For my money we could have skipped Dar Es Salaam or Zanzibar, made up the lost time by doing that, and not missed Madagascar. But I’m not the captain. So instead we got an extra sea day where we made up the time with parties and art classes, and since we are back on Pirate Watch, we had safety drills.
Dar Es Salaam means “Haven or home of Peace” in Arabic and the city was developed by Sultan Majid bin Said of Zanzibar in the mid 1800s. Prior to that the Portuguese held domination. It is the largest city in Tanzania with about two and a half million people. After Majid’s death in the late 1800s, the German East Africa Company established the town as the administrative & commercial centre of German East Africa with the construction of a central railway line in the early 1900s. German East Africa was captured by the British during World War 1 and from then on was referred to as Tanganyika. In 1961, Tanganyika attained independence from colonial rule and in 1964 Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania. So this is how these country names come and go. It’s hard to keep track of them. Dar Es Salaam remains Tanzania’s primary city and port.
It is intriguing to see the influence the Portuguese, Germans, and British had on South and East Africa. I am not sure it was a positive influence, because I am not familiar enough with the history, especially with only a day here or there. I just know that all of these places I have visited have a huge amount of poverty and that the ruling governments now seem to look after themselves and not their people. Perhaps it was ever thus?
One of the stops on our tour took us to the Tingatinga Arts Co-operative Society where one could see artists working in the style of Edward Tingatinga, a local Tanzanian artist. You can watch the artists working on pieces, chat with them, no one hassles you, and the prices are reasonable. Although Tiingatinga was killed accidentally at age 40, he had begun to train young artists, and his tradition and/or style is carried on today. Yes, I bought a small painting.
ZANZIBAR – I was waitlisted for a tour here which didn’t materialize, so I went into town on my own. Our shuttle bus stopped at a lovely old hotel and the concierge there found me a walking guide. You don’t want to miss Stone Town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its labyrinth of narrow alleyways, and its interesting architecture and history you can see in the brass-studded carved doors, mosques and houses. You also need a guide because I am sure, without one, I would still be wandering around in there. I also saw the Persian-style Hamamni Baths in the centre of town, built by an Arabian sultan.
But most moving was the museum at the site of the Great Slave Market where up to 60,000 slaves passed through this market each year. They were jammed together in underground chambers before being sold on the market. These underground “rooms” were made of stone and barely high enough for me to stand up straight. There was a ledge or platform they could sit or sleep on and below that, everytime the tide came in it washed right up into these rooms. It was probably the only means of keeping clean and going to the bathroom from what I could see.
From one of the tablets in the museum – “Slavery had always been a component of traditional East African society. During the 19th century the trade grew into a highly lucrative business conducted by Europeans, Indians, Arabs, coastal people and ethnic leaders of the mainland.” So everyone was involved and it is a dreadful place and one wonders how anyone could treat another human being in such a manner. On a lighter note, Stone Towns other claim to fame is a home where Dr. David Livingstone once lived for three months while he outfitted himself for his travels in Africa.
Leave a Reply