The roadtrip that roared: #9 Harare and Coffee

travel journalHarare is where I was brought up – it feels like home. When we arrived back in the capital, it was great to re-visit familiar places and explore new ones – and by ‘places’, I mainly mean eateries!

First stop was The Plot which is true to its name – a cafe situated at the edge of a veg and flower garden. We went for breakfast – there are few things better than a huge blueberry muffin (and cream), a good cup of coffee, and a warm ray of sunshine on your back.

That afternoon we went to The Cottage – another lovely coffee shop – which is in the lovely gardens of the Christian Counselling Centre. Oh my, the cake: it was huge and delicious.

Avondale Harare Street

Avondale flea market was our next stop – I wanted to get some second-hand reference books (which took more price negotiating than I’d expected). I saw men playing chess using bottletops in one of the stalls – it’s that sort of place where business and socialising mix in a laid-back way. As I walked past a table of bright fabrics, I was drawn in by a smiling woman who instructed me to call her ‘Mama’. She was such a good saleswoman that I walked away with a new wall hanging – I just couldn’t say no to her! She pointed to beaded animals that her children had made; she explained that she personally dyed all of her fabrics; that it costs $10 per day just to keep her shop going. All in such a jovial way that I couldn’t leave empty-handed.

You’re going to think that I did nothing except eat cake: The next day, another cafe was on the list, called The Olive. I went with an old school friend and we chatted in the garden under white umbrellas. The cafe is in an old Cape Dutch-style house, with a library upstairs and a craft shop at the bottom.

Harare - Cape Dutch style house

Another shopping stop, this time at Borrowdale Village, which had been extended since the last time I was there. Even more electronics shops and restaurants than before! My friend bought a food processor – a state-of-the-art, all-singing-all-dancing number that any cook in the UK would love. I’m not sure how many people buy them in Zimbabwe, but they are there for the taking!

One of the things on my holiday hit list was to have Mozambican prawns, as I have happy memories of having these at Millers at my hen party – they were delicious. So, just to check standards hadn’t dropped, we returned to Millers Grill. I had brie and bacon to start, and then the long-awated prawns, which didn’t disappoint. It was a belated birthday/wedding anniversary gift from my parents-in-law, and at the end of the night the waiters congregated around us to sing happy birthday to Ben and I in true Zimbabwean style (people who’ve heard it will know what I mean).They presented us with brandy chocolate mousses with ‘happy birthday’ written round the plate in chocolate – a treat from our friend who’s the manger there.

After a few exciting days in Mana Pools, we returned to Harare and I returned to the important business of shopping and eating (which I justified by calling it ‘Research’). Kikis is run from a family home in Umwinsidale, and it stocks furniture, pottery, jewellery, art and other collectables made in Zimbabwe. The owner offered us a cup of coffee to enjoy while we browsed. If I had the budget (and baggage allowance) of a king, I’d have bought half the shop!

Kikis Harare

We also went into the city centre, around Harare Gardens where flower sellers abound. The last time I’d been in the centre of town it was fairly messy, with litter lining the streets. This time it looked almost fresh – a lot of work had clearly been put into cleaning the place up, which I’m sure is very encouraging for the thousands of people who work there every day.

We also visited Willowmead which was lovely, as usual. There was a Zimbabwean cookbook I would have loved to buy – but it was US $50 – completely out of my price range!

My short stay in Harare was a bit of a fairytale, much like most holidays: far removed from the daily struggles of the people who live there. We experienced power cuts, but were only faintly inconvenienced by these. During the day, we used a gas stove to make our cups of tea; and during the night, we had the luxury of a generator which was connected to the mains of the house.

All of the restaurants and coffee shops we visited were fully equipped with machines to defend them against the cuts. After so many years of this sort of problem, they know what to do. There were also constant water cuts – which mainly went unnoticed because a borehole pumps water into the house tanks when this happens. The only worry is how long the underground water will last. The casual resourcefulness of Zimbabweans is to be admired, and the availability of things like generators and boreholes is great – for those who can afford them. But clearly these are for the lucky minority.

Read the next post of the series: #10 Mana Pools: Reassuringly Wild

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Beth is the founder of Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog: Zimbabwe’s first and longest-running independent online travel guide, created in 2010.

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