Kidnapped In Africa – Part 2

Adrian Qais 17

Kidnapped In Africa – Part 2

Before I begin, I want to thank those of you who have come back to finish the story of:  “Steve And The Unsuspecting Backpackers”

Just a quick summation of where we are in the story:

  1. We met a guy called ‘Steve’
  2. Steve seemed nice
  3. We got a lift with Steve to a club that was, apparently, 10 minutes away
  4. The car had blacked out windows and only one back door worked
  5. After driving for nearly 1 hour a ‘Titan’ of a man got in the back of the car with us
  6. We then drove so far out of town that we couldn’t even see a single ray of light in the darkness

Ok… so here we go…


So Steve turned around and, in a very kind and polite voice, informed us that we we’re in the process of being robbed.

I couldn’t help myself and I started to laugh, thinking he’s just messing about. Well, it became pretty obvious, pretty quickly that Steve wasn’t the joking type. It became crystal clear as soon as he began shouting in such a way that spittle started appearing at the corners of his mouth like he had rabies. What was worse than this sudden and instantaneous change of character was when he started fishing around in the glove box for his knife!

You are safe in the assumption that, at this point, we’ve started to brick ourselves.

Our sense of dread kicks up a few notches when we’re joined by 20 something Tanzanian men who surround the car waving bludgeons and rusty machetes.

Once we’re sufficiently sh*tted up Steve then started to rant at us. He told us that if we either lied or don’t give them everything we owned he would bring us back to this exact spot and leave us to the mercy of all the machete wielding loonies!


And so the night of  ‘Steve And The Unsuspecting Backpackers’ really began…


Steve’s plan was beautifully simple. He would drive us back to our hostel where we could grab all the money and credit cards that we owned. Once we were back in Dar es Salaam, Steve and his ‘Uncle’ parked up in a large, sandy car park right in the middle of the city.

Seeing as my mate had never backpacked before and our trip to Tanzania was his first time in Africa ( sorry mate :-/ ) I wanted him to be the person they released from the car in order to get our belongings.

And because that’s what I wanted they decided to keep my mate as hostage while I went back to the hostel to get all our belongings. However, before I left Steve grabbed me by the arm and said, “If you talk to anyone, look at anyone or are away for too long – we’re going to drive off with you mate and you’ll never see him again”.


So off I went at a brisk walk. Not because I didn’t care about my mate, but because I’d been instructed not to run. On my way back to the hostel I must have passed at least 3 armed guards, protecting different banks. I can’t explain how much I wanted to shout for help. The problem was, I cared way to much about my friends safety  to even take the risk. So… once I get to the hostel, the first thing I do is…


Go and have the longest pee in history.


I know this probably makes me the worst friend alive, but in my defence I was about to wet myself, due to all the beer we drank over 3 hours ago!

After relieving myself I grab our combined money and my credit card. However, when it comes to getting my mates credit card, to my dismay, he has two! And one of them doesn’t have a withdrawal limit. So I went with my gut and pick one, praying it was the one with a limit.

The walk back to the car lasted a very long time in my mind. I kept on thinking about what would happen if they simple took all our stuff and still dumped us in the desert afterwards. After all, we knew there faces, we knew their voices and we knew what the car looked like.

During that walk back to the car, my life didn’t play out in front of me. To be honest I didn’t think about anyone or anything in my life. The only thing I thought was, “If I am going to die, then at least it will be alongside one of my best friends in the entire world. I came into this world alone, but at least I’ll be leaving it with one of the best people I know”. My thoughts at the time not only reassured me, and calmed me down but it made me realise just how special and lucky we are to have real friends in our lives.

As soon as I got back into the car and handed over the cash and the creditcards, once again, all hell broke loose.


Kariakoo Market

In my haste I had somehow forgotten to bring back half the promised cash. I had totally forgotten that before we headed out we had separated our cash and hidden half of it, just in case someone broke into our room!

After a few minute of Steve screaming (and my buddy and me sweating ) the real robbery began.


I won’t bore you with all the specifics, but from the moment of getting back into the car we embarked on a 6-hour mission. A journey that was made up of going from one ATM to the next, to the next, to the next. This was the general pattern of the evening:

With our ‘pin numbers’ in hand they drove us to a new ATM with the promise that after pulling out all of our cash we would be released from the car. However, once they’d been to the ATM and returned to the car they would lie to us and say that our cards wouldn’t work. This provided the rational for them to drive us to another brand new ATM to repeat the exercise. Our hope of release was slowly built up and up and  up until it was crushed by them not releasing us and instead driving to the  next cash point. This pattern carried on for hours…

On, and on and on this went – until we were both frazzle and totally bewildered.


And then they started driving out of town again.


This was the point that all hope faded. That’s when we thought, “Sh*t we’re goners!”.  It was only as they started driving out of town that my buddy and I started  manically shouting and screaming at them to let us go (FINALLY!). We must’ve freaked them out a little because no sooner had we started screaming that they stopped the car by the side of the road. And after about 10 minutes of a fiery debate in Swahili between Steve and his ‘Uncle’ they, for some God know’s what reason, release us from the car!!!

However, before we left the car this was how the conversation went:

Steve: “Here is a dollar to get yourselves home. You should know we aren’t bad guys”

Me: “Are you kidding?!? 1 dollar! For traumatising us you could at least give us $50 so we can buy ourselves a bottle of whiskey! For all we know we don’t have any money left in our banks!”

Steve: “You’re a cheeky sh*t. Here’s $20”.


So we finally get dumped in the middle of God-know’s-where. We’re far too stressed out to get back in a car (i.e. taxi) with another stranger. How we managed to find our way home is still a mystery. Once home, we were actually still too frazzled to drink anything alcoholic… so instead we each had a Fanta and passed-out.


In the morning and in hindsight…

Luckily for us, we not only managed to get out of the car but we were even luckier to have only lost about £300 from the whole experience. Thank you ‘Maximum Withdrawal Limits’ – We love you!


Now, even though this was a traumatic experience, I still love to travel and above all else to meet and spend time with local people. The most memorable and fun experiences I have had in my travels have always revolved around taking a chance, going off the beaten track and seeing what life throws at you. Even though this experience was distressing… I think I would fall for the same trap again. Not because I am naïve, but because I refused to let the robbery dampen my adventuring spirit. Travelling would not hold any magic for me if I became too scared to accept the friendship of local people at face value. It is the only way to get a REAL taste of the country you’re travelling in.


The only thing I won’t do again is get into a car with blacked out windows and back doors that don’t work!


As one of my favourite poems reads:


Adventure is a wonderful thing
Pack only the essential
I’ll tell you what to bring
Your strength
Your nerve
Your hearts
Your wits
And for skullosaurus attacks
First aid kits

Adventure, is a wonderful thing

I salute you
And those of you doomed to never return
I salute you twice



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  1. Tan May 11, 2013 at 1:33 am - Reply

    Thanks for a fabulous read! Glad this experience hasn’t dampened your spirits. Can’t believe it was only 300 pounds after all those hours..very lucky in that sense!

    • Adrian Qais May 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      I know… we were so lucky. I didn’t write about it, but after the robbery we had some good fortune/karma thrown our way; in the sense that our hotel in Zanzibar, never actually got round to charging us for our 6 nights stay!

  2. Cam @ Traveling Canucks May 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Whoa! that’s a pretty intense travel tale! Glad no one got hurt. Beats my “getting robbed by a Thai hooker” story… 🙂

    • Adrian Qais May 24, 2013 at 5:44 am - Reply

      Hahaha! Yeah – but that’s like getting a badge of honour. I’m still yet to gather particular travelling story!!! Have you written about it?

  3. Tom Summerfield May 21, 2013 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Wow dude, intense experience! It’s easy to let something like that taint a great country as a whole.

    Cool read 🙂 Keep the stories coming!

    • Adrian Qais May 24, 2013 at 5:42 am - Reply

      Thanks Tom – Yeah it was crazy… but luckily it didn’t dampen our travelling spirits and we had a great rest of the holiday in Zanzibar!

  4. flip July 13, 2013 at 9:57 am - Reply

    holy f*c! that’s scary! glad both of you were left unscathed and they only got a few $$$.

    • Adrian Qais July 14, 2013 at 12:37 am - Reply

      Thanks Flip! I’ve always felt really bad for my mate, seeing as it was he first real backpacking trip – trial by fire and all that :p

  5. Mo August 16, 2013 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    That is one crazy story… I am actually very happy to hear only £300 tho!! What an experience mate!

    • Adrian Qais August 18, 2013 at 6:30 am - Reply

      Hey Mo! Yeah it was nuts… yeah you and me too! I thought we were gonners when they started driving out of the city!

  6. Kurt W August 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Interesting post. In retrospect, that is an adventure that no guided tour can provide. Glad you guys are safe!

    • Adrian Qais August 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm - Reply

      Hey Kurt – thanks for getting in touch. I couldn’t agree more, it’s a great story to tell!

  7. Nick October 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Glad you survived the ordeal, Adrian. Something similar to this happened to me in Cairo, Egypt. One night, while trying to find a decent hostel, I ran into guy who offered me his help. I took him up on it, and he did help me find a good hostel. But then he wanted me to get in a car with him and his “brother” to buy some beer. That’s when I said, “No, thanks.” He laid the guilt trip on me, telling me that I should help him because the helped me. I took out a few bucks, paid him for his troubles, and walked away. The long version of this can be found in my “Travels’ Travails” on my site –

    • Adrian Qais October 30, 2013 at 1:10 am - Reply

      Hey Nick! Glad you had a lot more sense than me when you were in Egypt! I’m going to have a read of your story on your blog site now!

  8. Nikki December 30, 2013 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Just discovered your site and love it! It’s incredible how much I relate to your travel experiences — including this very story. The same exact thing happened to me in Dar, only it lasted for about half the time and I lost about twice as much money. But the car with blacked-out windows and locked rear doors, the “nice man” that baited us, the driving to ATM after ATM, all the same. Must be a regular scheme?

    • Adrian Qais January 7, 2014 at 6:49 am - Reply

      Hey Nikki – thanks for getting in touch. Can’t believe exactly the same thing happened to you too! I bet you £100 that it was the same guys! I recon it’s a totally regular scam. Were you travelling with someone else? I swear they only ever target 2 travellers…

      • Nikki February 6, 2014 at 5:29 am - Reply

        I was traveling with my brother, in fact! I think you’re onto something there…

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