The African City

“Even at their best, African cities seemed to me miserable improvised anthills, attracting the poor and the desperate from the bush and turning them into thieves and devisers of cruel scams. Scamming is the survival mode in a city where tribal niceties do not apply and there are no sanctions except those of the police, a class of people who in Africa generally are little more than licensed thieves […] I swore that I would never return to the stinking buses, the city streets reeking of piss, the lying politicians, the schemers, the twaddlers, the crooks, the moneychangers taking advantage of weak currency and gullible people, the American God-botherers and evangelists demanding baptisms and screaming “Sinners!” – and forty years of virtue-industry CEOs faffing around with other people’s money and getting no results, except Africans asking for more […] Perhaps that was why I liked rural Africa so much and avoided towns, because in villages I saw self-sufficiency and sustainable agriculture. In the towns and cities, not the villages, I felt the full weight of all the broken promises and thwarted hope and cynicism.”

– Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town

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Clouds Over Kigali

My relationship with Rwanda began with total rejection. I went there for two months last summer to do an internship with a local newspaper.

As our small, half-empty plane attempted to descend upon it, Kigali deployed the most beautiful fortifications I have ever seen. The city laughed in our silly pasty-white muzungu (non-African) faces while managing to seduce us at the same time.

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