The Tale of Two Mohammads

Emma on the phone with Mohammad

Emma on the phone with Mohammad


In order to prep for our Tour-de-Bolgatanga, Emma and I needed to make sure we had everything planned out. We got the list of medical directors and hospitals from the Regional Director; we made sure we had a place to stay once we arrived. But we still needed to find a way to get there. Fortunately, Kofi is like a combination of Wikipedia-Ghana and the holy grail of rolodexes. He. Knows. Everyone. So, of course, Kofi puts us in touch with one of his trusted drivers, Mohammad. That day, Emma calls Mohammad to talk about our driving plans – we decided it would make sense to head west of Bolgatanga, then hit up the eastern districts. Considering that taxi drivers frequently lie about knowing where places are (no, seriously, one time we drove around for an hour before our driver admitted he had no clue what we were talking about), we are really excited after talking to Mohammad. He seemed super on top of everything, from planning out meeting times to our petrol range. Things were looking good.

When we were in Karaga, Emma called Mohammad to finalize some details. After having some trouble reaching him, she tried his second line. I should probably explain that in Ghana its common for people to have multiple cell phones for different reasons. In important meetings, everyone will have all of their cell phones sitting out on the table, subscribed to different services and set to different ringtones. I am not making this up. The way I see it, the more cell phones you have, the more important you are. I have one. You do the math. Anyways, when Emma finally gets hold of Mohammad on his second line, the conversation goes as follows:

Emma: Good morning Mohammad, this is Emma. I’m just calling to talk about meeting tonight, so we can go over our travel plans?

Mohammad: Okay. Where are you?

Emma: Karaga. Can we meet tonight?

Mohammad: Yes. What time are you free?

Emma: 8 PM. Can you meet us at the Jungle Bar?

Mohammad: What’s the Jungle Bar?

Emma: It’s the bar at my guest house.

Mohammad: Okay I’ll meet you there at 8.

Happy we have our plans for the evening meeting solidified and ready to head back to Tamale, Emma and I start saying goodbye to the medical staff at Karaga. But before long, Emma’s phone rings. The screen reads “Mohammad.” So soon? Emma and I exchange a look, hoping that he isn’t calling to cancel the meeting. She picks up the phone and this conversation goes as follows:

Mohammad: Good morning Emma. This is Mohammad. I’m calling about our travel plans. Where are you?

Emma: I’m….I’m in Karaga. I’m still in Karaga.

Mohammad: Can we meet tonight?

Emma: Yes, we are meeting tonight, still. 8 PM at the Jungle Bar. Still.

Mohammad: What’s the Jungle Bar?

Emma: Uh. It’s the bar at my guest house.

Mohammad: Okay I’ll meet you there at 8.

Emma looks confused. I raise an eyebrow and ask Emma what happened. “Nothing,” she answers, “I think Mohammad was confused.” We shake our heads, both hoping Mohammad doesn’t bail on our plans to drive to Bolga the next day.

Cut to the Jungle Bar, 8 PM. As planned, twice. Emma and I meet Mohammad. We pull out a GoogleMap of Ghana’s Upper East Region and begin tracking the paths between district hospitals. Mohammad is extremely helpful, pointing out the distances between each destination and suggesting alternative routes. Emma’s phone rings, and because we want to seem really important and professional, she goes to answer the call. Things. Get. Weird. The screen says “Mohammad.” We both look at Mohammad to see if he is on the phone. He is not. Mohammad looks at his own phone to see if he pocket-dialed us. He did not.

We pick up the phone and ask, “Is this Mohammad?” The voice on the phone says “Yes.” We look at the man in front of us and ask, “Are you Mohammad?” The man in front of us says, “Yes.” Thoughts immediately sprang to mind: who are we sitting here with? Who is on the phone? Will the real Mohammad please stand up? Finally we decide to ask three very important questions:

1) Are you really Mohammad?

2) Are you a driver?

) Do you know Kofi?

The voice on the phone responds, “I am in Wa.”

Even though that didn’t technically answer ANY of our questions, we decide right then and there that the real Mohammad is the one sitting in front of us. Wa is a town nine hours away by bus. It turns out that we had been talking to two Mohammads. Mohammad 1, the driver recommended by Kofi, and Mohammad 2, the middle-aged man that a year ago unsuccessfully tried to woo Emma into marriage by yelling into her hotel room that he loved her.

Fortunately we hung up on Mohammad 2 before he could propose to Emma once again.

The next day we drove to Bolga. With the real Mohammad.