Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

18 February 2013

Tanzania: Many People Migrated to Karatu On 'Valentines' Day!'

IF you like 'one for the road,' then better be sure to travel at night while going through Karatu town, because a new by-law has just been effected in the District; 'it is illegal to drink during the day.'

And the Karatu District Commissioner, Mr Felix Ntibenda who is popularly known there as 'Kijiko,' is mincing no words on that, which means he won't hesitate to throw anybody who defies this new directive into a police cell for the night before whisking him or her to court the following morning.

But it happens that the residents of Karatu, most of whom belong s to 'Iraki,' community, love their bottles to a fault, in fact they normally swear on the drink, which means the new law is disastrous to them as the meteorite which struck Russia last week. Speaking of Meteorites, one such asteroid reportedly crashed onto Karatu soil nearly 50 years ago, the 11th of September, 1963.

It was one of the three Meteorite falls documented in Tanzania with other two recorded in Mbeya earlier on. Never mind but before the new by-law which bans drinking alcohol during work hours was adopted in Karatu, most residents used to start staggering while singing circumcision songs in their stupor, from as early as 'Nine,' in the morning.

"People stopped working; farms were being overgrown with shrubs while the people who were supposed to be cultivating them continued being hit by vehicles as they tried to cross the road under influence of alcohol," pointed out the No-nonsense Kijiko. But there is more to Karatu vices than just the frothy liquids served at the right temperature; last Thursday, the 14th of February, for instance, something funny was observed in the township; all the hotels and guest houses were fully booked.

That should be strange, because Karatu happens to have more guest houses and hotels than probably even Arusha City and every two weeks a new guest house or hotel, is built, yet all these were fully packed on that day. And the day in question happened to have been the so-called, 'Valentines' Day,' which is essentially a global observation of love, romance and (in case the situation calls of it) marriage.

Now very few people live in Karatu town, usually those seen in the area during the day arrive there in the morning for business, shopping or attending local market auctions, and then leave the township before sundown, heading back to their homes located far away in rural parts of the district.

The other part of Karatu population, albeit a temporary one, would consist of travellers, especially tourists who normally stop briefly at the town on their way to visit the Ngorongoro Crater or Serengeti National Park or even as they drive to the luxurious tourist hotels located further in the wilderness of the district. B ut it is not yet tourists' season, which means foreign visitors should be very few at the moment.

It is also the farming season countrywide, meaning even the Lake-Zone bound local travellers who usually pass through Karatu on their way to, or from Mara, Simiyu or Shinyanga via Ngorongoro and Serengeti are few because most people are now busy cultivating their lands. Yet on the 14th of February, Karatu was packed to capacity by people who made guest houses in town to display the 'No Vacancy,' plaques on their entrance doors.

A brief observation revealed that most of the occupants of the inns were patrons from mostly Arusha City. But why would anybody in this case, choose to travel more than 200 kilometres from Arusha, either using public transport or private car, in order to spend a single evening in Karatu?

Maybe because one must go through Karatu in order to get to the Ngorongoro Crater to view the Caldera wildlife, which earlier last week, was voted among the 'Seven New Wonders of Nature,' in Africa. B ut most Tanzanians wouldn't give a toss on National Parks, Wildlife or any form of Natural resource on a day like 'Valentines' Day,' which like Christmas, only comes once a year and even worse, the 14th of February mayhem usually starts at 'Six,' in the evening which means every minute should count.

As 'research,' on what usually attracts people to Karatu on the 14th day of each February continues, maybe the origin of the local residents and especially their biological morphology, should provide a clue. The 'Iraki,' are sometimes called 'Wa-mbulu,' since they had initially occupied the 'Mbulu-Mbulu' escarpments adjoining the Northern Highland Forest Reserve of Karatu before spreading further to the 'Mbulu District' which was later named after them.

But it is the beauty of the Iraki women which is legendary! They feature yellowishbrown skin complexion, long locks of black hair and 'Cleopatra noses,' courtesy of their Abyssinian heritage. Now the damsels are said to wield great powers to make Karatu a popular destination for 'domestic tourism!'

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