The Robbery

Arusha Travel Blog

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Right I thought it’s about time I wrote about the robbery as well, as it was defiantly an interesting experience and I want to be able to remember it in years to come. I don’t want this to put people off coming to Arusha or Tanzania as it could have happened anywhere and as you’ll read I feel it wasn’t a big deal.

The situation was, we’d been away a few days before, climbing Oldoinyo L’Engai with some of the Maasai, so I was still pretty knackered, especially after washing my clothes by hand with water from the rain water tank. So after dinner some of the guys suggested we go to watch the football in a local bar, about 10 minutes walk from our house down into Banana (that’s the name of the suburb). Not normally a football enthusiast fate persuaded me to go as I fancied relaxing with a fanta.

So after getting to the pub, we sat towards the back of this “L” shaped bar facing the TV and the door, by door I mean a net curtain wafting in the breeze. After about 20 minutes of the football, I looked up to see three men rushing into the door way with a black hand gun held out in front of them. They fired towards the far wall, behind where I was sat and everyone did the customary drop to the floor, before the guys entered. I was on the ground behind one of the plastic picnic tables that they had in there, in between Mussa & Kisoki, I remember being on a bit uncomfortable and being on Kisoki’s leg so I moved quite casually to get a better spot.

I remember a few screams when they first came in but something about the atmosphere made me think it was a joke, the general attitude was very relaxed, little resistance but little panic either. After the three guys started searching everyone, the first guy, in a cream suit of all things, saw me, the white guy in shorts and came over quickly. As with most Tanzania’s I’ve encountered, he obviously assumed that, as a white person, I carry large quantities of unmarked bills from 13 major curries with a total value of no less than USD $8.5 million at all times, along with thirteen metric tons of refined gold, several experimental nano-technological devices and the secret of immortality on a laminated paper. He shouted “give me money, give me your money”, so I stood up, not really sure why, oh yeah to get into the one tattered pocket of my aging shorts I was wearing. Defiant as ever I disobeyed and first handed him my 18th hand locally procured phone with a battery life less than the half-life of a peanut butter sandwich. He reiterated “give me your money”, to which, after reaching into my pocket and turning it inside out I said “Nina mia tanu basi”, “I have only 500”, which must have been the worst news of this guys day.

Next thing I knew, he’d ripped my necklace off, that I’d been wearing for about 7 years by this point, and was going for my silver bracelet when I said “Subiri” “wait” intending on taking the bracelet of gently so as not to damage it. I realised by over generosity to this mugger and he reasserted his authority by pointing the gun at me, he then took the bracelet and kicked me softly as I got back down to the floor.

They fired a few more shots and were careful to rob everyone in there, wallets, phones and jewellery mostly, before running out the door. After that there was a clear sense energy in the atmosphere, most people stood up with a few people laughing, then a hoard of people ran outside the front, which I don’t really understand. What I found interesting was everyone’s response to this, it’ wasn’t exactly annoyance as you might expect from inner-London dwellers who are sure of the outcome of the situation and it certainly wasn’t the response of a terrorized mass of people at the mercy of armed gunmen. All in all I think their reaction summed up Tanzanian people in general. Well used to their environment, relaxed at the very foundation of their personality and with a unqiue, not quite English, sense of humour about the whole thing.

Whilst of course I lament the loss of some mementoes given by people I care about, I was not overly disturbed by the situation, particularly by the responses of my fellow robeee’s.
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photo by: Mikie