Dar es Salaam: Around Town

Monday, June 5, 2006 | Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Indian Ocean beach outside Dar es Salaam
Jambo! That's "hello" in Swahili, for those not versed in this crazy language. Thank God I took Arabic before I tried this one, or I'd really feel like I was up a creek without a paddle (as many others in the program are starting to feel). Much of the vocab looks a lot like Arabic, as far as I've seen. After a brief orientation today, though, our Swahili classes will begin tomorrow, which should make communicating around the house a little easier. Charlie (the other American student staying with Susan) and I have managed so far, but knowing some basic phrases will certainly come in handy.

This weekend we went to the beach, and though I took a few nice pictures I wouldn't mind sharing, technical difficulties at this dingy little internet cafe in our neighborhood are making that impossible. Hopefully next time I'm here I'll make it happen and you can see what it looks like
around here.

Essentially, it's hot and humid, and the area is quite lush and green. Unlike most major cities in more developed parts of the world, Dar es Salaam is also quite spread out, and its population more widely distributed. There are a few towers in the downtown area, but they are hardly skyscrapers. Traffic is heavy, owing to the small number and poor maintenance of roads. The unpaved half-mile stretch that connects our house to the main road takes about 15 minutes to drive because it's about as uneven as those rocky deserts in the western USA that NASA uses to test their Mars rovers. The rains this past spring (which is fall here) apparently washed it out quite badly.

Traffic is also complicated by frequent motorbike and pedestrian crossings, often with animals in tow. All around Dar, it is not uncommon to see locals dressed in traditional Maasai garb, walking along the road carrying just a thin herders' stick, a machete sometimes sheathed at their side.

I hope to offer some pictures very soon, especially since after our first week of classes, next weekend we'll be spending a day on Zanzibar, the fabled Arab trading outpost off the East African coast. Until then, feel free to e-mail and I'll do my best to respond quickly. Kwa heri.

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