Bulawayo Nights: Dancing Queens in Zimbabwe’s City of Kings

By ‘Niyi David

It’s no secret that Bulawayo is laidback and not as rambunctious as Harare, and if you do not inquire, you may miss out thinking it’s a ghost town when the sun goes down. I thought the same, after Mark and I found a club near our accommodation at the Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel, which didn’t offer much fun. Instead, we turned back and settled for some Zambezis and cocktails at the in-house Sithole bar.

It was June, Zimbabwean winter and the nights were freezing. Mark is from South Africa and we had met in Harare, traveling together through the country until we arrived Bulawayo. Our journey so far had made night-outs a no-no, because we were staying in lodges in game reserves and national parks. So it was pretty understandable why we were looking forward to some fun when we arrived the City of Kings.

Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel
View from my room
Cold nights, empty streets…

With temperature dropping to about 5°C in the evenings, it didn’t look like we were going to catch any fun in Bulawayo. We did however on our last night starting off with the closing ceremony of the expo we came for. The legendary Zimbabwean artiste, Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi brought the house down with his performance.

It was past 22:00hrs when Tuku’s concert ended, but we weren’t ready to hit the sack yet. We were contemplating the in-house bar when Tinashe popped into the lobby. Where had he been? I wasn’t sure if I had seen him all day. T-nash, as I like to call him is a Zimbo with a quirky smile. A quick conversation between him and Mark, and their faces lit up with smiles.

The legendary Zimbabwean artiste, Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi (22 September 1952 – 23 January 2019)

The three of us were soon in Tinashe’s car and in less than 10mins, we were on Fife Street. A brief exchange between my two pals, and I heard Mark say something like; “Much later.” Tinashe’s quirky smile grew with a wicked tinge to it. We were shepherded up to a private area, overlooking the dance floor, inside the latest happening spot in the city, Club Connect. We put up our feet, and enjoyed our drinks, while watching feet shuffle and bodies swing to the music.

As the night wore on, I asked Tinashe if there were other night spots worth exploring. His grin seemed inspired either by my question, or the drink that was now resident in him – I wasn’t too sure. Well, he said something to Mark, who took a glance at his wristwatch and went on to down his drink. Mark settled our bill, while Tinashe tried to fool around with one of the serving girls. I looked on wondering where we were off to.

Club Connect shares the same building with Private Lounge…

We didn’t even leave the building to arrive at the Private Lounge, because the two hottest spots in town shared the same edifice. The dance floor was alive and I recognized several colleagues from the expo. Everyone seemed bent on having a ball tonight. We went further in from the main dance floor, and I realized why Tinashe had been all excited.

Every male in the dim-lit room (and some ladies too) was standing around a platform, ogling as strobe lights lit up the slithering white girl doing her routine. The excitement was building up to a climax with each piece of fabric she peeled off her skin, and when her bra came off suddenly freeing her pair of naughty pillows, the male audience went gaga. A glance at Tinashe and I could have sworn he was about to pop his cherries.

I looked away and spotted Mark sitting in the lounge alone. He grinned as I joined him.  A waitress came over, smiling. Mark signaled and she bent down to hear him above the climatic music of the ongoing performance, before sashaying off. The tease came to an end and the lounge filled out as patrons awaited the next performer. Tinashe sat next to me, his quirky smile looking weirder.

The waitress returned with drinks in an ice bucket. Smiling, she leaned forward to open my drink and gave me a generous view of her cleavage. My mouth felt dry. Even without leaning over, her skimpy top was barely restraining those twins. Tinashe smile at her stupidly, as she served him. She leaned towards Mark, whispered in his ear and left, glancing at me as she went.

Soft music played in the background, subduing the din coming from the main dance floor as the stage was being prepared for the next act.

“She asked if you’ll like a lap dance.” Mark spoke. Tinashe guffawed. I bit my lip, reached for a bottle and drank slowly.

“Why didn’t she ask me directly?” I looked at Mark.

“So you want a lap-dance?” Tinashe cackled. I ignored him. Tinashe just never realizes how loud his voice can be. Mark chuckled. “I told her you are a pastor and not interested.”

I smiled at Mark. “Aren’t you getting one?

“Eish! Ha, my king. You know I’m married. I can’t do that.”

I nodded and shot out my hand towards him. We fist-bumped. I glanced at Tinashe, raising an eyebrow. He looked at me curiously.

“What? Ah! If you pay for it, why not?” He guffawed. Mark and I laughed, and we sat back enjoying our drinks. After a while, I turned to Mark, “When are we leaving?”

It was past 02:00hrs. “When you’re ready, my king.” He took a long draught. A new girl was on the platform, gyrating slowly to the tempo of the music as she worked her routine. It was time to leave. I stood up.

“Can’t we go after this?” Tinashe asked.

“No. We’re leaving. Or we drive your car and leave you here.”

Tinashe beamed his quirky smile as Mark pulled him up. Suddenly, I felt a tingle shoot through me and turned to see the waitress beside me, smiling. Flustered, I tried to smile back as Mark settled the bill. As we walked off, I turned back and caught her eye. Maybe, I’ll return later, today – or some other time. Maybe, I won’t.


This article was first published as “Nightlife in Bulawayo: Dancing Queens in the City of Kings” in the South Africa edition of S.E.E. AFRICA® magazine in 2018.

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