Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Day 1) 2022

     The morning of November 10 found us docked in Dar es Salaam, the largest city (more than 6 million) and commercial hub of Tanzania and until 1974 its capital as well.  After leaving Safaga we had 8 consecutive sea days as we sailed around the Horn of Africa To Tanzania.  Not much happens on sea days , which is a large part of their charm, with a lot of time to marvel at how incredibly much water is in the ocean (this was the Indian Ocean) and watch the sunsets.  There was good weather and not-so-good weather, some hot days and some not quite so hot days, and plenty of time to walk around the ship.  One night we ate with all of our tablemates in the Pinnacle Grill where they were having a one night pop-up of Rudy’s Sel de Mer (a seafood restaurant on some of the bigger ships).  It was pretty good, but no better in our opinion than the usual fare at the Pinnacle.


     Dar es Salaam was added to our itinerary about 6 weeks before sailing as a replacement for the Seychelles.  This was OK for us because we had been to the Seychelles but had never been to Tanzania.  Dar es Salaam means “haven of peace” in Arabic.  It was founded in the 1860’s by the Sultan of Zanzibar on the site of a fishing village called Mzizima, which had been there for a very long time.  But when the Sultan died the project was abandoned and it fell into obscurity.  It became the administrative capital of German East Africa in 1896.  The British captured it in 1916 during WWI and renamed the area Tanganyika Territory.  Dar (as it is often called) remained the administrative center.  Tanganyika won independence in 1961 and in 1964 it merged with Zanzibar to form Tanzania.  Dar es Salaam continued as the capital of the new nation until 1973 when the more centrally located city of Dodoma became the capital, but many government offices still remain in Dar es Salaam.

     Dar es Salaam is not a major cruise ship destination and it lacks a cruise terminal.  It has a large commercial port and cruise ships can be docked anywhere there is space.  Our arrival was greeted by dancers in indigenous dress with painted faces, including several on stilts.  This sort of welcome on the dock is always a nice way to begin a visit.

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      We spent this day on an excursion to visit the highlights of the city.  There were about six 12 passenger vans on this tour & it appeared they had overcommitted.  It took quite a while to get people sorted into all the vans.  Then we all drove to the Botanical Gardens, which was not on our itinerary (for good reason, since it appears its plants and trees are mostly imported rather than Tanzanian).  We spent close to half an hour sitting on the bus in the driveway of the Botanical Garden while all the guides from the different buses had a conference about conducting the excursion, something you would think they would have done before picking up the paying passengers.  Maybe some of the guides were last minute hires, who knows?  It was not an auspicious start.

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     The guides finally reboarded the buses and we drove to the neighboring National Museum of Tanzania, established in 1934 and open since 1940.  We were first gathered on benches in an outdoor spot under a large tree for a lengthy introduction to the museum and outline of Tanzanian history.  Then we accompanied our guides into the museum buildings, which housed a variety of photos and eclectic artifacts, from cars that belonged to former presidents to 19th century carved wood colonial furniture to paintings and sculpture to (most interesting) skulls and bones of prehistoric hominids unearthed by the Leakeys (some original and some reproductions).

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     Our next visit was to the Makumbusho Village Museum, a branch of the National Museum.  Established in 1967, this is an open air museum displaying traditional huts from 16 Tanzanian ethnic groups along with some agricultural flora and fauna.  This is a small sampling of the more than 100 ethnic groups in the country, speaking some 120 or more languages (Swahili is the primary language and used to communicate between different language groups). Some of the huts are round and some square or oblong, one is even underground, most with thatched roofs and either wood or mud and dung walls.   A baobab tree was growing on the grounds as well as some flowers.

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     We visited the Mwenge Carvings Market, which we had been told by several sources was a working craftsmen’s cooperative where we could watch wood being sculpted and purchase the artists’ creations.  Instead it was just an open grass square surrounded by open fronted shops.  Some of the shops had wood masks and sculptures for sale but we saw neither craftsmen nor spaces for craftsmen to work.  Very disappointing. 

     From there we went to visit an area crowded with Tinga Tinga painting vendors, some of whom may also be artists.  This is a distinctive East African style of painting originated by Edward Saidi Tingting in Dar es Salaam.  Traditionally these paintings were done with bicycle paint on masonite which makes for brightly colored pictures with African motifs.  Many visitors really liked them but they were not to our taste.  As at many places we stopped throughout Africa individuals were there on foot trying to sell small jewelry or souvenirs.

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     Our last stop was at the Slipway shopping center.  This was a nice collection of shops and restaurants by Msasani Bay on the Indian Ocean.  We sat at an outside table with our friends Mel and Karen and had beer and delicious french fries.  We could see the bay from our table.

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     Heading back to the port we crossed the new Tanzanite Bridge.  It is not made of Tanzanite (a gemstone found only in Tanzania), that’s just its name.  Opened in February, just 9 months before our visit, the bridge is about half a mile long with an unusual cable construction.  It was built and largely funded by the South Koreans.  We crossed it a couple of times today and once on day 2.  The local people seem to be very proud of it.

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     Returning to the ship (through a startlingly persistent traffic jam) we passed, but did not stop for, two of the local landmarks,  The Azania Front Lutheran Church, built by Germans in 1898, serves as a cathedral for the local diocese.  Askari was the name given to African soldiers serving the colonial powers in East Africa.  While there were Askari serving in the German military in this area, the Askari Monument was erected by the British in 1927 to honor the Askari that fought for the British during World War I.  Unfortunately, our van did not get close enough as we passed for a clear picture of the monument.

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     After dinner we walked out onto the aft deck for a picture of the harbor at night.  We think the tall building is the Tanzania Port Authority Tower, built in 2016, which is the tallest in the country.  On the dock itself was a vast sea of cars, presumably offloaded from cargo ships for sale in Tanzania.

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One response

  1. konnie

    Bet you are gad not all tours end that way. Sorry, dont think this is one place I care to go. That is what is neat, there is always a place that makes some people happy and if we are not, there is always the next place

    February 27, 2023 at 8:36 pm

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