I’d like to open by stating that I have always been frightened of the dark. I was one of those children that slept with the light on because I was absolutely sure that the monsters resided under my bed. I still think they do. I just don’t do dark. Living in Kenya with the constant black outs is hard enough for me. Then the opportunity to dine in the dark came up and chance for me to face my fears? Challenge accepted!!! I arrived at Tribe village market in true African fashion. Late. They’ve turned one of their meeting halls down by the pool into this restaurant. Once you enter, there’s a small reception area where you can have a drink while you wait to be seated. You are reminded to leave all your belongings in their safe hands. NO flashy or reflective objects allowed in the dark room. Because I arrived late, I had to wait till the second course was being served giving me an opportunity to meet with Abdul Kamara, the visually impaired founder of Gizani. A very kind man packed with tons of degrees including a law degree. He spoke highly of his wife and family and told me tales of his travels. He claimed the reason behind this particular endeavor was sheer boredom and for a second there I imagined my boredom transforming miraculously into a restaurant. Dreams are valid! I was quickly whisked away from that conversation and into a brief overview of what to expect. Gizani is basically dining in total darkness, while guided and served by blind people. The purpose for this being to create a complete sensory journey forcing us to solely depend on our sense of taste and smell and sometimes touch. Another idea is to be led by the blind for a change. A case of the blind leading the blind perhaps?
Guided by Laura, my bubbly and full of energy new best friend, she instructs me to place my left hand on her shoulder and follow her behind a set of curtains where it gets completely dark. Trying to keep up with her pace, I kept asking her to slow down. This was the scariest part for me. You could hear the mumbles of other diners and I remember at some point trying to focus in on the voices and see if I would recognize any of them. After what seemed like an hour of walking, I finally arrive at my table. Laura instructs me exactly where to sit helping me pull out my chair. Once I’m all settled, I begin to feel a certain comfort. I can do this! Laura and Ken (our waiter) begin by introducing me to the other people on my table and explaining where all the cutlery and crockery are.
‘If you want bread rolls’ she explains, ‘they are in a basket in the middle of the table. The round ones are white and the flat ones are brown’.
I’d like to take this opportunity to add, please make sure you wash your hands when you blind dine because between shaking new hands and finding my bread rolls, this isn’t the most hygienic way to eat. I pass on the rolls.
When my main course arrives, I already feel like a pro at being blind. Let me tell you, what your eyes don’t see, your mouth can’t taste. My meal was mostly easy to recognize; the sticky rice was obviously a risotto with batter-coated vegetable which seemed like tempura to me. But there was these leafy greens (I assumed) that took me about 15 minutes to realize were spinach. Dessert was also quite simple to figure out. I guessed a crème brulee and was correct. You only see the meals once you’ve left the room. I got about 90% of mine right. Walking out with my whole table at tow was a lot more encouraging as by this time I had gotten to know them and we had formed a trusted bond. My lesson here is: I think it takes a whole lot of practice to get used to no sight but mostly you are in charge of the things you don’t see, leaving your imagination to take the lead. This means that anything can be anything and there’s something to be said about that. Blind dining isn’t particularly anything I would do again, but the experience was definitely not as traumatizing as I thought it would be. Something I would highly recommend if for nothing, good conversation.