The rugged shores of Africa emerged from the early morning mist. Harry stood on the aft deck of the East Indiaman Trader, taking a first look at the mysterious place he would call home. Why did he feel such a strong familiarity with this strange, legendary continent? Stepping onto its sandy beach and feeling the warmth of the African soil seeping into his bare feet, he felt at home for the first time. Any doubts or misgivings about this new life he had chosen evaporated. At that moment, he experienced the stirring of a fire that would rage in his belly for the next forty years.
Harry quickly set about clumsily greeting the small group of village elders who had gathered on the beach to welcome the landing party. He spent an exhausting two days unloading the precious cargo of beads, raw textiles and mild steel, destined for the trading towns of East Africa. Having covered his commitment to the captain, Harry and his new friend and guide, Tiki, disappeared into the vastness of Africa, without so much as a backward glance, to seek their own fame and fortune.
42 years later, Harry sat pondering his life, comfortable in the warm sun on the banks of the Bitou River. Only two thoughts crossed his mind, could he have finally discovered a place fit to settle, and where was Emily?
Harry thought back to the first time he laid eyes on her, and had in reality, fallen in love. He was reclining on the rooftop balcony of Emerson’s Hotel and Bar, in Stone Town, Zanzibar. An ice-cold tucker washing away the dust from his parched throat, the last hunt in the Rafiki Delta fresh in his mind, when he heard Emily scream. Not a regular ladylike scream, but one of pure frustration and anger.
Harry was quick to react. As he rounded the corner he saw Emily for the first time, hanging onto to her satchel determinedly, the robed thief trying to wrest it from her with just as much vigor. Seeing Harry, the thief took off dropping the bag and spilling all of Emily’s precious watercolor paintings and beloved camera onto the cobblestone path.
Instantaneously, they both stooped down to collect the valuable artwork, Emily brushed off Harry’s helping hand, stood up and announced what she really needed was a drink!
The pair spent the next five days at Emerson’s, only leaving the room to watch the sun go down over the city and to see the skilled dhow captains tacking into the harbour. There, Emily and Harry began a passionate, African love affair, each going their own way for long periods of time, but somehow always finding each other in the vastness of the continent, resuming their romance exactly where it had left off.
Tiki’s cry from above the embankment stirred Harry from his daydream. The camp was set up – much in the same spot where Emily’s Restaurant sits today – and their lunch of freshly baked bread and smoked ham was ready. Harry’s lifelong adventure in Africa would never have been the same without Tiki and Fari who had remained his close companions ever since their first chance meeting the day he arrived in Africa.
After lunch, Harry resumed his position on the bank, reaching into his bag for a writing kit, containing a few sheets of worn paper and a practically unused silver pen – a farewell gift from his father. He settled down between the swaying grass, jotting down nostalgic thoughts for a letter he would write to his beloved Emily.
“My dearest Emily, I have found paradise…”