Andoany, Nosy Be, Madagascar (Day 1) 2022
On November 15 we were anchored near Andoany, the largest town on the island of Nosy Be near the northern tip of Madagascar. The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar is located in the Indian Ocean some 250 miles from the east coast of Africa and Nosy Be is about 5 miles from the coast of Madagascar. Madagascar seems to have been first settled between 1500 and 2500 years ago by people from present day Indonesia and the heritage of the modern Malagasi populace is largely a combination of African and Southeast Asian. Madagascar was ruled by the French from 1897 until independence was achieved in 1960.
Nosy Be, which means “Big Island” in Malagasy, is about 123 square miles and its population is in excess of 109,000. The French took control of Nosy Be in 1840 and founded an outpost named “Hell-Ville,” now Andoany. With a name like that we thought at first this might not be a pleasant visit but it turns out the town was originally named after a French admiral named Anne Chretien Louis de Hell. It is the capital of the island with a population, at last count a decade ago, of about 40,000.
We were scheduled to visit here during the world cruise in 2018. In fact, in anticipation one of the entertainment officers had obtained a lemur suit he wore on occasion on the ship (lemurs are famously endemic to Madagascar and we will get to them in more depth tomorrow). But we were unable to stop in this port in 2018 because of an outbreak of plague(!) in parts of Madagascar. So today was our first visit here. This was a tender port, so in the morning we boarded a tender boat to the port to meet the excursion we had booked. On the way in we passed a number of small boats.
We piled into vans at the dock to begin the excursion, which included a number of lengthy drives over often unpaved roads littered with rocks. As you can imagine, it was a very bumpy ride. But these roads did take us into back country with a passing view of how people live here. We saw quite a lot of poverty and we have read since that they were in the midst of a two year famine. Not pretty, but real life. When we reached the village that was our first stop there was a fairly long walk past what looked like a farm on very uneven ground. They had geese (or ducks?) and what looked like red peppers drying in the sun on a table.
We stopped here to visit the sacred tree of Nosy Be (yes, that rhymes). Located near the coast by the small village of Mahatsinjo, this huge Banyan tree is said to have been planted in 1800 and was declared sacred by the Queen of the island in 1836. Even today the Queen of Nosy Be makes a sacrifice at this tree every year and several hundred pilgrims pray and leave offerings every month. Banyans are in the Ficus family (like the one you may have in your living room) and as you can see in the pictures they spread by sending new shoots down from branches to the ground, where they root and turn into additional trunks. We have read that lemurs live high in the branches of this tree but we didn’t see any. We think the cloths hung around some of the tree trunks may have been offerings. The tree’s root system is vast with many large and thick roots spreading over each other like a giant web that covers, we are told, some 5,000 square feet (or maybe it was meters).
During the long drive on unpaved roads to our lunch spot we passed several ylang-ylang plantations. The aromatic oil from ylang-ylang flowers is widely used in perfumes and is an important export for Madagascar, where it is produced in great quantities. Because of this, Nosy Be has sometimes been known as Nosy Manitra (the scented island). Ylang-Ylang is a Spanish mispronunciation of a Tagalog term for “wilderness,” where these trees originally grew in the Philippines. This tree grows very fast, sometimes in excess of 20 feet per year, to an average height of about 40 feet. But in Madagascar the trees are heavily pruned, which keeps all the flowers within reach of harvesters on the ground and also stimulates the tree to produce more flowers. As a result the trees are very strange looking, close to the ground and wide spreading. Our guide picked a flower for us to see, but we did not get out of the van to examine the trees more closely.
We stopped for lunch at a small fishing village reached by a long drive over dirt (and rock) roads. There was a small beach with houses along its edge and a number of small boats on land and in the water. It was low tide so the water’s edge was pretty far from the beach.
A fish lunch was set out on a buffet on the porch of the building where it was cooked (a restaurant? probably not in such a small place). We weren’t particularly hungry and the lunch was not included in the excursion so we sat on the porch and had a local Three Horses beer. There was a beautiful view of the beach and the bay from the thatch covered porch.
We walked around the village, past a colorful monument in the center of town, and viewed some of the agricultural fields and houses. Some young women with engagingly painted faces were operating a souvenir stand.
It was another long drive to our next stopping point. As before, we passed rural buildings with fields and animals. In many parts of Africa, including Madagascar, the traditional method of carrying things on top of the head is still practiced.
Mount Passot is one of the tallest mountains on Nosy Be (it is usually called the tallest, but we have seen maps showing Mount Lokobe being taller, so who knows). We drove there and walked to the top of the mountain to see the magnificent panoramic view of the ocean and the crater lakes below, left there by volcanoes. The hike up the hill was pretty steep but accompanied by many colorful flowers. We believe that the island in the distance is Nosy Sakatia. Coming down we walked through a craft shop and passed more flowers, plus mango and papaya trees.
We drove down the mountain and along some roads to an ocean front town called Dzamandzar, the second largest city on Nosy Be with a population of about 19,000. We passed a number of rural scenes glowing in the setting sun. This city has somewhat famous balloon houses, which we stopped briefly to visit. It was rush hour and the traffic was slow and crowded. We had seen Dzamandzar in the distance from Mt Passot.
From here we started what seemed like a very long and bumpy ride back to the port. By the time we arrived it was dark, so not many pictures in the town. We will leave you here with some of the scenes on the drive to the port, and if you are wondering about all those nasty looking clouds, no it didn’t rain.
Zanzibar, Tanzania (Day 2) 2022
We were still in Zanzibar on November 13 after spending the night anchored beyond the ferry port (which is on the left in this picture from the ship).
After tendering in to shore we had a fun day exploring Stone Town with our friends Bill & Robert. Stone Town is the old part of the city of Zanzibar, located on the edge of the Indian Ocean. It started out in the 11th century as a small fishing village called Shangani. The Portuguese took control of the island in the 15th century and built a church in Shangani in the early 16th and later a fort. But early in the 17th century the Portuguese were ousted and the Omani Sultan invited in to protect the island. When the Omani Sultan moved his capital here from Muscat in 1840 the town’s development escalated. In 1861 Zanzibar was separated from Oman as part of a royal succession dispute and in 1890 the British made it a protectorate, a status that lasted until independence was achieved in the revolution of 1964. Later that year Zanzibar and Tanganyika merged to become Tanzania.
After leaving the ship’s tender at the Ferry Port we started walking along the water, where we passed many boats and could see Zaandam anchored off shore in the Indian Ocean.
In the mid 19th century Zanzibar was something of a boomtown as a major hub for trade in spices, ivory and slaves. It was in the 1830’s that the iconic stone buildings began to appear here. They are mostly built with coral stone and limestone, not particularly sturdy building materials, and in recent years a large number of buildings have deteriorated. Substantial conservation efforts have been underway since the 1990’s but some of the most important buildings have partially collapsed or are too dangerous to enter.
The first important building we came to, the Old Dispensary, was renovated in the 1990’s by the Aga Khan trust (his sister was a high school friend of Rick’s sister back in the 1970’s). Its original construction began in 1887 with the intention that it would be a hospital for the poor. But its sponsor died before completion and the new owner decided to use the ground floor as a dispensary and the floors above for apartments. It fell into disuse and decay after the 1964 revolution when its Indian owners, like most Indians here, fled the country. The building’s delightful architecture is a mixture of Indian, Swahili and European influences. Today it sits behind a construction wall so there must be new problems being addressed.
The Sultan’s Palace was built in the late 19th century. It replaced a previous palace on the same spot that was destroyed in 1896 during the Anglo Zanzibar War. After Britain established its protectorate here in 1890 it expected to be able to choose a Sultan who would be compliant with British policies, the most contentious of which was the abolition of slavery, a lucrative business in Zanzibar. When the Sultan died in 1896 and the British designated a new one, another contender claimed the throne and holed up in the palace with a contingent of almost 3,000 loyal troops and a navy consisting of the armed royal yacht. When he rejected a British ultimatum to stand down by 9:00 AM on August 27 five British ships opened fire on the palace. Within 45 minutes the war ended when the Sultan surrendered, the shortest war on record. The new Sultan selected by the British then had the new palace built to replace the one damaged by the warships. After the 1964 socialist revolution it was renamed “People’s Palace” and became a government office.
Today it is a museum. You will notice that its white facade is marred by black streaks and blotches which we assume is mold. This was true of many of the white buildings in Stone Town. Also like many buildings in Stone Town, the palace has some beautiful carved wood doors not unlike the one we saw in Bagamoyo. There are hundreds of these doors here, some rectangular and others with rounded tops. The pointed brass knob decoration is a style imported from India where they were reputedly used to deter war elephants from bashing the gates of fortified buildings. You will see a lot of these in today’s episode and while they share an overall style each one is different.
The Old Customs House on the waterfront is where the new sultan was proclaimed in 1896 after the old palace had been destroyed in the war. Originally built in the 18th century, it has a distinctive enclosed veranda added later and a nice Zanzibari door, which might be the one in the picture below.
The House of Wonders was built in 1883 to serve as a ceremonial palace for official receptions. With a 19th century modern design, its name came from being the first building in Zanzibar wired for electricity and the first building in East Africa with an elevator. Its large main door was said to be designed to enable the Sultan to ride an elephant through it. In 1897 it was renovated to repair some damage during the Anglo Zanzibar War and a clock tower was added to the center of the facade. The British used it for government offices after 1911 and it was converted into a school after the revolution in 1964. After the millennium it became the House Of Wonders Museum.
The building is now closed and will hopefully be repaired and restored. Large sections of the veranda collapsed in 2012 and part of the roof in 2015. Then much of the front facade,including the clock tower, collapsed in 2020. As you can see in the pictures, it is now behind a corrugated construction wall and a huge canvas is draped over the right half of the building that now lacks a roof and most of its facade. A sad sight indeed.
The Old Fort was built by the Omanis at the end of the 17th century when they ousted the Portuguese and took control of Zanzibar. It was made of stone and meant largely to protect the city from another European invasion. It was built on the spot where the Portuguese had built the first church on the island and is now the oldest building in the city. It was used as a prison in the 19th century and a railroad depot in the early 20th. In 1994 an amphitheater was built inside and today it is a cultural center and home to the Zanzibar International Film Festival. One of the towers at the fort’s corners is a display space for local arts and crafts and it gives a fine view of the whole courtyard (Rick and Robert climbed up to see it). One side of the wall in the courtyard is lined with vendors’ stands selling clothing and souvenirs.
Raise your hand if you recognize the name of Zanzibar native Farrokh Bulsara. He was born here in 1946 and grew up to be the world famous singer Freddie Mercury of the band Queen. Maybe you knew that but we didn’t before we began planning this trip. We visited the Freddie Mercury museum in Stone Town. It is small and filled mostly with photos and explanatory signs with few artifacts other than some costumes and a piano he played here as a boy. The museum opened in 2019.
After this we had an interesting time walking around Stone Town’s spider web of narrow streets, most too narrow for cars but not for motorcycles. We passed many distinctive Zanzibari doors. We have read that in 1990 there were some 400 of them here but now its down to about 250 because of deterioration and selling of doors to wealthy foreigners. The stone benches you can see lining the building walls in some of these streets are called Barazas. They have a long history here, serving as places to sit down and socialize and as elevated walkways when streets are flooded during the rainy season. Many of the streets themselves are paved with stone tiles. You may also notice the maze of electrical and (we presume) telephone wires hanging above the streets, which is a little scary.
During this walk we passed the “Shangan Post Office,” built in 1906. You will recall that Shangani was the name of the original fishing village here and this neighborhood is where it was located. We also passed the impressive and well maintained Sunni Madressa School, painted bright green and white, which was built in 1998 according to the sign over the door.
Christ Church, the Anglican cathedral in Zanzibar, was opened on Christmas day in 1879 and consecrated as a cathedral in 1903. The biggest slave market in Zanzibar operated on these grounds and the church was built here to celebrate the end of slavery, with the altar located where the whipping post had been. Inside there is a cross made from the wood of the tree in modern Zambia where David Livingstone’s heart was buried (at his direction) before his body was carried to Zanzibar for shipment to England. We were told that the marble pillars inside were installed upside down, but when the architect saw them he decided they should be left as is.
In the church yard is a haunting sculpture group titled “Memory For The Slaves,” made in Bagamoyo and installed here in 1998. There were bright flowers nearby and several carved doors in the side of the church.
Under the church is the old slave quarters from when this was a slave market, which we had visited yesterday with Aziza. It is very dark and cramped but some 75 slaves were kept here at a time. Chains with manacles are still attached to some of the benches. This is a very sobering place to visit.
After all this we decided we were hungry so we set out for a late lunch. Bill had read about a couple of restaurants he wanted to try but they were closed. So we walked for a while before coming to a nice beach front restaurant called “6 degrees South,” which is Zanzibar’s location relative to the equator. On the way we passed some more interesting buildings, a market area and, yes, more Zanzibari doors.
The restaurant had very good food, good local beer and a nice view of the ocean. Since it was past the normal lunch hour we had the place almost to ourselves.
We took the ship’s shuttle bus back to the ferry dock. The stop was next to a nice hotel where we waited about 15 minutes for it. Some kids were playing soccer outside. The ferry terminal was very crowded, apparently because a ferry had just arrived and offloaded a lot of passengers. We made our way through to the dock & tendered back to the ship. We sailed away about 5:30 as the sun was going down and later there was a very nice sunset to finish our enriching stay in Zanzibar.
Zanzibar, Tanzania (Day 1) 2022
We anchored across from the ferry terminal in Zanzibar early in the morning of November 12 for an overnight stay. Zanzibar City sits on the island of Unguja some 22 miles across the water from Bagamoyo and maybe 50 miles from Dar es Salaam. Originally occupied by Bantu speaking people about 2,000 years ago it was controlled by the Portuguese for 200 years starting in the 15th century. They were expelled in the 17th century and the Sultan of Oman was invited to take power to protect Zanzibar from them. In the 1890’s the British established a protectorate that lasted until 1964 when a revolution that cost some 20,000 lives ousted the British and established a socialist government, which then merged with Tanganyika to form Tanzania.
We tendered ashore to join our expedition at the port. From there we had a fairly long ride in a large van to the Jozani National Park, a rainforest that is the only national park on Zanzibar.
The Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey is a species endemic to the Zanzibar archipelago. While there are other species of Red Colobus elsewhere in Africa the one living only in Zanzibar is considered the most endangered primate species in Africa. We have seen estimates of its total population between 1,000 and 3,000, but the first number seems closer. They live in trees and eat young leaves, flowers and unripe fruit. About half of them live in the Jozani forest. Apparently this species separated from others about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago when a rise in sea levels isolated them on these islands. Their name derives from the reddish brown color that covers most of their backs and the back of their heads.
We drove in the vans to an area of the forest where the guides said the monkeys would be for lunchtime. We had to hike into the woods over very uneven paths but not too far before they pointed out the first monkeys.
You can see below the monkeys’ stylish reddish brown backs. In case you are wondering why they are often looking away, think about how you would feel if a horde of camera wielding tourists crowded around you. I think I would face the other way too. Most of the ones who didn’t face completely away were obscured behind leaves and branches. We visited during mating season, so there were babies with their mothers.
Yes, we were part of that crowd of visitors; what else could we do? Fortunately the monkeys didn’t really seem to mind, since they are undoubtedly used to these visits. We did manage to get some pictures of monkeys looking our way. You will notice that from the front there is no indication they have any reddish fur. Instead, they are black and white with pretty wild punk like hair shooting out of their heads.
Jozani also features a mangrove forest. It’s kind of swampy and dark but the root patterns are interesting, particularly when there are so many of them. Mangroves are valuable along the water’s edge where they help keep the banks from eroding and provide habitat for fish and small animals. I saw a red crab on a forked log in the water when I stepped onto a small wooden bridge but by the time I got the camera raised into position (maybe a second) it had scurried into the fork. Still visible, but less so, and it was so fast.
Our next destination was a spice farm, but it was a long drive enabling us to see something of the countryside as we passed. Among other things, there was a small neighborhood mosque (we think), several produce markets and a cow in somebody’s front yard. There was plenty of poverty to be seen but what looked like nice places as well.
Zanzibar has long been known as a source of spices, especially cloves. At the Maganga Spice Farm we were given a tour of a number of different kinds of spice trees and also a lunch. We sat out in the open on long benches while the food was piled on tables, then brought to us by the farm’s personnel. We filled our plates with several kinds of local food, then discovered after eating all of it that there was much more to come, distributed in waves. The food was very good, particularly the ripe local fruit like mangoes and pineapple. In the yard where we were eating some chickens were looking for scraps (they undoubtedly have a lot of experience with groups like ours).
After lunch we were treated to a demonstration of cocoanut harvesting. A fellow tied his feet together and shimmied up a palm trunk, singing all the way. He was very good & very fast . . . I’m pretty certain we couldn’t do that.
After the demonstration we were all given hats woven from palm leaves with red flowers in them, different styles for men and women. Men were also given woven palm ties and women combination rings and bracelets. Very silly looking but fun anyway.
After all this we headed back to town. The excursion agenda included a guided walking tour of Stone Town, the old town of Zanzibar City. The guides in each bus encouraged us to agree to skip this as everyone (including them) was tired. We were told that most of the buses settled for a drive by (the streets of Stone Town are too narrow for a bus). But most of the folks on our bus were up for a walking tour and our guide, Aziza, agreed to do it. We dropped a few people off at the ferry dock then we all left the bus for our tour. Although she was as tired as the others and probably would have preferred to skip it, Aziza led us through Stone Town for an hour and a half, skillfully explaining what we were seeing. She was a trouper who deserved (and received) a very good tip.
Since we spent the entire second day in Zanzibar exploring Stone Town I will save most of that discussion for the next episode. We walked through the Old Fort, originally built by the Portuguese and the oldest building in town. We saw a number of elaborately carved doors, somewhat similar to what we had seen in Bagamoyo, which can be seen throughout Stone Town. And we stopped into an Anglican church built on the spot where the slave market had been in order to commemorate the abolition of slavery. In its basement we visited the cells where new slaves were crowded into an area too cramped to permit standing up.
We tendered back to the ship after a rewarding day, looking forward to returning to Stone Town in the morning to explore it in more depth.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Day 2) – Bagamoyo 2022
It’s always nice, when you have the opportunity, to see something of a new country outside of the port city. So having seen the sights of Dar es Salaam yesterday, for November 11 we booked an excursion that would take us north to the historic town of Bagamoyo. We had been advised that, although only about 47 miles away, the drive to and from Bagamoyo would take a long time because of heavy traffic on the coast road. But our guides were able to book a police escort that included police stationed ahead of us to move other traffic to the sides so we could drive the route mostly at speed. This was the same tour company that had been so disorganized the day before, but they made up for that on today’s trip.
With a population in excess of 80,000, Bagamoyo (“Lay down your heart” in Swahili) sits on the coast of the Indian Ocean. While the area was probably first settled in the 8th century the modern town was founded in the late 18th century. Situated just across the strait from the island of Zanzibar, Bagamoyo was an important terminus for caravans from the interior who then transported their slaves and ivory to Zanzibar for sale to many countries. Bagamoyo was the first capital of German East Africa from 1886 until 1891 when the capital was moved to Dar es Salaam. Bagamoyo was captured by the British in August, 1916, during World War I and remained in British hands until independence was achieved in 1961.
Our first stop upon arriving in Bagamoyo was the Old Fort, the oldest stone building in town. Originally built as a house in the 1850’s, this became a military installation in the 1890’s when the Germans added barracks and a wall. Later it served as a prison for many years, both before and after independence. It seems to be badly in need of restoration. One notable item here was an old carved wood Swahili door (this part of Africa is sometimes called the Swahili Coast), quite beautiful and of a type we would also see in Zanzibar.
From the Old Fort we walked down to the nearby sea coast. On the way was a monument memorializing the spot where resisters to German rule were publicly hung. Bagamoyo is to this day a center for the construction of dhows, which are sailboats traditional to this part of Africa. We saw dhows being built and being used by local fishermen.
Walking back up from the beach we came to the old Boma. Built by the Germans in 1897, this was the administrative center for this part of the colony and continued in this role after the British took over. The name was applied by the British. We are not sure whether this was the actual derivation, but “Boma” means enclosure in Swahili, as for corralling domestic animals. The building has been under restoration for some time and, while it was once undoubtedly a bustling place, today the rooms inside are completely empty. Samples of the original tiles used in the Boma were displayed on a step outside. There used to be a monument in the space between the Boma and the beach called the Wissmann Monument. Built by the Germans in 1894, it was a memorial to German soldiers killed fighting Arabs and Africans in the colony. It was demolished by the British in the late 1940’s.
Reboarding the bus, we drove through the streets of the town to our next stop. The bus was moving kind of jerkily through the uneven streets and there was no commentary. We passed an unidentified ruin of an old building and an entrance to the Bagamoyo Art Market, which seems to be an artist cooperative store located in what was once the slave market.
Christianity came to the area in 1868 when some French Catholic clergymen established a mission on land donated by Muslims. As mentioned, Bagamoyo was at that time an important terminal for new slaves brought from the interior, where they were interred pending transport to Zanzibar and then onward to other countries in the East (ie not to America). The primary aim of the new mission was the ransom and freeing of slaves. Close to 400 were freed in this manner (out of an estimated 1.5 million transported during the 19th century), and a freedman’s village was established for and by them near the mission. The Holy Ghost Church, reputedly the first church in mainland East Africa, was built in 1872.
Bagamoyo was not only the terminus for slave caravans coming from the interior but also the starting point for some early European explorers mounting expeditions to the interior. Perhaps the most famous was the Burton/Speke expedition to discover the source of the Nile. They gathered supplies in Zanzibar then transferred to nearby Bagamoyo by ship, hired porters and set out to the interior. Dr. David Livingstone, a doctor, missionary and abolitionist as well as probably the most famous European explorer in Africa at the time, never visited Bagamoyo during his lifetime. However, when he died in 1873 Livingstone’s servants carried his body (or most of it; on his instructions his heart was first buried in what is now Zambia) some 700 miles to Bagamoyo, where it lay in state in the Holy Ghost Church from February 24 until . . . February 25. Some 700 slaves came to see the body before it was shipped to Zanzibar and on to London, where it is interred in Westminster Abbey. Today only the tower of the Holy Ghost Church remains, renamed the Livingstone Tower in honor of the Doctor’s posthumous night there.
The New Holy Ghost Church was opened in 1914 on the eve of the First World War. Scenes from the history of slavery in the area are painted on the wall behind the apse.
A museum sits near the church in what was originally the Sisters’ House, built in 1876. Much of it is devoted to church history but it also contains such artifacts as chains and a neck manacle for restraining slaves and a wooden xylophone (an instrument that originated in Africa).
In the yard by the buildings was a large Baobab tree planted in 1868 when the mission began. According to a sign it was about 27 feet in circumference in 2000, so it is probably 40 or 50 feet today. A French nurse who worked here in the 1890’s attached a chain to the tree to hold her donkey while she worked. It was forgotten and by 2012 the tree had expanded to swallow up all but one link of the chain. A new chain was attached to that to keep it from disappearing completely and it can still be seen today. The tree is healthy and still produces fruit every year.
Last stop was the Kaole ruins. This is what is left of a 13th to 14th century village, probably originally settled by Persian refugees from the Mongols. We visited the remains of a 13th century mosque, thought to be the oldest in East Africa. It was notable for the external steps for the muezzin to climb to the roof for the call to prayer which, we are told, are seen only in this part of Africa. Near the mosque are the remains of some two dozen tombs, several with tall pillars (once covered in Chinese porcelain) probably marking the graves of local rulers or notables. No houses or other buildings are to be seen here, probably because they were built of impermanent materials.
We ate lunch outside at tables under a large baobab tree. The local beer was pretty good.
After lunch we boarded the vans for the trip back to the ship. Once we reached the main road we were joined by another police escort and drove back at high speed, switching lanes and even using the lanes going the other way. It was a pretty wild ride. If I were a local commuter I think I would resent being shunted aside like this for the convenience of foreign tourists. We noticed many people sitting under trees along the roadway to get out of the heat, though others were going about their business. A lot of trees in front of houses and shops had chairs or benches to accommodate this, so it is probably a daily practice (and pretty smart since it was quite hot). There were a lot of stray dogs wandering around as well.
As the day ended and we prepared to leave Dar es Salaam, who would think there could be such a dramatic sunset over . . . a huge parking lot.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.