Experience Urban Tanzania
My six-week service-learning tour in northern Tanzania is now over. A few months ago, I decided that a short (and therefore affordable) trip to Dar es Salaam and then Zanzibar would be a good opportunity to see what a major African city was like and then spend some time decompressing and relaxing on white sandy beaches. After a ten hour bus ride from Arusha, I spent just one night in Dar before taking a ferry to Zanzibar. Here are a few urban-rural comparisons that I noted in Dar:
1. Traffic jams are made of cars, not cows.
2. Over 18 hours in Dar, I heard “mzungu” only once. It was more like 18 times an hour in Karatu.
3. Overall, the infrastructure is not much different from rural towns and cities. While the major streets in Dar are nicely paved, have lines painted on the roads, have well decorated medians and boulevards, and have street lights at some intersections, the side roads and back lanes are covered with dirt and/or small stones and are bumpy and uneven. On the outskirts of Dar, the familiar mud hut with a grass-thatched roof is still quite common. The Internet is no better in Dar. At CPAR’s office in Karatu I was able to Skype with family and friends, while in Dar I was unable to find an Internet café that could support it.
4. English is far more prevalent, for obvious reasons. Dar is a huge international city with a population of around three million. The job market in Dar calls for English skills, while most people in rural Tanzania are farmers and have little need to speak English.
5. The people are just as nice. You’ve heard from each author on this blog that people in rural Tanzania were pleasant and accommodating, I’ve found the same in Dar. The woman I sat beside on the bus, Leah, ended up giving me a ride to my hostel after we got off the bus. I’ve been able to borrow cell phones from people in my hostel, on the street, in a cab, or on the ferry. Asking for directions is also quite simple (provided you can pick out an English speaker – see note 4).
Those are few observations that hit me over my brief stint in Dar. I’m not sure how valid they are provided that I only stayed for 18 hours and explored only a fraction of the city. Nevertheless, I am happy that I decided to do the overland trip to Dar after my stay in rural Tanzania. Being a city slicker born and raised in Winnipeg, I felt that I needed to see big city Africa. Check.