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March-April 2013

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Merelani (Mererani): A Pictorial of An Incredible Place

For nearly three weeks in August and early September 2012 I traveled to the village of Merelani, Tanzania, along with my wife, Federica Quaglieri, and my business partner, Giovanni Lombardi. Having been to Tanzania many times since 2007, I have come to know the local miners and have learned much about Merelani's history.

Merelani, located in the Arusha region's Simanjiro district, was named after the mirera, a famous Maasai tree used for herbal purposes including aphrodisiacs. The village was first called “Mirerani,” then evolved to “Mererani,” and eventually to the current “Merelani,” which originated with southern Tanzanian people who pronounce the letter r like the letter l. Merelani is a unique place where the people are like a rainbow in a storm, with many different cultures all in the same somewhat chaotic place. It is a colorful world in which poor people live on the street, but where the cheerfulness of even the poorest people is addictive. Today, it is estimated that more than 200,000 people live in Merelani and around the mines, where everyone works together with one common goal: to find, collect, and sell tanzanite.

Fabio Americolo is a mineral dealer, researcher, and avid mineral collector who has explored pegmatite localities in Italy, Pakistan, Mongolia, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Iceland, Tunisia, and Morocco, in addition to his most recent love, Tanzania.

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