When I decided to go back to Africa, after my previous trip in 2013, all I could think about was to return to that magical island of Zanzibar that opened my senses like no other place I had seen before. But this time it wasn’t going to be only about relaxing and dancing with the dolphins. We had bigger ambitions.

After convincing my close friend and travel partner, Don, to give up a salsa session in Cuba for an afro dance in black Africa, we planned our itinerary with an endpoint in Tanzania. We didn’t think our plans would get turned around and our journey would start with (what we thought would be) the end. Kigali was supposed to be our first stop, but the Emirates crew denied us boarding the plane at Budapest because of a visa issue for Rwanda. We managed to change our tickets for Dar Es Salaam, just a few minutes before departure. “Well, this trip started out interesting.”

After landing in DAR, we joined a long queue to get the visa stamp. At the end of it, a lady in the booth greeted us warmly with a smile and said: “Romania? No required visa for you, my dears!” Needless to say that our ego was boosted at the thought of having charmed a senior female officer into letting us cross the border for free. Meanwhile, our newly acquired western friends along with all the other non-residents had to wait a while longer and pay a $50 visa fee.  

We got out of the airport and mingled with the various flavors of the city of DAR, starting to feel the relaxed vibe that would set the tone for our just begun expedition. DAR might not be one of the most beautiful African cities, but it definitely has a distinct charm provided by the beautifully orchestrated combination of African, Arab and Indian cultures.

Tanzanian kid in the streets of Dar Es Salaam. Photo by Yu Niimoto

Hakuna matata – welcome friends!

We were welcomed by a young Tanzanian man, Noel. He managed to repress his flight anxiety, while on the same plane with us, with the help of 4 small bottles of red wine, and was ready to celebrate his new friendships with a spontaneous feast at his house that night. Don and I had to turn down his generous invitation. We were exhausted after having spent the night before on a layover on the beach in Dubai, where we couldn’t get any sleep because of the extremely high temperature (around 38℃).  So we decided to learn what a Tanzanian Wuzungu  (white man) party means on another occasion, and opted for a more tranquil culinary experience followed by a late afternoon nap.

That evening we strolled down Libya Street among food stalls filled with dishes, displaying a great variety of Arabian and Indian spices. One will immediately be absorbed into this enchanting ambiance, a very typical scene of the urban culture of DAR.

Bananas in a local market. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

The most authentic experience, however, came from interacting with the local people. What I love about Tanzanians is that when they see you walking down the street, they immediately greet you with Jambo!” (“Hello”) or “Karibu” (“Welcome”) and you start to feel comfortable among strangers in a foreign culture. Everywhere we went we were welcomed with genuine hospitality and we felt like everybody knows us. If it happens that you get annoyed with someone trying to sell you something, with a simple gesture they back off, saying “Hakuna matata” (“Everything will be alright”)

Kids of Dar es Salaam. Photo by Yu Niimoto

We ran into two policemen dressed in white uniforms at the corner of a street, while we were asking around for directions towards a whisky bar. So they took a break from looking into a traffic incident for some more interesting conversation topics. We ended up chatting for some time. The main topics of conversation were about the process of homemade whisky, dancing with bonga flava  (a sort of hip hop) in a local discotheque, and advice on how to avoid being killed by a coconut fruit on the islands. The policemen had some insight about that.

“So you’re saying there was a tourist coming all the way to Africa to relax on a tropical island, only to end up spending his holiday in a hospital after being hit by a coconut fruit on the beach?! Damn, Don, don’t you think we would be better off hiking the Kilimanjaro than going diving?”

“Yeah, but what if we meet an unfriendly buffalo on the trail, I heard you can easily run into one there”

“Alright, let’s just be careful about where we sleep on the shore after a few beers…”

Shopping in DAR. Photo by Florentina Cristina Catrinaru
Shopping in DAR. Photo by Florentina Cristina Catrinaru

P.S.  Due the fact I ‘managed’ to be deposed by my DSLR camera previous to this trip, the pictures taken by myself might not have the best quality. However, as part of Garlic Trail team have been to the same destinations, some of my African articles’s photos belongs to them.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Maria

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful and well-deserved experiences in Tanzania! Hakuna Matata!

    • Ovidiu Balaj

      My pleasure Maria! Stay tune, there are the episodes from Stone Town and Zanzibar on the way 😉 and even more, about a 4 days hiking on mt Meru, to get a view on Kilimanjaro at sunrise! 😉

  • Sorin

    Great reading 🙂

    • Ovidiu Balaj

      Glad you like it, Sorin 🙂

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