My arrival in Tanzania was a classic one. We had left a cold, gray, drizzly London the night before and landed in incredible tropical mugginess. I shed about two pounds of clothing in the process just to keep from sweating out all my fluids.
The visa application area was total chaos. A crowd of confused, tired and cranky tourists (mostly from Europe and Canada) and a few NGO workers milled around three random-seeming Tanzanian dudes who took our $100 bills and our passports and put them in a dubious pile. Miraculously, they called me to the processing window, took a digital (!!) photo of my exhausted face, and pasted a very official and clean-looking visa with my photo into my passport. And they didn’t ask for a bribe or over-charge me. Mission accomplished!
Next was the Assport Control. They forgot the pee. I breezed through this one too. It was my lucky day!
My three days in Dar es Salaam were in a bit of a jet-lagged haze. We had a couple of important meetings and a bunch of informal ones, but other than that, I had time to acclimated and explore.
Dar Adventure Number One: The Pilipino Double Delight
There’s nothing like 22 hours on a plane to make your body feel like total crap. Add wailing children and rude seat neighbors and then you feel like über-crap.
My first quest was to find “The Touch” spa. I saw a sign for it on Haile Selassie Road, on the way from downtown Dar to the Coral Beach Hotel, where we were staying. The sign had a little arrow pointing into what looked like a smallish dirt road. Couldn’t be that far, right? Wrong. I was on foot, stupidly carrying a 2-liter bottle of Kilimanjaro water I just bought at a nearby store. It was about 90ºF outside with a blazing sun and 80% humidity. Hellsa hot. But I am stubborn, and I walked. And walked. And walked. Even I, Asian female who doesn’t sweat, had big fat beads rolling down my face.
I found a big house with a sign “The Touch” at the gate. The askari (guard) was fast asleep, so I just walked right in. As I turned the knob on the door, out walks a tiny Pilipina woman, about my size. We were both shocked at seeing each other. After a moment, I asked “Is this ‘The Touch’ spa? Do you do massage?” She smiled and nodded and shooed me inside.
It turns out that “The Touch” consists of four Pilipinas who came to Dar seven months ago to set up this day spa. I asked for a back massage and decided that I’d have to save the “Gentleman’s Executive Relaxation” and “Pilipina Double Delight” for another day. That’s when you have two Pilipinas “working on” you at the same time. The whole thing was hilarious. The women there, especially Mimi, who gave me my back massage (and did a good job, thank you), thought that the whole situation was hilarious. I could hear them chatting and giggling up a storm in Tagalog while I was lying on the table in post-massage relaxation bliss.
Dar Adventure Number Two: Kariakoo Market Chaos
After our meeting with the folks at I-TECH in downtown Dar, I wanted to explore the Kariakoo Market. It is touted to be one of the biggest and brightest markets in all of Africa. I had to see it for myself. Markets are one of the best ways to catch some of the energy of the local community. Modest (our taxi driver, yes that’s his name) dropped Royce and me off a couple blocks away. The traffic was horrendous, so we decided to walk in.
We encountered a surreal scene. The market building had a bunch of its portals closed. No on was visibly selling market stuff on the streets. Debris was strewn all over. There was an agitated feeling in the air. Men were angrily milling all about without any directed purpose. The market seemed closed, but something was wrong.
We walked into a nearby ice cream shop and asked the man behind the counter about the market. Royce asked him directly, so I couldn’t hear much of the response, which was in broken Swahilish anyway. Royce said, “Oh, something happened to a small businessman…” which somehow I had heard as “something happened to a small child.” We left feeling even more disoriented and found a taxi.
I asked Modest about it that evening. “Oh, they are just cleaning up the market area with the small vendors. They should be open tomorrow.”
The next day, the front page of the Tanzanian papers declared, “Kariakoo Market Closed Indefinitely.” The news showed scenes of total chaos at the market with crowds of men toppling tall piles of market goods in the face of Tanzanian police officers. It turns out that the police are trying to crack down on the small vendors and won’t allow the market to re-open till the small vendors leave the premises.
The market probably thrives on these scrappy small vendors. Why on earth would you want to drive them away?
Check it out: