Dinner in the dark
What would you do if you lost your sight from one day to the next? What would you do if you lost your sight after an accident, or because of untreated type I diabetes? Or if you lost it gradually over a period of a few years?
These were some of the stories of the guys and girls we met on a Saturday night. Not very happy stories to start with, but you should have seen their smiles as the evening went on! After losing their sight, through various reasons, they all lost their independence. They also lost jobs (there is no social security in Kenya), some even lost partners. But on this particular Saturday night they were the experts once again in what they were doing, they have a job again, they have some of their independence back, their dignity and they were smiling.
It was Nairobi’s first night of ‘Dinner in the Dark’ or ‘Gizani’ which means ‘in the dark’ in Swahili and we went their with Kate and Neil. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but it sounded very interesting. We bought tickets and on the opening night we found ourselves surrounded by cameramen and photographers and a bunch of other people without phones and watches. The phones and watches had to be handed in at the door as no source of light is allowed into the dining room.
When it was time for dinner we were all lead into the room by our (blind!) waiters, we were going to be served by Evans and Ignatius. We were the first table to be lead into the room, very exciting. The 3 vegetarians on our table were placed at the front of the row (Kate, Jude and William) followed by the other 6 people at our table.
Placing our left hand on top of the left shoulder of the person in front, we were lead into the room through a series of 5 curtains. Ignatius lead us in and Evans closed the line behind Jon. The curtains made sure no light entered the room and soon we were walking in complete darkness having to trust our competent waiters completely for guidance and direction! There was no waiting for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, there was simply no light whatsoever…
Once seated at our table we were told what was on it: a napkin, cutlery, a water glass and a wine glass in front of each person plus a basket of bread (round was brown, flat was white) and some water jugs.
And then dinner was served. We weren’t told what the dishes were, all we knew is that the vegetarians had something vegetarian and the rest didn’t… It was a delicious 3-course meal with accompanying wines served expertly by our waiters. We have no idea how they did it, but they always managed to find you, serve and remove plates, bring you drinks, ask if anything was missing, if the food was good, if we were enjoying ourselves. They were extremely attentive and somehow were always on hand when needed.
Eating with knife and fork can be a bit of a challenge when you cannot see your food (or your plate or your cutlery….), so fingers were regularly used to assist in the eating, but especially in the exploring phase. Just by feeling a shape we could guess some of the things on our plate, but a lot of it was left to our taste buds for final confirmation. They were working overtime that night and were in for a treat!
Conversation can be interesting too, particularly when you don’t know the people at your table well. Without the visual cues, you can’t tell when it is appropriate to speak, if someone is agreeing with your views or even whether someone is even remotely interested in what you are talking about. It takes some getting used to.
Spoiler alert…! If you want to go to Gizani and want to be surprised by everything, don’t read the next 2 paragraphs…!
Somehow we managed not to knock over any glasses, get the food into our mouths and have some conversations with our neighbours. And when we were just enjoying the final spoonfuls of our delicious dessert, our waiters all of a sudden broke out into song! They were all standing near the tables they served and we enjoyed a few beautiful and uplifting songs sung in a capella with different voices coming from all around us.
The food and the songs were both an amazing experience. It seems true what they say that when you can’t see anything your other senses are heightened, perhaps making the food taste even better and the songs sound even more beautiful…
These ‘eat in the dark’ restaurants exist in a lot of places all over the world. We have heard they are in London (a favourity of Prince William and Kate), Paris, Stockholm and even in Sydney. So if you find yourself in one of these cities and fancy a different dining experience for a change we can highly recommend it. Let us know what you thought of it and if it was similar or different to the one in Nairobi!
Gizani will be on every Saturday night at the Tribe Hotel, check it out if you are in Nairobi!