Of beauty

Dar es Salaam Travel Blog

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The dhows sailing, from dawn ‘til dusk, in the bay within the coastline. When the sun is setting just as this evening, yellow and blue are melting in an astonishing layer of alternative shades, from the dark of the wall ahead, to the yellow of the sand behind it, the blue of the glittering waters darkening slowly, then again the golden waves bordering the sky, and the dark blue of the horizon line again, a yellow layer of sky spreading lighter and lighter ‘til the other side on the West, where the blue dark night is already falling. A couple on a bench is watching; a group at a nearby table has stopped talking; I am speechless. What if beauty was worthy enough to make every move stop? What if it really mattered, after all? Would you give anything for beauty? When I was younger and idealistic, I was told that beauty matters (the old chorus that men only live for money, power and beauty - at least that some would die and give away much for trying to get this trinity or one element of it just once in their lives). Back then I refused to believe/accept that beauty is one of what we die for. I now believe it more willingly. Up to you to tell me what is this beauty we trade our souls for. A very unique landscape? Art? A beautiful body? What is it that holds YOUR breath?
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This is a concept developed by the driver I am working with here in Dar-es-Salaam, who was telling me about the hard situations faced by many neighbouring countries he had worked in. As a truck driver crossing borders to deliver oil, Modest went to Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Zambia... and feels totally sorry and devastated by what he saw when travelling there: destitution in villages, populations stuck in areas growing no food any more, fights and violence in rural regions... What reasons: economic issues or conflicts? Needless to say both are linked, but he adds to it “tribe pollution”. The conflicting interactions between people from different tribes, do pollute human relations indeed - but I like the phrase, short and compelling. In Kenya, where he’s been, he was surprised to see how your tribe origin is paramount in people’s attitudes to you; he tells me (and confirms the feeling of many people here about their country) that in Tanzania, mutual help would never depend on the tribe you belong to. It seems to me Zambia is also a place where people hold their national peace and peace of mind too dear to really yield to clashing rapports. If you add to tribe pollution the ever-increasing poverty gap, and how unfair it is considered (worse when actual facts do provide with a justified perception), it is then easy to understand how people would kill for a cell phone, just as in South Africa - most famous example of a country where one would kill for stealing any tiny object, hence reputation for safety very poor. A deeply dysfunctionnal society, someone once told me. But Madagascar would be the same, people now kill for money whereas they used not to a few decades ago; so are the US... (the common point? maybe a growing wealth discrepancy between people). Such are some places where little or none respect for human life is to be found. But I am glad when I can hear sometimes someone telling me it is not the way it should be, that there is no fatality/predisposition, that they don’t think it’s normal or meant to be. Here is someone from Tanzania who feels deeply concerned about the situations of populations in these other countries, without his words coming from a diplomatic official speech, nor from within these areas striken by destitution. Just from an average guy making his living in an African country where nothing such happens or is even conceivable... The blasés make me bored.