The Legend Of The Mango Trees In Bungi

It wasn’t the most comfortable ride but Tanzania kept me enchanted in such a way that even the most unnerving incident could hardly irritate me. Everything about the place was like some captivating cuisine that left your palates wanting for more – from the Swahili that crushed your English, all the way to the tempting lure of the Kilimanjaro beer while being sun-kissed by the blazing sun. I devoured everything that it offered, most especially the intoxicating stories of old. One particular story that captivated me was about the line of mature mango trees in Bungi, Zanzibar.

trees to bi khole

According to the local legend, the trees were Bi Khole’s idea. Bi Khole Binti Said bin Sultan was born to an Assyrian slave of her father, the sultan. Of all his daughters, she was heralded as the most beautiful and she used her beauty to bewitch men. It was said that in one of the performances during an Arab Sword Dance at Beit Sahel Palace, one participant was so enthralled by her appearance that he did not notice that he had accidentally sliced his knee. She knew what her beauty was capable of, thus she used it to get what she wanted. She was believed to have had such an unquenchable desire for beautiful young men that she kept many lovers but did not keep them too long. When she grew tired of a lover, she will have him beheaded and will then order her slave to bury the head  under the mango tree that will be newly planted. Each mango tree represented a lover whom she had slept with. She also intended to extend the avenue of mango trees all the way to Stone Town, but apparently ran out of mangoes (or maybe, men?).

The avenue provided shade along the long narrow road which created a fantastic spread of color and fruit most of the year – a disturbing offering by those who were killed, if I might add, after knowing the morbid truth.

While I was trying to digest the story on our way to Paje, I squinted to count the trees on my side of the road while my friend counted the ones on hers. Mine totaled to 208 and she counted 135 which summed up to 343. 343! I could just imagine how busy her private life was, and her sexual prowess was probably unmatched up to this day. (I have even arrived to a conclusion that she might have had some sort of sexually transmitted disease that was yet to be named.) I wondered too if the men succumbed to her whims without a fight, with the hope that maybe they might be the one who will change the princess’ mind (like how the Arabian Nights’ tale went on about the sultan and his many wives) or were they forced to accept their impending doom. All I can do is wonder because, try as I may, I could not find any information beyond what was just narrated. There is no redemption for this story. It ended where it started and Bi Khole will always be the princess who kept and beheaded her lovers.

My thoughts were interrupted by honking horns of passing vehicles as it was also believed that those who used the route needed to pay homage to those who died or else they will be cursed.

Obviously, this story too is just one of the countless proofs of the existence of that ignominious club of privileged people who abused their positions to take advantage of someone for their own personal satisfaction or gain. We have watched similar cases evolve through the years, putting on different faces, but always with the same kernel as the Bi Khole legend. The face can be as widespread as the corruption that permeates in all levels of society where bureaucrats rarely follow existing regulations; whilst ordinary citizens pay bribes to complete transactions, with an additive of having to endure fanatical neglect of basic government services. It took the face of  Gaddafi’s nepotism and Roger Vangheluwe’s abuse scandal. It masked itself in the amendments made to Mozambique’s Criminal Code which, if approved this month by its parliament, will allow an accused person of sexual offences to escape prosecution if they married the person they abused. These faces brought thousands to their knees and left them groveling, gave imbeciles power, and killed nations as swiftly as one can beg for mercy.

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