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The airport is like a rural bus station, somewhere at the end of the world. It’s dark. A couple of unwashed guys offer me a taxi ride, and in the end I have to go with one of them to get to my hotel.

The taxi coughs and rattles, and hardly even starts. There’s no meter, but the driver grunts that the price is ‘twenty-five’. But twenty-five what? It turns out he wants Tanzanian shillings, but not twenty-five – twenty-five thousand. They’re a liberal kind of people in Dar es Salaam, and the thousands evidently go without saying. I do a quick mental calculation, and it comes to about ten or twelve euros. Not the end of the world, I suppose…

I ask the receptionist what parts of the city are worth visiting, and she gives me a quizzical look. I try to explain – what are the sights? What’s worth a visit? She still doesn’t understand. It turns out she speaks excellent English – that isn’t the problem at all. The problem is that there simply aren’t any sights in Dar es Salaam.

Can you imagine a capital city, anywhere in the world, with literally nothing to see? Well, visit Dar es Salaam and you’ll find out what it’s like. There’s a local tourist magazine called ‘Where’, which lists tourist activities, and there’s not a single word in it about what to see or do in the capital. It just recommends a few restaurants and hotels, then moves straight on to the – horrendously expensive – safaris. One night in the Ngorongoro nature reserve, for instance, costs $1000 per person. Those are the sort of prices they’re talking about.

In spite of everything, the next day I decide to take a taxi into town. ‘Show me whatever you think would be interesting,’ I tell the driver. He takes me to the fish market. The first thing that hits me is the appalling smell – at first, I don’t even want to get out of the car. At last, for the sake of getting a few photos, I clamber out. It isn’t easy to walk – a major source of the smell is the fish offal on the ground. Then there’s the fact that everyone especially wants to sell me something. Whether it’s an inflated angler fish or giant, shiny mussels or a gutted barracuda. There are even small sharks, whole tuna, and anything else you can imagine.

The women carry huge boxes and buckets on their heads. You can see that one or two almost buckle under the strain, but still, they carry them. That’s just life! Women don’t seem to have much status here.

The market is unbelievably noisy, and there’s no refrigeration. I don’t see so much as a single ice cube. They just lay the fish out on the ground, or on a slab of concrete. They have to sell their fresh catch quickly because it won’t stay edible for long. That’s life here, the struggle to earn your daily bread.

I hurry back to the taxi and we drive on, towards an attractive beachfront area. It turns out that this is the part of town where the embassies are located, and the villas of foreign diplomats. Poor ambassadors and attachés! Anyone sent here by their nation’s government would quickly see it as more of a punishment than an honor, because however much money they earn, however, many parties, tennis matches, and golf tournaments they attend, the minute they walk out into the street they’ll find themselves in the same chaos and dirt as ever. Not for them the excitement and luxury of a few days’ Serengeti safari – they have to spend their days in Dar es Salaam…

In our search for sights, we travel on to a few handicraft shops. The prices are undeniably very reasonable. Leather slippers, women’s dresses of fine material, high-quality handbags and carved wooden figurines are all on sale for a fraction of the price elsewhere.

I buy a few souvenirs and we drive on to the painters’ street. Here the stalls of the local artists are all grouped together in one place. The paintings are just laid out on the ground, or leaned up against a fence, though of course the more prosperous have a little shop. There are portraits of Masai men, chaotic street scenes from Dar es Salaam, and pictures of wild animals. That’s what’s on offer. I don’t see any other customers.

Most tourists only spend a maximum of one night in Dar es Salaam, before heading off on safari or traveling to Zanzibar. I was heading for Zanzibar myself, but before setting off for the ferry terminal I decided to take a a quick look at the old town. Well, I only thought I’d seen pandemonium. The streets are lined with vendors, and their wares – shoes and clothes – are simply piled in the street between the parked cars. Everyone is rummaging about in the piles. How anyone can keep track of what belongs to whom and who bought what and when is completely beyond me…

I’m fascinated by this sea of people, and the frantic bargaining going on everywhere. Many of the women on the streets here wear veils, as there is a substantial Muslim population. The Arabian influence. Men here are protective of women, and you can get dirty looks, or even an angry confrontation if their veiled wives happen to step into the frame of your camera lens. You have to watch out, lest you offend local sensibilities. (2017)”

Tanzania - Dar es Salaam - Krista photo

Practicals

Transport

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Tanzania - Kigoma - railway station - v.g. photo

Tanzania - Ukerewe Island - dirt road - v.g. photo

Tanzania - Serengeti National Park - kind of road - h.a. ma photo

Shopping

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Tanzania - Morogoro - hand sellers - v.g. photo

Tanzania - Kolo - dried and smoked fish - v.g. photo

Tanzania - souvenir vendors storm tourist bus - h.a. ma photo

Public safety

Don’t rest your arm on the outside of a car window, or better yet, don’t roll down the window. A bad guy can pull you out for your cell phone.

Local thugs use fake taxis. Don’t use taxis alone, unless you know the driver personally or he is recommended by a friend (not strangers!). Do not get in if it already has another passenger.

Others

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Tanzania - Dar es Salaam - Hair cuts salon - Krista photo

Tanzania - Ujiji - sewing women - v.g. photo

Background

Destination in brief

Size: 945,087 km² (364,900 mi²)

Population (in 2020): 59.7 million

Capital city: officially Dodoma City - but de facto Dar es Salaam

Languages: Swahili is the offiial language, and English is the so-called second official language

Religions: 63,1% Christians, 34,1% Muslims

Currency: Tanzanian shilling (TZS).

Most common surname: Juma

Average net monthy salary (2020): 190 USD - (160 USD in Zanzibar)

Geography

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Tanzania - Kilimanjaro - v.g. photo

Tanzania - Kolo - Kigelia tree (or Sausage tree) - v.g. photo

Climate

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Tanzania - showers in the village - j.k. photo

Nowadays

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Tanzania - Dar es Salaam - Krista photo

Tanzania - Dar es Salaam - Krista photo

Tanzania - Dar es Salaam - Airtel place - i.b. photo

Tanzania - Ujiji - everyday life - v.g. photo

Tanzania - propaganda poster says (in Swahili): Corruption is the enemy of the development - h.a. ma photo

Tanzania - roadside scene - h.a. ma photo

People

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Tanzania - lady - h.a. ma photo

Tanzania - kids coming to the tourist bus and begging desperately for food - h.a. ma photo

Tanzania - Kigoma - women - v.g. photo

Tanzania - school kids - v.g. photo

Attractions

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania - Serengeti National Park -" safari show" lion one meter off the road - either sedated or overfed? - a.h. ma photo

Tanzania - Serengeti National Park - lion enjoys being in the shadow of the jeep - h.a. ma photo

Arusha

Tanzania - Arusha - h.a. ma photo

Dodoma

Tanzania - Dodoma - Gaddafi Mosque - v.g. photo

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Tanzania - Ngorongoro Conservation Area - that close - v.g. photo

Tanzania - Ngorongoro Conservation Area - hippo on land - v.g. photo

Tanzania - Ngorongoro Consernation Area - zebras - v.g. photo

Tanzania - Ngorongoro - village - v.g. photo

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