Dar es Salaam

Nadine and I decided to head to Dar es Salaam for a weekend getaway. Originally we had planned to stay at a friend’s apartment, but that plan fell through about an hour into our bus ride. She sent out a few texts but by the time we arrived in Dar we had no idea what the weekend had in store for us.

It helps to have friends. Daniel, our quirky German friend, met us at the bus station. He took us to the house of a pastor who he’d been staying with, and by the end of our half-hour visit they had arranged a taxi and a hotel for us. Liz, one of Nadine’s Tanzania friends, met us at the hotel and took us out for Indian. On Saturday our friend Abby– who until this weekend was only a friend of a friend, since we’d spent about two hours total with her– helped us accomplish our two goals for the trip: beaches and Batman.

Dar is Tanzania’s biggest city with a population of nearly three million. It is a near-typical big city: six lane freeways, cluttered rush hour traffic, bustle, beggars, and ten story buildings. It reminds me of Mexico with its concentration of commerce and poverty, tropical in nature.

A bright Christmas-light sign marked our hotel doorway. You walk down an alleyway leading to a staircase with a notice that says, “Reception inquiries upstairs 2nd floor.” You then proceed to climb no less than five flights of stairs and pass seven more “2nd floor” notices painted on the wall. 

On Sunday morning we explore the city, driven by hunger and curiosity. We sit on cement benches in the botanical garden– interrupted by a passing peacock and rustling leaves– and walk along Dar’s littered waterfront. In the evening Nadine’s recently engaged friend and fiance treat us to dinner. By the end of the weekend I am sunburnt and weary, but thankful for the break.


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