Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo

L and I are in Tanzania! It's our first time in East Africa - its hot, the way summers in tropical countries are hot, and there are signs of development everywhere. Buildings under construction abound, the oddly melodious persistence of a pile driver provides background noise, and the people are friendly and curious.

L is here for work, and I tagged along (I appreciate being able to work flexible hours and off-site at times like these!). We're going to do a mini-holiday at the the end of the week, so at least for the first few days, we are ensconced at the Kilimanjaro Kempinski Hotel. Here's the view of the Indian Ocean from our room:

It was Eid'l Adha during the weekend, and the people were in a festive mood. Dar-es-Salaam's many beaches were packed:

To see more of the countryside, we took a short trip to Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo, the oldest town in Tanzania, was one of the most prosperous towns in East Africa for many centuries, but it began to decline in importance in the early twentieth century. It is a beautiful town full of ancient ruins steeped in history, but painfully poor. Their only major industry these days is salt making, and most people are fishermen:

We visited the Kaole Ruins, dating from the the thirteenth century. Our guide, Tobias, and our driver, Abdul, explained that these once formed a complex of a mosque and tombs, right beside the port. We saw the port, eaten up by mangroves and all dried up now, but its not hard to imagine that this was once a very impressive place:

Aside from Mosques, this small town also has a Hindu temple and a Catholic Church - another indication of prosperity, and how open this society really is. The Catholic Church, built in the early eighteenth century, has a very interesting museum showcasing the history of Bagamoyo and its multi-cultural people:

The Germans converted a former slave market into a customs house in the mid-nineteenth century, after slavery was outlawed. The building is large and airy, but it looks down on what used to be a hot and humid holding area, where slaves captured all over East Africa were kept before being shipped to the French Caribbean territories:

We had a meal at the beach, where I had the local ugali, a stiff maize porridge dipped in a tomato stew. There was also a sizable fillet of kingfish, perfectly grilled. The food was pretty awesome, and so was the view:

That night, as with every night so far, L and I hung out at the hotel after dinner. The reason is the local beer, Serengeti, which is really, really good: