Welcome to Africa: Two Days in Dar

dar_polish.jpgActually, the entire first day is spent in the bed (and bathroom) at the Lion Hotel in Sinza, a scruffy, dirt pot-holed neighborhood removed from the city, the airport, and indeed, everything we’ve ever known; we wake up disoriented in the middle of the afternoon: Where are we? What day is it? Where are we? The second day, rested, we move to downtown Dar es Salaam, and our urban safari begins.

dar_polish.jpg

Actually, the entire first day is spent in the bed (and bathroom) at the Lion Hotel in Sinza, a scruffy, dirt pot-holed neighborhood removed from the city, the airport, and indeed, everything we’ve ever known; we wake up disoriented in the middle of the afternoon: Where are we? What day is it? Where are we?

The second day, rested, we move to downtown Dar es Salaam, and our urban safari begins.

We find our way to Samora Avenue, Dar’s main drag, where I pick up electronic adaptors for my gadgetry and where, dazed with the sidewalk heat and having walked way past lunchtime without seeing a single eatery, we stumble into an overpriced (but air-conditioned) French café, joining a gaggle of fellow foreigners, all splurging on sandwiches and fruit drinks.

dar_lobster.jpg

Caffeinated with Kilimanjaro coffee, we step to the Kivukoni waterfront, revived with fresh blood sugar against the afternoon heat; here, amid a swirl of Swahili (spoken and written on signs) and a clashing cacophony of crazy-colored kangas which swaddle the women and their shoulder-slung babies, it finally starts to sink in that we are, indeed, in Africa.

“Karibu, mama!” the women yell to Sutay. “Welcome, woman-of-child-bearing-age!”

“Jambo, mzungu!” the men smile and shout to me, “Hey there, white man!” (the equivalent of “Oye, chele!” in Central America).

dar_fishmarket.jpg

The pressing exotic-ness intensifies when we enter the fish market, swallowed by a thick musk of body odor, slaughtered sea creatures, and the colors of the crowd; we follow the main throng to the auction area. A man dumps a basket of fish on a wide block and dozens of women shout their bids until the winner flings a crumpled shilling note across the block, scoops up her purchase and it begins again, shouting and pressing and the wet, silver slapping sounds of fish.

Tay hears familiar words and, by talking to the two young Polisi crowd control, nightsticks in hand, she learns several cognates between Tanzanian Swahili and the Gambian Mandinka she spoke 10 years ago (and which exists thousands of miles away on the west coast).

dar_boat.jpg

On the way back to our hotel (after a brief stop at the shell market), we are engulfed by the hustlers at the Zanzibar ferry terminal and decide on a boat for tomorrow: the first of the morning sets sail at 7:30.

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Actually, the entire first day is spent in the bed (and bathroom) at the Lion Hotel in Sinza, a scruffy, dirt pot-holed neighborhood removed from the city, the airport, and indeed, everything we’ve ever known; we wake up disoriented in the middle of the afternoon: Where are we? What day is it? Where are we? The second day, rested, we move to downtown Dar es Salaam, and our urban safari begins." />