Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ally Keys Runs This Town

I'll post later about Kelly and my arrival in Zanzibar and its attendant weirdnesses, but we eventually settled into a nice, safe hotel in Stone Town.

Stone Town is located on the western, port side of Zanzibar. There are plenty of amazing beaches to the north and east side of the island. So, one morning, Kelly and I decided to rent scooters and zip out to one or two sandy paradises.

We let our hotel know and headed up to the rooftop bar for breakfast. After about 15 minutes, a shady-looking character sidled up to our table.

"I heard you are looking to rent a scooter," he said. We looked at each did he know? And should we trust him?

He sat down with us and negotiated modestly, showing us a cell phone video of some British tourists ineffectively driving around on scooters and urging us to rent a car to avoid making fools of ourselves.

We rented the car, he wrote us out a Zanzibar driver's permit and gave us his business card: "Ally Keys...a colourful character."

In 30 minutes, one of Ally's many minions showed up at our hotel with the car, and drove us most of the way out of town. He took the time to educate us in Zanzibar's driving laws, which rival talmudic arguments in their complexity. Then, he turned us loose, saying: "There will be police stops on the way. If too much bla bla bla from cop, just say 'Ally Keys.'"

We both thought "Yeah, right." But we were stopped 3 times. Each time, we expected to have to pay some sort of bribe, but no. We just said Ally Keys, and the police gates swung open.

When we got to the beach (1 hour away from Stone Town), a random gentleman on a bicycle saw us driving around and directed us to a parking spot. "You rent car from Ally Keys?" he said.

"Um yeah," we said. He smiled, waved and biked off.

On the way back, we couldn't figure out how to get the car to Ally Key's office, so we tried to temporarily park in a "no parking" spot at a hotel. We were immediately surrounded by guards. Kelly an I started babbling to them out of either side of the car, telling them we were lost, tourists, etc. But they were implacable, until we said: "WE RENTED THIS CAR FROM ALLY KEYS."

Then they smiled, showed us to a parking spot, and called Ally Keys (apparently, everyone on Zanzibar has this guy's number). A minion appeared in 10 minutes, took the car away, and that was that.

Anyway, check it out: Ally Keys. If it needs keys, and is located on Zanzibar: scooters, cars, houses, WHATEVER...Ally Keys is the man to call.

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