SOMETIME in June 1996, as a young reporter at the state-owned newspapers of ‘Daily News’ and ‘Sunday News’, I was privileged to accompany a group of Tanzanian tour operators for a 10-day tour of South Africa’s historical and tourist attractions.
There were also two other seasonal journalists, Mr Mwang’onda and Penzi Nyamungumi, who were then working at Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam (RTD).
The trip took us to many historical and tourist attractions in major cities of South Africa, including Johannesburg, Sun City, Durban and Cape Town.
It is through this trip that I came across Mahad Nur, who was then a young and an enterprising intern at Cape Sun Intercontinental Hotel at the heart of the historical city of Cape Town.
There was something extra-ordinary about the welcoming culture in most of the hotels we stayed in various parts of South Africa. You are given a glass of juice or a glass of water right from the main entrance.
As the Tanzanian group was entering Cape Sun Intercontinental Hotel, which is still one of biggest hotels in South Africa today, a young and polite hotel attendant, whom I later came to know as Mahad Nur approached me and asked if I needed a drink or anything to eat.
To me this sounded as a favour and unusual gesture.Although I settled for a passion juice, I couldn’t help it, but wanted to understand more about this young man, who by intent, looked as if he was just dedicated to serve me.
After some conversations, he later revealed to me that he was originally from Somalia and that he was in South Africa for internship stint studying Hotels Management at one of the universities in Geneva, Switzerland.
This is the man, who later came to be known as Mahad Nur, who died in the fateful bomb blast in Kisimayu, Somalia recently.
After some years, the second point of contacts was in Bagamoyo, where Mahad Nur’s family was operating a hotel called Paradise. When we met there, we were able to remember each other.
The hotel was later gutted down by fire 17 years ago. Since then Mahad and his brother Mohamed became close friends of mine and we had a lot that brought us together.
A week wouldn’t pass without meeting in one of the city joints of Dar es Salaam.
At one time, Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner (RC), Paul Makonda had planned to meet religious leaders and the cost of holding that conference were beyond his reach.
We decided to approach Mahad to shoulder some of the costs.After floating a proposal, Mahad happily accepted to provide 15m/-to feed more than 800 delegates, who were expected to attend the religious enclave at Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre.
What surprised me most was that Mahad did not just promise to finance the meeting, but also asked me to assure the RC that he was ready to support the religious meeting of similar nature.
In my last meeting with him at a city super market, he promised to take me to his new shoes factory in Kigamboni and the roadmap was as soon as I arrive in Dar es Salaam would visit the factory.
Last week, I received a rather challenging twitter message from Mahad from Somalia. In that message, he claimed that he was taking his children to Somalia to show them their native home. I received the message with mixed feelings. In one part I thought Mahad was doing the greatest thing for the family to understand their loyal routes and ancestral home, but, on the other hand, I painfully thought he was risking too much to go to Somalia now in a country believed to be engulfed by militant al Shabab operatives.
“Anyway, all will be fine,” I told myself with a belief that security must have improved considerably with interventions from multiple deployments of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in different African countries.
It came as a shock to note that Mahad was one of the people killed in that tragic attack that also claimed many other lives.
Mahad’s life on earth touched many lives, including me. It is difficult to accept that he is no more. I can only hope that God will strengthen the family and close relatives to withstand this difficult moment in their lives.
We will miss you brother Mahad. Adios amigo brother.