Dar Es Salaam 2013

30 May 2013 by GrahamSmith

Ramsey Qubein takes a quick-fire tour of the Tanzanian city

Dar Es Salaam map


The bustling port city of Dar es Salaam – often referred to simply as Dar by locals – boasts a natural harbour, a surprising blend of European and Arabic architecture and a dynamic energy that shows its growing stature on the world business stage. For your whistle-stop tour, it’s probably easiest to hire a driver through your hotel, which will cost roughly TZS 30,000-40,000 (£12-£16) for four hours. Start at the National Museum and House of Culture in the middle of downtown. Established in 1940, it’s a good way to gain an insight into Tanzania’s history. The collection includes the first human remains discovered in the region, including 2,000 year-old fossils found during the Leakey Digs excavations, relics from the Sukuma and Nyamezi tribes, and art and photographs from before and after the country’s independence from the UK in 1961. An exhibit of remnants from the city’s US embassy, which was bombed by Islamic jihad groups in 1998, killing at least 11 people, is particularly moving. The museum has a café if you want a coffee stop. Open 9am-5pm, entry TZS 8,000 (£3). Shaaban Roberts Street; houseofculture.or.tz


Stroll across the street to the city’s botanical gardens, which are free to enter and feature towering African teak and mahogany trees and blossoming rose and hibiscus flowers. While traffic may slow to a crawl during the morning and evening rush hours, this jungle-like green space is a calming oasis in the middle of the frenzy. Its origins stem from the German colonial era (1880-1919), when they were much more expansive than they are today. But in a city with very little downtown greenery, it is a welcome place to steal a breath of fresh air. While there are few benches or chairs for lounging, you may spot office workers having lunch on the lawn or the occasional jogger.


En route to your next stop, ask your driver to swing by the roundabout downtown where the Askari Monument sits – it bears the names of the Askari heroes (East African soldiers) who fought in the British Carrier Corps in the First World War – and the nearby Clock Tower, erected by Dar’s citizens to celebrate it gaining city status in 1961. The drive to the Village Museum takes ten to 15 minutes.
Comprising about 100 straw, clay and mud huts, this al fresco museum showcases the architecture and living traditions of Tanzania’s tribes. At first the huts appear similar, but their diversity becomes more apparent once you look inside – the guides will explain the differences between the tribes. Take in the wooden pottery, earthen beds and hand-carved spears used by tribespeople across the country. At the café, try ugali – a ball of maize flour with spicy vegetables and meat. The market sells beaded jewellery and hand-carved animal statues. Old Bagamoyo Road; 9.30am-6pm; entry TZS 8,000 (£3).


A five- to ten-minute drive from the museum to Oyster Bay, where many of the city’s best ocean views can be found, the Tinga Tinga Centre is a must for art lovers. Named after Tanzanian artist Edward TingaTinga, this co-operative provides a base for the hundreds of Tanzanian painters and designers who carry out their work independently but need a place to showcase their goods. You can watch the artists at work, and their vibrant depictions of African daily life make a great memento to take home. Don’t be surprised to have numerous craftspeople proudly lurching forward to show you their creations and entice you to buy. Bargaining is de rigueur and perfectly acceptable, and some of the artists are willing to accept foreign currency. tingatinga.org


The drive back to the city centre may take 20-30 minutes depending on traffic (try to leave before the close of the work day). End your tour with a poolside cocktail or Tusker beer at the Southern Sun on Garden Avenue. The hotel’s subtle Moorish décor – think carved archways and exotic mid-Orient artworks – harks back to Tanzania’s past as an Arab trading post. If you have time for a full meal, go for the Zanzibar-spiced chicken at Baraza restaurant. It is prepared in the rotisserie with an assortment of local sauces and spices. Other favourites include spicy Swahili seafood curry and coconut-infused prawns. The space is packed with Tanzanian artwork and surrounded by greenery. Open 11am-10pm; tel +255 22 213 7575; tsogosunhotels.com

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