Samora Machel Avenue has to be the longest road I’ve ever driven. It cuts through suburbs, the hustle and bustle of Harare’s central business district, branching off into its many little tributaries that run through the city. It is long, straight, rarely bends, and serves as an artery to the capital city’s daily pulse.
My journey on Samora Machel begins in Belvedere. A short right turn at the traffic lights by Marimba Shopping Centre and we’re on the road. It’s 10am, so the road isn’t full yet, but I’m not fooled by the thin traffic – I’ve driven down Samora during peak hours. I know how bottled up this narrow strip of road can get.
We drive along and soon enough we hit the part of the long road that announces that we’re officially in town. A giant advert for Cerevita looms before us and we pass under its shadow, stopping at one of many intersections.
There are three buildings that define Samora Machel for me. The Reserve Bank is the first. It looms above the others, with its glass-paned exterior reflecting the morning sunlight. Then the courts, bearing the name of a long-dead ancestor whose name my mother can’t remember. On the opposite end of the street is the President’s office. The two buildings look identical, and I notice the colonial elements in their design. Remnants of colonial aesthetics are still sprinkled around Harare. My mother reminds me of a road that still bears the name of Cecil John Rhodes.
Cars dominate Samora Machel Avenue, but there is no shortage of pedestrian traffic. People queuing outside banks hoping to get some money. The neverending stream that crosses the street when the traffic light turns green. Vendors and workers fill the sidewalk. Some pedestrians weave through the cars, with bicycles and motorbikes negotiating their way through the road. It’s the pedestrians that set the tempo for Samora Machel, from sunrise to sundown.
Samora Machel Avenue is one of the many reasons I love my city. Harare has its fair share of problems and difficulties (problems shared by other cities and towns in Zimbabwe), but it has a special place in my heart. Samora Machel encapsulates the energy and sheer endurance that I’ve come to associate with Harare. I can’t wait to drive down one of my favourite roads again.
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