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Monday, August 29, 2011
Mtwapa’s fleshy goldmine
Mtwapa is as inconspicuous as any of the sleepy coastal towns dotting the Mombasa-Malindi road. But come nightfall and this bustling cultural melting pot awakens into the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, writes CRAZY MONDAY CORRESPONDENT
By seven o’clock, the subtle daytime subterfuge of languid salaams at every encounter and the unwritten "no staring at women" gives way to a furtive gold rush: A vast nighttime trade in flesh.
Consequently, M-pesa agencies, taxi and boda boda operators, food kiosks, hotels and bars routinely open shop to the wee hours of the morning, making Mtwapa, arguably, Kenya’s sole 24hour economy, its last capitalist frontier.
Mrefu, a cynical resident, has seen it all.
He declares that the once famed "Mombasa raha", coastal allure, has shifted north to Mtwapa.
But, he says, you only get as much as you are ready to pay for, leaving the town’s full salacious banquet largely unexplored.
"Mtwapa is like a mountain where climbers retire at various heights depending on their age, strength and preparation", says Mrefu.
Naturally, he adds, such climbers often return, eager to get to the summit.
"Hapa unaweza kumaliza pesa zote unazokuja nazo (you can finish all your money)," he warns.
We start at an up market pub with a chic and cosmopolitan clientele.
After our eyes adjust to the dim light, we notice an inordinate number of Caucasian patrons marveling at Mtwapa’s electrifying nocturnal migration.
The dance floor is packed full of women gyrating to fast pop numbers.
They are dressed in revealing mini-skirts. Flesh and more flesh everywhere you look.
"Perhaps a foreign naval ship has docked at Mombasa," suggests Mrefu.
The girls are petite and collegiate, giving the establishment a youthful dot.com look.
They talk in flawless English and a smattering of foreign languages.
We invite a "decently" dressed girl, in a knee length mini-skirt qualifies as such, to our table.
Originally from Murang’a and a student at a local university campus, Kate often comes to hang around Mtwapa on weekends to cash in on the famed tourism gold rush.
"A girl needs several things and it is embarrassing to keep bothering my parents every now and then", she says.
"I go for wazungu and rich African men, but you have to be careful. There is a lot of perversion around here", she adds.
Whips and handcuffs
She has leant to trust her gut feelings on the first impression that her clients make and to discreetly look for revealing signs in their cars and bedrooms — things like whips, hidden cameras, ropes, handcuffs and other fetish objects.
At a table next to us, a young tourist is getting fresh with the local beauty in his lap.
His hands are all over her, fishing in places that would shock the average church choir member to death.
He takes out his finger ring and tries it on the toes of his rented lover.
We hit the street. Leaning against lamp posts and standing on every strategic corner are dozens of twilight girls.
Occasionally, big cars slowly drive past.
Once in a while, the drivers stop, haggle briefly and the contraband hops aboard.
"Si mseme mnataka aje? (What’s your specialty?)", a 20- something beauty asks breathlessly.
Mrefu, shoves her away with unprintable words.
But matching him word for word, the girl scours up racy and salacious insults that are delivered with devastating panache.
A crowd of cheering onlookers starts gathering.
We scatter and come face to face with a boda boda operator and his woman at a secluded corridor rocking away to the sound of music spilling from a nearby pub.
Mrefu was right. Every sin in Mtwapa is highly individualised to a client’s pocket and special circumstances.
We enter a down market pub. Benga music is playing and there are dozens of plus-sized local women squeezed into ill-fitting mini-skirts, skimpy tops and panty hoses.
The accidental bumping of people into each other on the dance floor is an excuse to bump into thick flesh, and it is taken kindly.
Local men sip their drinks quietly, their eyes glued on the free eye fest on stage.
Others are on the fences and in doorways, negotiating. It’s a free market.
In the thick of the dancing clubbers, a super-sized queen materialises and everybody makes space for her.
A lone mzungu man sits at the counter, his eyes locked onto the lithe Amazon doing spicy manoeuvres on the dance floor, his face a study in concentration.
True african woman
She bends over, leaving little to the imagination, and wriggles her ample backside like it’s aflame.
Patrons cheer wildly. Bank notes fly in the air. The lone mzungu smiles, walks over and thrusts a Sh1,000 note in her cleavage.
"We serve Africans, wazungu and other nationalities who appreciate the true African woman", the manager says when we enquire, adding he has never needed to advertise.
"It’s word of mouth. They come to Africa, get a truly African experience at my pub, go back home and recommend other visitors!"
There is an overpowering aroma of raw lust intermingled with cigarette fumes and the smell of perspiration in the air.
It’s as if the patrons lose their individual selves and become hypnotised by the obscenity of rampant gyrating flesh, liqour and heady Benga tunes.
Mtwapa’s burgeoning middle class frequents the next pub we visit.
We are in time for a strip show. The DJ ups his antics, no doubt lying through his teeth when he introduces the first dancer as a freshly minted virgin from SouthSudan.
By and by, beauties allegedly from Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda are paraded.
A parade it is because the dancers are, in actual fact, soliciting for clients who want the real thing, at a fee, in a separate room in the same establishment.
But like everything else in Mtwapa, you either know or you don’t.
We beckon the "Tanzanian" and express real interest.
We are quickly shown to a different "revelation room" complete with a bar counter, dim light and red sofa sets.
The "Tanzanian" joins us and starts getting "ready." We hurriedly stop her. "We just want to talk. We will pay." She obliges.
In Mtwapa, a woman’s name is whatever she says it is, so she is Perris, from Nyeri.
As a professional dancer who has appeared in several music DVDs and CDs.
Peris learnt of the Mtwapa gold rush from a friend, came prospecting and now earns up to Sh2,000 from clients’ tips per day.
"If there are other arrangements, like home entertainment at individualised parties, we often charge up to Sh20,000 per event per person," she says.
Perris says part of the fees paid in the "revelation room" goes to the strippers while the rest is retained by the establishment.
"In addition, the stripper who takes clients to the ‘revelation room’ signs up her name in a register so that the management can track who brings the most business and consequently give her a bonus along with her monthly salary", she says.
The next morning, she will stroll through Mtwapa’s now respectable streets to her little house, her tax-free spoils snug in her purse.
As she firmly shut the decadence of the night behind her, the cock will crow thrice and municipal council workers will throng the market, hustling tax from matronly women selling mahamri.