I'm happier with the whole khanga shopping thing here in Tanzania. Khangas are rectangular pieces of cotton cloth, printed with bright designs and colors. The design has a wide border around it with either a repeating pattern or one big picture in the center. A Swahili proverb is printed just inside the border on one long edge. They sell two repeats of the pattern in one khanga, then the buyer cuts them apart and hems the two short edges. They only cost from 2,000 to 5,000 T shillings, depending on the quality. That's $1.50 to $3.50! And they fit everybody, because you take this big rectangle and wrap it around yourself, either at the waist or under the armpits--totally adjustable, one-size-fits-all. They are traditional East African wear for women and have many uses. Apron, skirt, shawl, head wrap,bathrobe, loungewear, baby carrier, bowl cover, picnic blanket.... They are given as traditional gifts for many occasions, such as weddings or church confirmations. When my Somalian friend Rhama invited me to her house and treated me as such an honored guest, she presented me with a khanga.
Here are two websites where you can read more about khangas:
They're sold everywhere, usually folded up and hung over a cord at eye level at the front of a small shop. That's how I've bought a few, walking up a street and the color catches my eye, and the vendor says, "Karibu, Mama," (welcome, ma'am), in an enticing voice. These women know the shopping look that glazes over the customer's eye!
The first week I was here, a particular khanga patterned with big philodendron leaves caught my eye hanging in front of a shop near Kundayo Apartments. I had seen this khanga last year in Dar es Salaam and didn't buy it, and it's been preying on my mind ever since. The man running the shop took it down and unfolded it to show me, along with a second blue flowered one. A woman standing on the customer side of the counter with me advised me in Swahili that the leaf design was a better quality, and she thought I should go with that one. I agreed, and asked the price. The vendor told me 7,000, which I remembered from last year is too high. I offered 5,000 and he looked chagrined because he'd been caught and disappointed because he didn't get the mzungu price out of me. But the woman gave me a high-five and a big smile because I knew the price.