Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Slow, Sun, Sea(food)
The sweeping views of the Indian Ocean. Though Fish
Mishkaki (grilled fish kabob) comes in at a close second.
what does the weekend look like?
This is such an awesome place to have visitors. Lots of
folks here take their guests out of Dar es Salaam and to Zanzibar for a
weekend. It’s a twenty minute flight, or an hour-ish ferry ride, and Zanzibar
has both the historical appeal – its stately stone buildings and ornate
architectural doors – as well as beach bumming appeal. Some of the most
beautiful beaches are located in this area of the world.
probably drive down to South Beach, which has some of the nicer beaches in
town, and then in the evening hit up the yacht club to watch the sun set and
eat some grilled fish. The next day we’d go shopping at one of the markets
downtown – it’s chaotic, but worth the experience. We could get some kitenge,
which are the local printed fabric here, or some awesome woven baskets (I use
these baskets all over my house as laundry hampers, rec bins, magazine holders,
everything), or some cool wooden carvings. Finally as the evening winds down we
could go grab some Indian Food downtown at one of the Indian Clubs, then head
to the other side of town to one of the beachfront bars for some beers on the
beach to end the night.
Nyama Choma, or the BBQ meat. BBQ is huge in this country.
The meat is usually “mbuzi”, or goat but often times ‘Kuku’ ,or chicken, and
there’s beef and seafood (again, grilled fish!) too. Always accompanied by
chipsi, or fries. They’ve got a long history of spices here- from the original
trade hub, the spice island of Zanzibar, so these BBQ’d meats are always
or things to do/experience while you’re at your post city?
There’s not a lot of online source material so it’s really
all word of mouth. I happen to write for a local city magazine here (called Whats
Happening in Dar), but even so, it’s hard to hear of things that are
happening unless you’ve got some sort of a connection to the source. On that
note, there are quite a few expats who have been living/working in this area
for quite some time- Tanzania has a huge number of NGOs representing so many
countries- and when I stick close to these long-time expats, find myself doing
a lot of cool activities. seeing new places, and learning new things.
Most difficult about living in Dar es Salaam:
Even if I do get out with some new people, there’s
definitely an expat bubble here. Most of us, definitely Embassy folks, live in
one small area of town called the Peninsula. The facts that traffic is so bad
coming around the peninsula, there is everything you need here, and that most
people live/work/play around this area, makes it so you never have to leave
this one part of Dar. Having lived in big cities where going across town to
different neighborhoods was a normal part of everyday life, this has been the
most difficult thing for me to experience. It’s still really weird to me when I
realize I haven’t left the peninsula in a week, or sometimes two.
Recently my husband and I went with a friend to buy some
goat and lamb meat. But this meant going to a different part of town, choosing
a living, breathing goat and lamb, watching our friend get into a amicable yet
heated bartering match with the owners, then taking it to the back of someone’s
house to watch it get slaughtered. It’s actually something that we wanted to
see, and we had planned the excursion because I fully believe in understanding
where food comes from and that the meat you’re eating was once a living
creature. Call me crazy. Anyway, I grew up in the city, so it was my first time
watching an animal get slaughtered. It was surprisingly peaceful, and quick,
and there was less blood than I thought there’d be. We then watched the animals
get skinned and gutted, and after loading the carcasses in a cooler we took
them to a local butcher where we had him cut up the meat (or, hack it up- I’ve
since realized they are not the prettiest cuts of meat I’ve seen) into pieces
that I wanted. Not a typical adventure, certainly, but new and exciting without
a doubt. And as always, it’s nice to get off the Peninsula!
I met up with a friend who was visiting, who is a surgeon
and was in town with his program visiting a local hospital. He was at
Muhimbili, which is the biggest hospital in town- equivalent of Cedars-Sinai,
or San Francisco General, or what have you. Over dinner, he was telling us the
craziest stories about their level of urgent care (or, lack thereof), and it
really struck me how far away from home I was and how different things here
could be. And then I promptly reminded myself never to get in an accident while
living here- despite being affilitated with the US government there’s only so
much they will be able to do for you.
In addition to rearranging furniture and putting up framed
art and pictures (that’s a given, right?!), it would be getting my kitchen
stuff. I love to cook so I feel home when I have things like an ice cream maker
and a million spatulas. Plus it means we can have people over, and I think
inviting people into your house instantly makes it feel like a home.
One, is a car. Though it sounds dramatic, having a car in
Dar es Salaam really changes things. It’s like Los Angeles here, you really
need wheels to get around.
around here. I pretty much wear my Bensimon tennis shoes day and night.
And finally, pockets. I don’t carry a purse anymore due to
the frequent and rampant bag-snatching thievery that happens here, so I just
carry my coin purse and keys wherever I go. I’ve pretty much relegated all
dresses and pants that don’t have pockets to the back of my closet.
Being addicted to Instagram, I thought I couldn’t live
without a smart phone. Here, I’ve got the most ghetto, ancient-looking Nokia
for a cell phone- and it does a fine job. It fits in my pocket or coin purse,
and plus if it gets stolen I wouldn’t be terribly distraught over losing it. (I
still have my iphone, but use it mostly around the house, as a camera, or when
Hire help, and don’t t be too proud to do this. This was
actually advice that my husband gave me early on, ha. At our last post I held
out for a bit, but in the end it benefitted everyone and I came to realize how
household help is one of the benefits of life abroad. Plus I can rely on the
people we hire to provide me with great advice on how to navigate my new
surroundings. For example, my gardener e tells me where to get the best local
stuff, and has helped us get a bunch of stuff taken care of around the house
that we wouldn’t have been able to do ourselves.
Despite the heat, it’s pants or knee-length skirts paired
with a breezy t-shirt or collared linen tank. Because it’s still conservative
here, I try not to wear shorts unless I’m going to the beach or to a place that
I know is frequented by expats. And during the days, I always have sunglasses
with me. The sun is WAY too bright here to walk around without them.
I’d take a visit to my guy over at the fish market – he
always has the best, freshest fish at the best, freshest prices. So maybe a
grilled or pan-fried catch of the day, coupled with a good salad or two.
Coconuts are very popular here, often used in local dishes, so I’d think about
making coconut rice or coconut shrimp too or
something like that. There are a ton of spices at the market, and I
recently made a cardamom-pistachio ice cream for dessert that was gone in a
Someplace cold, someplace with drastic temperatures.
Iceland, maybe, or any other one of the nordic countries. After two
back-to-back posts in tropical, equatorial climates, I’ve got a closet full of
coats and boots that have been accumulating dust over the last five years!
It’s definitely the increasing level of petty crime around
here. As I mentioend you can’t carry a purse around town because of the bag snatching,
and pickpocketing is common in crowded areas. And as a person who loves toting
around a dlsr camera, as a photographer and blogger, it makes capturing moments
few and far between. I never feel scared walking around, but I’m definitely always
Pole Pole. It’s a common saying around here, that
means slowly slowly. Life here is lived without a sense of urgency- which can
be frustrating at times, but ultimately is good to learn from. We could all use
a little pole pole in our lives, you know?