22 Mar An African Christmas – Tanzania Travels
I constantly get itchy feet. I’ve had to stifle them recently to afford all the cameras and lenses involved in setting up a business from scratch, so actually didn’t leave the UK for 7 years. 7 YEARS!
(Ireland doesn’t count, does it?)
But when my elder sister and her family moved over to Tanzania, it just became too much to bear any longer, and I realised she would totally need a visit from me, so I got my passport updated and, over Christmas 2011, set off with my younger sister to go Exploring.
‘Exploring’ with air-con and regular trips to nice cafes that is. Staying in their gorgeous home in Dar es Salaam, eating in great restaurants, lounging on beautiful beaches and visiting the island paradise of Zanzibar… for a first introduction to Africa, I think this was a nice, gentle way to do it!
Even still, Africa scared me, inspired me, dehydrated me, confused me, dazzled me, made me ill, and refreshed me all at the same time – I can’t wait to go again.
Ok, it pays to look where you’re going, right? So let’s begin with a map, as all good journeys do:
Loved how green it was everywhere. Because of the rainy season (more on that below), everything was well nourished.
This was a beach at the Yacht Club in Dar, the view from which, over towards a cement factory on the far shore, inspired Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ apparently. (If you look closely, I think that’s it a quarter of the way in from the right in the distance, on the picture below. Sorry, it was a hazy day!)
On the right is my beautiful niece, Esther.
This is a banda they had made in their front garden, perfect for whiling away a few unbearably hot hours with a book.
And this is Zainab, their housekeeper, who taught me some Swahili and how to wear a headscarf.
She also showed us round the local fruit and vegetable market before taking us to meet her amazing (extremely cheerful!) family.
We came across some crazy looking wildlife. Look at this little fellow!
Lots of hermit crabs on the beach.
I thought this was a metal wire stuck into the wall at first:
Bless his little red trousers…
The roads are quite manic. To put it mildly. I’m really not sure how the laws of physics are even at work in this scene.
I got fascinated with the typography, particularly all these hand drawn signs (that’s the graphic designer in me). There were so many really beautiful examples and it shows such a level of craftmanship. I’m quite jealous of an economy that supports this artistry on every street and nearly every shop, business and organisation (only the really big corporates would have shiny manufactured signs) …
… though I’m sure the signwriters aren’t particularly well-paid. There are so many around:
See, even the hospital has a hand painted sign! (And er, this ominous sounding pharmacy.)
Esther was a perfect model throughout my stay. She will happily smile at the camera with all the cheese in the world, whenever I point it at her. It took a delayed dinner to get something a bit more real! We passed the time waiting for the waiter, by taking photos, playing games and writing in her diary for 24th December: “Zanzibar”. That was so she didn’t forget to go.
As we flew out to Zanzibar, we saw from the plane some of the remaining damage from the flooding that had struck a few days prior. Dar had experienced phenomenal amounts of rainfall in the first couple of days we were there (mostly at night, so I was spared feeling like I’d never left Manchester). But many of Dar’s residents were not spared their homes and at least 20 even lost their lives. It seems so surreal that such a catastrophic disaster like this can occur and yet it be so … local and contained. I would probably never have heard about it if I/my family hadn’t been there at the time.
We tried driving into town one day and came across a road looking a bit like this on the right.
A lot of the poorer housing of the city is built on low ground and very crowded, so sadly it was mainly these areas that were affected.
Arriving into Zanzibar by air is an amazing experience.
We spent an afternoon wandering around the astonishing seafront of Stone Town, and then got lost in the maze of streets behind. I can see why it’s cool to get lost there in the Old Town … all those interesting walls and doors and balconies … trouble was we then went and got lost a little bit further beyond – that’s not advised. Took us half an hour retracing out steps in hot sun!
Zanzibar was massively important in the Slave Trade and the Anglican Cathedral in Stone Town was built on the site of the former Slave Market, the foundation stone being laid on Christmas Day 1873, the year the market closed. (It was Christmas Eve 2011, that we went around.)
This is one of two tiny slave chambers – it held 75 women and children. The pit in the centre was the toilet and the low platform was the seating/sleeping/’living’ space. I could barely stand up straight – I don’t think there was much ‘living’ that went on.
From there, it was up to the beautiful north of the island, to spend Christmas on the beach in Nungwi.
Please go and visit a Spice Farm if you go to Zanzibar. You can book Spice Tours from just about anywhere and they are really fascinating. For instance, did you know pineapples grow one to a plant like this?! Or that some bananas grow upside down?
Another cool place we went to was the Village Museum, literally a museum of village huts from around Tanzania. I had no idea there were so many different types of traditional huts, varying by the different ethnic groups who each had their own way of structuring their living spaces. It demonstrated so much of the different lifestyles of each group.
I’ll leave you with the gorgeous smiles of Esther.
If you want to see any more from Tanzania, I also had chance to visit and photograph a superb project, SoS Children’s Village, so have a look there!