Friday, August 05, 2011

My Brush with Al-Qaeda - Part I

We were all laughing heartily as we reached the hotel lobby, one of my arms around Achieng's shoulder and the other holding my ribs which ached from the night full of humor. My younger sister Loizer was recording everything with a hand-held video camera which surprisingly was still on. Kibe my cousin could barely make it down the last flight, he was not used to so much liquor and humor. Just a few minutes back, a joke from Shiko my other cousin had destroyed all his remaining inhibition and whiskey sprayed from his nose as he was reduced to a cackling mess. The sight of Kibe uncontrollably guffawing while spraying liquor from his nostrils had in turn raptured any remaining decorum we had and we entered the lobby a riant mess.

I figured the hotel staff were accustomed to tourists behaving badly so initially I was not surprised at the lack of attention as our company reached the lobby. It didn't take long to realize however that the staff were not indifferent but rather all their attention was directed at four men at the receptionist desk. The lead man was speaking gruffly holding up a photograph to the receptionist "Is it this man?" he bellowed.

Ominously two of the other men were in full police uniform, with Heckler & Koch MP5 rifles held with one hand tightly against their hips. On their white arm bands, I could make out the words "Anti-Terr"

"Shit" I loudly and unconsciously cursed, simultaneously causing everyone else to stop laughing and sober up. We all turned towards the unfolding drama at the reception desk. The receptionist was nervously typing at her computer "Please give me a minute I confirm sir"

"Come on, what's wrong with you! Do you just book anyone? Hii ndiyo shida ya Waafrika, tunapenda pesa tu sana" The gruff man who I now deduced to be a detective with the anti-terrorism police unit kept bellowing, the menace in his voice only increasing as he switched to Swahili.

The young lady at the reception was now visibly agitated, she wiped her brow as beads of sweat formed on it despite the fact that the lobby was fully air-conditioned.

I turned to Achieng and whispered "do you think they're looking for him?" Achieng's expression was not reassuring and I feared that she was thinking the same thing, that the answer to my question was yes.

"I've got to go, Harry" she mumbled, and started off as if to go back to the apartment.

"No!" I grabbed her arm, stopping her and with a low but firm whisper. "If it's him you'll be in as much trouble, come let's go outside and then you can call to warn him"

---check back tomorrow for Part II

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