Ladies’ Loads

A woman passes down a street with her business on her head.

Just now she passes, one of the ladies doing business around.

She’s cooking for the construction workers and truck drivers at a large new apartment block being built around the corner.

I see her very early every day, a baby tied in a kanga on the back, a two liter thermos in her right arm and a huge plastic bowl with cups and plates or a bundle of wood on her head.

Women here know how to carry buckets of up to 20 liters of water, stabilized by one arm and then walking in perfect balance without any spillage.

The other day I couldn’t believe my eyes as I saw a lady casually walking along a busy road with an axe on her head. Of course wood is part of cooking and therefore it must be cut.

A woman passes down a street with her business on her head.

The ladies continue their walking, carrying their whole business on their heads.

Others walk the roads with huge plastic bowls full of fruits such as banana, mango, oranges or sometimes cassava and maize depending on the season — it must weigh at least seven to ten kilos.

They definitely don’t live around the corner nor is their business restricted to location.

The fruit sellers just walk on until their wares are sold.

The cooking business is semi-permanent and moves on as soon as the customers do.

In other words, one day when the building project ends the business will be gone as well.

However, for sure it will spring up at some corner or under another big tree somewhere, wherever money is to be made.

And the ladies continue their walking, carrying their whole business on their heads.

Report a typo: highlight the text in question and press Ctrl+Enter to report.

About the Author

Josie van den Hoek

Josie first visited Dar es Salaam in 2000 and is still here. She writes about encounters on her daily walks and Tanzanian life.