November 10th, 2013 – by: Jollyjetsetter
A mosque in central Dar (Dar Es Salaam; Tanzania)
African trips probably get more authentic the further you venture from the northern African nations, where vestiges of European influences have seeped in somehow or other, so this being the first sub-equatorial African trip, expectations of the truer spirit of Africa were riding pretty high. Dar Es Salaam is not, let it be known, Tanzania's capital city, that accolade belonging to Dodoma, but it is the country's largest urban area, so scope for urban exploration was about to unfold fine style. Staying at a well-fitted hotel in a central and accessible area is recommended, and the tour of the city proper pretty much revolved around the cluster of centrally-located sights which run parallel to the waterfront.
Roundabouts in Dar are somewhat artistic! (Dar Es Salaam; Tanzania)
Although Dar is not huge on individual sights as such, there is enough substance to qualify the city for the necessity for some pre-trip planning. Reference points such as the Askari monument, the botanical gardens, the National museum and Kariakoo market are suitable nodes to head towards on an itinerary, and the seemingly thrown-together nature of the city may either delight or act as some kind of patience test. For my money, Dar came across as a true hotch-potch of styles and influences held together by an African spirit which somehow or other made it appear strangely sociable for a city of such a size and potentially-impersonal nature. To gain an impression of how expansive Dar is, a trip to the northern area of Kunduchi is a viable option, and there, you can take your pick from gazing at a collection of ruins, or enjoying a hedonistic time at the Wet and Wild water park.
A church in the outlying Kunduchi area of town (Dar Es Salaam; Tanzania)
From Kunduchi, heading southwards back towards central Dar, the carver's handicraft market and village museum are located, as is the Mlimani city mall, essentially Tanzania's largest shopping complex, and entirely South African-owned. Dar could also act as the starting point for a safari trip further west (Mikumi or Selous national park), but for this to be part of the itinerary, an overnight stay at a safari lodge seems to be by far your best bet. Dar Es Salaam possibly qualifies as my 156,057th (or something or other) city visited to date, so in the light of what has come before it, it is best to judge the place on its own merits. I concede that, while it may not suit every person's tastes, I appreciated the opportunity to visit such a quintessentially African city, and really do wonder if Dar put the 'dar' in the 'dar'k continent!