This leg belongs to the woman who works at Barka restaurant in Old Town. She was wearing the full Muslim hijab, covered head to toe, but I could see she had a nice henna design on her hands and I asked if I could take a photo and she agreed, lifting her sleeves to show the rest of the pattern. Then, totally unprovoked, she hiked up her robe to her knees to show another design on her legs. I begged to have a photo of her face, but she said only if I took her to America.
I stopped to chat with Yassin of Yassin Hair Cuts in Mombasa’s Old Town district. He made a pitch to cut my hair. I asked if he had cut mzungu (white man) hair before, and he just laughed. The laugh could have meant yes or no, but I figured that even with a bad haircut, I’m not seeing any friends for a couple of months anyway, so what the heck?
Yassin pointed to a large poster of the Manchester United soccer team on the wall and asked what haircut I wanted. I wasn’t prepared for this and everyone seemed to have the same style in the photo, so I just blurted out “Berbatov”, Dimitar Berbatov, the Bulgarian international striker. I must be the first and last person in any country to want Dimitar Berbatov’s hair style, as it’s not a good look.
Whatever. I decided to let Yassin’s artistic vision run free, though in the end I could have said anybody as I was getting the same Edward Scissorhands cut. It was over in minutes, done entirely in shears save for the bangs where he dug out some scissors from the bottom of a drawer. He even went the extra mile and left the post-match Berbatov rake look on the front.
Lonely Planet says something about Mombasa that you either “love it or loathe it”, but who in their right mind wouldn’t love Mombasa? I’m not sure I can be friends with such a person. I just don’t see it. Maybe I have tunnel vision and I am happy to occupy myself with anything until the next excellent meal, but I like walking the streets, too, seeing what there is to see, jabbering with anyone.
The Old Town has great atmosphere but I don’t have any evocative photos of it. Its appeal doesn’t show when I think of snapping a photo of a dilapidated building or a ho-hum side street, rather it’s the fact that it’s a living, breathing neighborhood with a rich history, a colorful mix of people, and unbending towards tourists unlike Zanzibar’s Stone Town, I am hearing. (I am just making up reasons why I don’t have good photos.)
Finally it’s warm. Nairobi is almost right on the equator, but it is at elevation and you would never know it. On the coast it’s hot and steamy. I don’t intend to wear long pants for a long while unless I am avoiding mosquitoes, which could be a good idea as I’m not taking malaria pills.