clubs, is the most obvious guarantee of nasal encounter with the aroma of this burning grass.
 For the last few decades danger has increased with cannabis being mixed with other chemical drugs like Skunk. To make it stronger, they whisper. No wonder the average Marijuana smoker always rolls it in a Rizla with a bit of tobacco leaves. You see them rolling and mixing which to the uninitiated might look like a normal cigarette preparation. Just pretend you are a dog (or a wolf) in a full moon. Hitch up your nose in the air. You will smell the love.
The odour of Marijuana has joined ranks of street cars, steaming factories and pollution. We shall all soon be getting high and happy and relaxed and....
 Two weeks ago I wrote about a couple I saw in a train smoking weed in this same column.  The man had such a violent vibe that the lady left him and fled in a taxi. I recall getting several responses agreeing and telling me similar stories. But one lady brushed the accusation aside.
“Marijuana is a peaceful thing. Drugs that cause violence are Alcohol, Cocaine, Heroin...”
I wonder which planet this lady is living.

Of course this is what smokers always tell you. That Marijuana is an inspirational herb. It shall make you dream, think and create. Invent wonderful things. It will help you manage and fight the shit system. Even rebel.  Different people use different intoxicants to enhance their skills and craft. Some find whisky helpful. Coffee. Beer. Tea with loads of sugar, ginger, honey, sex and rock and roll. Your choice.
But what do doctors and UN experts tell you about Marijuana?
“Long term use can cause psychotic symptoms. It can also damage the lungs and the heart; worsen the symptoms of bronchitis and cause wheezing...In fact in the first hour of smoking marijuana, a user’s risk of a heart attack could increase fivefold.”
Students and young people are cautioned, “School performance is reduced through impaired memory and lessened ability to solve problems.”
The lady is right in the sense that Marijuana is a soft drug. That the damage is not as obvious as cocaine and other “heavyweights”...However, the harmful effects include getting used to the “high” of the weed. This eventually causes the habitual user to want more potent drugs because they want to achieve a better, stronger stimulation or high. Please help. What does “potent drugs” mean?      

  Also published in Citizen Tanzania, Friday June 27th, 2014.....

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