Blogging for China translates a Southern Metropolis Daily report about the lives of African traders living in Guangzhou’s so-called Chocolate City:
Religion and business are the two things that most closely bind Africans and Guangzhou. Catholicism and Islam are the two dominant religions. Every Friday is the holiest day of prayer for the Muslims, and African Muslims also stop their work. They congregate at the mosque across from Yuexiu Park; carefully they wash their head, hand, and feet, and kneel in the direction of the mosque, saying their prayers to the true Allah.
After prayers are finished, Omar walks over to the adjacent hall, and joins a ceremony unique to African Catholics. A few hundred Africans clapped and danced to a religious music that only they can understand. With the dance finished, one person stood up, and called on everyone to raise their hands, close their eyes, their mouths muttered and gradually grew faster and faster; their faces showed a frantic expression. After Omar faithfully finishes the ceremony, he returns to his typical well-mannered attitude. Pulling out his cell phone, he uses fluent Chinese to tell his wife that the brothers are meeting for dinner that night, he won’t be returning for dinner.
Amongst the Africans who’ve come to Guangzhou, Omar belongs to the small number who’ve received higher education. He even studied Chinese in university. He came to China from Nigeria three years ago, thinking that his advantage in language would allow him to quickly adjust to this new life. But he tried Beijing, no luck; moved to Shanghai, still no luck; continued onto Zhejiang, and still no luck. At the time, one of Omar’s countrymen in America tried to talk him into going to the United States. There, people of different skin colors live together, and no one can tell at a glance that he’s a foreigner.
Finally, he ended up in Guangzhou and set down roots in Chocolate City. Guangzhou has the densest concentration of African businessmen in China. Areas and cities surrounding the area has thousands of factories that take tens of thousands of African orders, originating from Chocolate City, every day.
Read also a perspective from James Fallows: “A simple point about being a foreigner in China.”