Sunday, April 16th and Monday, April 17th:
We learned a lot about Africa, Tanzania, slavery, culture clashes, animals, tribal customs, explorers, etc during our time in the largest city in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. I think people always learn a lot during holidays because our minds are more relaxed and open to the waves of information that we encounter through the people that we meet and the things that we see. But in Dar es Salaam, Edgar and his friends kept us company all day and sometimes in the evening so Sher and I became like sponges (sweaty, hot sponges in the African heat) and soaked up everything that we could. I’m sure that with all the information that was thrown our way, I probably remember some things incorrectly. I’m not going to write everything here of course and I’ll try my best to get all the facts correct but if you know otherwise or if Wikipedia has different information, feel free to comment… I won’t be offended!
So we were told that Dar es Salaam was named by a local who with close with the Arabs. The Arabs chose the name for him and presented it to him as a gift. “Darasalama” means “hub of peace” and they decided pretty early on to stop the slave trading from the city ports, although it continued for a while at other ports nearby. Muslims, Christians, and other religions get along very well here because Tanzania is a country with a philosophy of acceptance and peace… the founding father here preached that we are all humans who breathe, bleed, and feel the same so we should treat each other the same regardless of race or religion. This Julius Nyerere sounds like he was a cool guy… he helped gain independence for the country from the British peacefully, he united many different tribes all over the country, united Tanganyika with Zanzibar (hence the blue added to the flag), he believed in equality, and everyone here seems to love him.
The history of Tanzania’s foreign involvement seems to begin with Arabs ruling (especially Zanzibar and the port areas) until the Portuguese dominated for a short time and then the Germans took over for a long time until they were defeated by the British during WW1. There were a lot of artifacts collected and displayed from the time when the Germans ruled and also from both world wars. After the first world war, the English held control until Tanzania’s independence in 1961.
Edgar proudly kept reminding us of how safe and peaceful his home city is. I was a little skeptical the first night that we arrived… it sounded like a lot of boasting in a city that actually felt dangerous. And we had heard stories! But after spending a few days here, I noticed that people were generally quite respectful and there was a strong police presence to deter crime. Plus people did work side-by-side with no apparent issues. Arabs, Africans, Indians, Pakistanis…. from what we could see, there were no obvious issues or animosity. Edgar and his friends told us that here people can generally marry whoever they like and no one will give them trouble. It was nice to hear and I hope it really is true!
We woke up early Saturday morning to head to the stinky fish market, the Kariakoo market (a large, multicultural market of EVERYTHING), an underground produce market that was accessed by a dark tunnel and freaked out my claustrophobic side, the national museum, and then we finally stopped for lunch.
We had fresh fish at a place called Fontaine Blue Cafe and found that the Liverpool (Sher’s favourite team) vs WBA soccer match was going to be on in a few hours, so of course we had to come back and watch. Before the game, we made a stop at a nearby attraction, the historic village of Tanzanian tribes. They had replicas of all the different types of huts that well-known tribes around Tanzania live in, as well as information about each tribe’s traditions, labelled trees and plants, and a live performance of one type of tribal dance. Edgar told us the ladies are from a different tribe than he is but he knows the dance anyways. He was pretty funny…. joining in randomly and clapping loud. His friend Raymond is from a different tribe near Kilimanjaro and he just laughed, he didn’t have a clue about the dance or song.
After we returned to the cafe to watch Liverpool defeat West Bromwich Albion, Sher and the guys were so excited that Edgar and Raymond promised to take us out at the end of the night to a bigger place to watch Chelsea vs. Manchester United. It was a fun night out with the two of them at a huge local place and Man-U won.
While we were finishing the city tour, Edgar and Raymond told us some crazy safari stories. Raymond does walking safari tours which sound insanely scary if things go wrong. Things only seem to go wrong if people don’t listen to the rules but his stories really reminded us why they have so many strict rules! We aren’t doing a walking tour since it’s not the season for it (actually, I have no clue when the walking safari season is… ) and mainly because I think I’d be tense the whole time. My biggest fear is the snakes but apparently what kills the most people are the hippos! Surprising that it’s not the lions or leopards! There are so many mosquitoes here right now that I can’t even think about any other predators. My perfume of choice here in Dar es Salaam has become DEET.
Monday was a full day- we went to a historic town called Bagamoyo to learn more about the history of the slave trade. It was a lot more terrible than you can imagine…. beginning from the Europeans and Arabs that used different unethical methods to “buy” African people from their tribes, to the coast on a dangerous journey that many didn’t survive, to be stuffed into the basement of ships like animals, and then shipped all over the world. If they survived the ship voyage to arrive at the place where they were to be sold, the real nightmare began for a lot of them that would define the rest of their lives. A lot of Christian missionaries who came to Africa were shocked by what they witnessed and petitioned hard to stop it. Over the decades, a lot of other people also opposed slavery but it continued as a trade until the late 1800s, and continued on illegally for years after it was abolished.
Currently, Africans in Tanzania don’t seem to hold too many grudges against the Europeans, Arabs, or others groups who were involved in the slave trade. But they particularly seem fascinated with American pop culture- almost every shop has a Coca Cola sign, every bus has popular phrases and icons on it, and American clothing brands are common. It’s pretty funny to see a bus going one direction with Bob Marley’s face passing another bus that has “Trump” or “Obama” painted on the side.
After Bagymoyo, we returned to Dar es Salaam to see another huge market with a lot of souvenirs. We had already bought two paintings in Bagymoyo and we were totally out of money but Edgar was kind enough to lend us a little bit more for our fridge magnet.
We finished the evening with dinner at a rotating restaurant downtown. It was really good food and nice to see all the city lights from above. The place was almost empty, though. We haven’t seen much activity downtown in general at night…. seems like things shut down in the area after dark.
Sher is walking a lot straighter now (despite the crippling heat) but I think the timing is good that we have a safari coming up soon where there will be minimal walking and he can rest his injured ankle. All the markets and shopping are hurting his wallet as well as his foot… he ends up swollen every night from the mosquito bites on top of his sprain. It doesn’t look fun!