Before rushing to begin our Mt. Kilimanjaro trek, we first had to enter East Africa. We’d become quite accustomed to the tribal , Bantu, rhythms of Southern Africa, its culture and speed. Then we crossed into Tanzania and everything became a bit different. We were now in the land of the Swahili traders.
Tanzania itself is a complete mixture of these two cultures, Bantu, or indigenous African groups, and the Swahili tradesmen who came down the coast around 2,000 years ago. When the colonial powers finally left Tanzania there were actually two nations here: Tanganyika on the mainland and Zanzibar at sea, which were quickly united in one new African democracy- Tanzania.
I personally wasn’t quite ready to Dar Es Salaam, which literally means “Haven of Peace”. Gone was the culture I’d gotten used to and instead there was Mosque after Mosque after Mosque. The city was a huge mess, about what we expected there, but it was clear from the start that Swahili was the language and not English (even though both are official languages) and we were far more foreign than we’d been at any point in our trip thus far.
All this change didn’t come without its benefits though. Every restaurant we’ve been to has hand washing stations, thanks to the Muslim influence. Occasionally this is even provided at the table by the waiter or waitress, holding a pitcher of hot, soapy water over a bowl…you don’t even need to get up to wash. There is good quality street food again, much of it prepared according to Hallal directives making it cheap, tasty, and very safe. And of course, we can see the ocean again for the first time since leaving South Africa.