They say Ethiopian beauty is unparalleled. That only Persian women come close. They say that Ethiopian women are authentic and genuine and deeply true to themselves. That they haven’t been too westernized {like we are}. That they don’t try to be men. That they use their feminine charm to wield power and influence. That they have a neat blend of natural beauty and grace and smarts.

A colleague of mine at work has been drumming up this utopian poppycock in my head saying, “Luvi, make a trip up North to Ethiopia. You’ll experience the true definition of beauty. Beauty in its truest sense. Beauty in its purest form. Your life will never be the same again.”

(I chuckle at that point…)
“But first off, Luvi, try Asmara. It’s this lofty and exotic Ethiopian place in Pangani. There you’ll get a glimpse, a sneak peak, into the magic of Ethiopian charm. The Master piece of creation.”

(I laugh loudly here)

Because I’m naive, another friend and I drove to Asmara last Sato. I had sold the hype well, and he’d bought it whole – hook, line, and sinker. We were dying to see this life changing beauty. To experience the epitome of feminine charm. To see these model home makers who, we were told, can transform a house into a Haven of peace and immense joy, not an arena for competition and melodrama and ego plays.

Asmara is tucked away along Juja road. A bout 200 metres from Pangani police station – where merchants of hate speech cooled their heels for a few days a while back. Happy days, those. I wish looters of public coffers could be descended upon in a similar fashion. Anyway, I’ll have you know that Asmara has no signage announcing its presence. No loud announcement. Asmara is quiet. Quiet and furtive. Surreptitious even. Asmara is unpretentious. Flashy cars sit outside. We had to confirm from a passer-by if it was indeed the place. We park and stride into its laid back ambience. We pass by this wine red Subaru Forester (second generation) – turbo charged – parked very close to the shy entrance. My heart throbs. First because I’m truly, madly, deeply in love with the Forester, and secondly because I know Subaru was invented for debauchery; so does it embody what’s going down behind the walls of this fortress – unbridled debauchery? We prance inside. Hands in pockets. Feeling cool. Cool and a tinge of inexplicable excitement. We’re swallowed whole by this dimly lit ambience. There’s nothing exotic. No artwork or graffiti of fine assed Ethiopian beauties. No teeming Ethiopian girls with flowing hair and endless legs. No sounds of the Amharic language. The furniture is like anything you see at club mist. RnB music is pulsating from the speakers concealed in the luminous ceiling. Brian McKnight is counting to three or something. We perch ourselves in a corner. A plum waitress ambles over. Red lipstick. Black apron. Chocolate in complexion. She doesn’t look anything Ethiopian. I’m disappointed. She smiles though. My disappointment ebbs somewhat. Her badge reads ‘Maggie’. I call her name out and, smiling back, I sort to know how her day is coming along. You should see her beam with excitement. She says her shift just commenced. She’d taken her two kids – boys – out to lunch and she’d left them happy, riding bikes. “Sometimes they fight a lot,” she chuckles. Maggie’s English is crisp. And she’s got this sharp wit. I’m tempted to ask her how come she’s not at the PR or customer care desk. I tell her we are there to sample Ethiopian cuisine and savour the beauty of Ethiopian women. She bursts into a raucous laughter that almost gets me horny. Up until then, it had never occurred to me that I could make a plum woman with red lipstick and stubby fingers laugh that hard. I deserved an Oscar right there.  Anyway, we placed our order – which she simply crammed. No scribbling stuff down like they do at Java. She sashayed away smiling. I made a mental note to ask people who are about to serve me how their day is coming along more often. And watch them glow as they talk about their kids. I think everyone wants to share their parenting experience. Because no one is ever sure that they’re getting it right. So you share to either get validation or ideas.

She came back 20mins later with a tray of Ethiopian Injera and beef. We dug in. The spices in the beef were fairly mild. They have christened it a name I can’t remember. The injera, which is made from wheat and looks like a thin layer of cloth spread across the tray, had a tinge of sourness. I didn’t like it much. I devoured the beef though. Luckily there was a side dish of fries to save the day. I descended on this perpendicularly. We ate mostly in silence. Our eyes oscillating between the mound of injera before us and this TV screen mounted on a smooth blue wall with a sportpesa logo. We cleared in record time. I now badly wanted a glass of wine to wash it down.

So we sat there with full stomachs and dirty hand’s sipping wine when this pair of girls trotted in. They looked dapper, for lack of a better descriptive word. I peered at the entrance to see if they were in any male company. Zilch. I felt relieved, for no apparent reason. One was in faded jeans and a grey tee. A silvery handbag hung on her shoulders. Her medium height enhanced by her white stilettoes. She was light skinned. Full lips. She didn’t catch my fancy much like the second one; flowery dress with purple as the dominant colour. An inch shorter. Brittle fingers. Thin silvery time piece. Flowing hair (looked natural), shimmering ass, rich skin, mild make-up- if any, chocolate complexion, shiny nails. I didn’t catch the shoes. But at this point it didn’t matter.

I tracked them with my eyes until they disappeared into this cubicle adjacent to that aforementioned blue wall. I shot a knowing look at my guy. We smiled. I knew we’d make a move sooner or later.

Shortly afterwards, kedo five minutes, we see them pop out of that cubicle. I’m fervently hopping that they aren’t leaving. They pass by our table, I smile and say “hello ladies” in the nicest way I could, (my bud is looking in his glass. Coward!), the one in faded jeans just smiles and nodes. The one I fancy doesn’t even look at me. I’m stung a little, no, a lot. My friend laughs at me.  I’m not going to take this lying down. I love a good challenge. I’m a hairy maragoli man with great legs.

Faded jeans steps outside, ostensibly to pick a call. Flowing hair stays there buried in the phone. Thumbing a way a WhatsApp text, I presume. I get to my feet and stride to her table. She lifts her head and meets my name. She smiles drily and mumbles her name. Her palms are soft.

“Can I have a sit, Maria?” I smile back – drily. Never show you’re owed, it lowers your market value.

She nods, smiling some. Faded jeans returns. Her brows ached. A subtle amusement. It’s a game of cards here.

They’d placed an order of Injera. Everyone here – newbies – eat it. It’s the unifying factor of sorts. The common denominator. I motion my boy to join us. I want to balance the ratio here. He grudgingly obliges. We offer to buy wine. They politely but firmly refuse. We insisted. They budge. They insist on only a glass each. We’re impressed by this show of decency and class. Only that with Malbec, one is never enough.

They are Rwandese. As gentle as they come. They’re here for an academic reconnaissance. They intend to join USIU. I ask them why a Kenyan university. They say our quality of education is superior in comparison to theirs. A surge of pride sweeps through me. “So what’s your Kenyan experience so far?” I shoot. “Great! Though we’re only concerned with the raising political temperatures. We hope you guys won’t fight again. {The pride deflates. Quickly replaced with shame}. You look like decent people. What comes over you during elections? There’s always life after elections.” I turn that over in my head… “You look like decent people. There’s always life after elections…”

So to y’all good people inebriated by the euphoria of politics, some cute Rwandan chicks who were born at the height of a genocide think you look like decent people and that there’s life after elections. They think our city is cool and they’re dying to attend our universities. They want peace.  #weareoneinjera


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