Spending time on city on a Dar es Salaam city tour with Afri Roots completely changed my perspective of this Tanzanian city…
I once had a brief fling with Dar es Salaam. I flew into the airport at 4 am to discover my onward flight had been cancelled. Through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up sleeping on a bench until another flight was scheduled later in the day. I was exhausted and thirsty and ended up despising the airport. If you’ve ever seen the Dar es Salaam airport, you’ll understand why.
My second encounter with Dar es Salaam made me warm up to her manic traffic and sometimes confusing sense of being. I had travelled for work to visit Southern Sun Dar es Salaam, but also got the chance to enjoy the city just a little bit. It made all the difference and to Afri Roots, for that, I say thank you!
Like you would see vendors selling cold drinks in other cities, so you see coconut vendors all over Dar es Salaam!
With only a few hours to cram in as many sites as possible in Dar es Salaam, coupled with monstrous afternoon traffic, our Dar es Salaam city tour was already a feat to be achieved with our guide for the afternoon from Afri Roots, Christian. We merged with the sluggish traffic and Christian wasted no time in relaying to history of Swahili culture, starting with how the language of Swahili developed following the arrivals of Arab explorers that followed the monsoon winds from Somalia, down to Kenya and then onto Tanzania.
Meet the mild-mannered Christian.
Our first stop on the tour was at a small strip of market stalls just near the hotel. Christian explained that Dar es Salaam is flooded with second-hand clothing from Europe. It gets shipped to the port, where it is sorted and handed over to market stall owners. The stalls display almost any item you could imagine and shoppers come here to browse. Generally, everything is of good quality, just in need of a new loving home.
It’s amazing to see this type of recycling in action really, especially for items of clothing that still have a decent lifespan ahead of them. It did make me wonder how much waste we’re actually producing when it comes to our desire for fast fashion, but that’s an opinion piece all on it’s own…
Grinding beans ahead of a caffeine fix
Next, we headed to what Christian playfully described as a ‘coffee buffet’. What lay in store for us really was a small coffee stall just off a major road, where beans are ground, roasted and served up right there. I adore my coffee and I guess coffee snobs might turn their nose up at this, but it was scintillating to watch the entire process for a single cup unfold right in front of me. The allure of the roasting smell, the rudimentary equipment and what ultimately was a cup of coffee strong enough to kick me into next week, was all part of the fun here!
Rather than adding coffee to the super strong coffee, Tanzanians enjoy their coffee with Kashata, a super sweet peanut brittle
To while away the time, coffee drinkers will play a quick game of dominoes at STAR
After making sure we were wide awake, Christian lead us onto the next sensory experience on our Dar es Salaam city tour: the Tandale Market.
Markets are definitely my favourite part of exploring any city, they give you a sense of food, culture and history all in one location, plus of course, you get to meet all the incredible people that work there. There are always tons of characters and generally, I find if I’m friendly and polite, people are happy for me to take photos and help if I want to buy something.
Tandale Market is named after the suburb it’s located in, and I can assure you that you’re unlikely to find it on your own. I’m grateful we had Christian to guide us through it, as it’s certainly one of the busier markets I’ve been to on my travels. There’s a mix of butcheries, fruit and veg stalls, grains, and secondhand goods at Tandale. The pic at the top of the bras was one of the most entertaining sites at Tandale, in case you wondered what that was about!
Sleeping on the job is understandable when you’ve woken up in the early hours of the morning to be onstandby for early shoppers!
Spice and all things nice at Tandale Market.
Stray cats keep the rats at bay around here.
This was how this man described that I should take his photo, friendly guy!
I loved the colours of all these grains and legumes on display at the market.
This section held tables and tables of dried and smoked fish, it actually smelt pretty good!
Further outside of Tandale market were more stores selling everyday staples, as well as traditional fabrics and kangas. Dotted in between were bars, cafes and traditional medicine shops. Christian patiently stopped at each of these along the way and introduced us to their proprietors, explained their business and even helped one of our tour group buy some fabrics.
Fabrics on display near Tandale Market.
The small, colourful stores that line the streets of the residential section of Tandale.
Sorting through pre-loved clothing outside Tandale.
Before merging back into traffic and heading back to our hotel, Christian was keen to show us one last place of interest on our Dar es Salaam city tour, and it was one of the best too! We stopped by a Swahili Ghetto Movie Theatre, a makeshift movie house showing mostly Bollywood movies with subtitles. Christian explained that this is often where Tanzanian resident will end up learning another language, through watching hours and hours of film, pretty fascinating…
Inside the Swahili Ghetto Movie Theatre.
We did this Dar es Salaam city tour by bus, but I would highly recommend you do it by bicycle or bajaj (tuk-tuk) if you have the time, the atmosphere would just be electric. The tours normally leave quite early in the morning and Afri Roots can offer different tours to suit your interests, I’d love to go back for something more food-focused in future!