Beer and loathing in Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam Travel Blog

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  There was standing room only on the daladala the battered mini and not so mini buses that criss-cross Dar es Salaam ferrying commuters all over town. The tout cum conductor had shuffled me to a place behind the driver on the chock-a-block minibus and helpfully positioned my cabin-sized wheeled case out of the way of the crush of people, and then charged me 400 TZS (around 14p) for the journey.

   I was hot and sticky even though it was only just gone 6am I dreaded every traffic light and traffic jam, because when the bus stopped so did the cooling draft from the open window.


  I’d arrived at Dar es Salaam airport with Turkish airlines after 3 in the morning but really I wasn’t that bothered about the early arrival and I was not that keen to leave the airport as at that time of day I would have had to get an expensive taxi into town and If I’d arrived predawn at a hotel I would have had to pay for that night’s hotel room, so for the sake of an hour or two I decided to kill some time and save on both taxi and a hotel room and wait for sun-up and then catch a daladala into town.


  Waiting for a visa to be processed conveniently killed over an hour of that time what with filling in a form then queuing to place your hands on that machine that is supposed to read your fingerprints and then handing over your passport and $50 to the Tanzanian immigration officials behind the glass.  After some time waiting for the workers behind the glass to do their magic with a stamp and biro a uniformed official was handed a stack of travel documents and called out the names in the passports.

  “McEwen. Oh yes that is you.” As he checked the photo and handed over the passport to Mz McEwen. He went on, “Martinez, Jones”

   With a valid visa now in my possession I grabbed my bag which by that time had been removed from the carousel, a brief pause while some young chappie had a quick x-ray of my luggage and I was out into the dated concrete surroundings of the airport forecourt.

  I changed a small amount of money at one of three FOREX bureaus (and got a decent rate) that were open at that time of morning and went straight to the in airport fast food joint “Tasty Life” that thankfully is also open at daft o’clock in the morning. I bought an airport priced coffee and then left with a cold bottle of water and sat back down on the seats near the arrival gate. I re-jigged some things in my bag, used the surprisingly clean toilet and before I knew it the sky was lightening. I walked the short distance to the road where I boarded one of the frequent Gerezani bound daladalas to the centre of town.


  The trip into town took about an hour in the “rush hour” traffic in which the bus driver on more than one occasion turned the engine off as waiting at junctions were that long. The daladala terminated at the newish and pretty well organised Gerezani stendi that combines the Mwendo kasi Rapid Transit bus stage as well as the daladala stand for various destinations around town.

  From there I zigzagged my way through the streets dragging my wheeled bag to Flex restaurant near Kariakoo market. I love this place, an unfussy no messing cafe that serves up some great local food throughout the day.  At this time of the morning there was a huge aluminium sufuria on a charcoal stove near the door and it was brimful of steaming hot mtumbo, what we would call tripe in the UK. I settled for a chai and chapatti for ‘breakfast’ before I walked around the corner to arrive at Al Uruba hotel at around 8am and got a room with a ceiling fan for 20,000 Tanzania shillings. I showered and slept till after 11.




  After waking I tried my phone; my halotel sim card had a signal but it refused to send an SMS so the young chappie selling airtime underneath his Halotel brolly in front of the hotel suggested I top up my phone for just 2,000 TSH and that did the trick.

 I could SMS the folks back home that I’d arrived safely.

  Phone sorted I walked to Mchafukoge and entered the Kili Bar. This is a nice place for a day time drink or two. At lunchtime the place is full of office workers in the area coming into eat but about 2 ish the regular daytime drinkers take over the bar with the full mix of the peoples of this part of town. My table was typical of this mix, with an Arab, a Swahili, an Indian guy and me a slightly over weight Welsh bloke all supping beer and talking bullshit in a mixture of English and my broken Swahili. The Kili bar itself was once owned by an Indian guy when this place was called the Goan bar.  The food is well popular here but me being a veggie I’m left with little choice other than chipsi maiai, the universally available light meal in Tanzania which is basically a chip omelette quite often served up with chilli sauce and if you are lucky a little bit of salad. I settled on a liquid lunch of 4 Pilsners before heading back to chill at my hotel.


  The Al Uruba is a well organised little budget hotel but it is not ideal if you like a drink as the owner who to me has always appeared to be a really nice bloke but apparently takes his Islam quite seriously. Staggering back to my room smelling of beer is probably not such a good idea so I checked out another hotel around the corner and I promised to the receptionist to shift there in the morning. I chanced one more beer and walked back to my room with a take-away chipsi maiai of dubious quality and then crashed on my bed and caught up on some of those lost hours of sleep due to travelling.


  I did shift hotels in the morning and well settled into my 25,000 room with a fan.  I celebrated my move by eating a meal at Flex where I ate mchicha and a couple of chapattis. The mchicha are green leaves that are cooked with coconut milk and is mildly spiced, I pepped it up a bit more with the scotch bonnet chillies amongst the condiments on the table. 


  I did visit Kili bar again that afternoon but it was quiet so left after one beer for the Manyangwe hotel bar back in Kariakoo and then had another at the DDC social hall. I spent the next few days between these 3 watering holes and eating lunch at Flex or the excellent Rasoi Indian restaurant in Kisutu.  I also had the odd chipsi maiai and what with staying near Kariakoo market I couldn’t resist the various types of excellent value avocados being sold there and I’m pretty sure I almost overdosed on them. Being here in the month of March the street snack food of this season was boiled ground nuts and I found it hard to pass one of the hawkers wheeling round their trolleys full of nuts and not buy a cup-full; boiled and salted ground nuts go well with a cold beer I’ll have you know.

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