I took my mum round the quirky hippy shops of West Yorkshire today, to choose some semiprecious crystals for a piece of jewellery I’m making for her. This isn’t one of the crystal shops, but it is one of the delightfully frivolous and quaint shops the tourists go nuts for along Haworth’s Main Street. And yes we did end up in Hebden Bridge!
Tag Archives: tourism
Today is my fifth day in Dar es Salaam. What very little Swahili I remember from my trip to Kenya has come back and I’m trying to learn a little more. I’ve found that no matter how much DEET I douse myself in that I’m still a favourite snack for biting insects, and I’ve rediscovered how nauseating the heat can be if poorly prepared. (In my defence, it is “winter” here, at a relatively bearable 25 degrees C most days, so yesterday’s spike to 32 degrees caught me a bit unawares).
So far, it’s been lovely to catch up with my friends Neil and Jean who moved here just over a year ago and who I’ve not seen for nearly eighteen months. We have done plenty of eating, both at the more upmarket peninsula end of town, and at the more Tanzanian Nyama Choma bars in the centre. Fortunately the Nyama Choma here includes fish & chicken, and I don’t have to find ways to avoid the frankly dodgy-looking and dodgy-tasting Maasai goat.
I’ve also had a good few wanders round, including to one of the tourist handicraft markets, full of lovely, if very similar-looking stuff that I’m sure in all honesty can’t be truly classified as hand made. The exception to this are the toy cars and vans made out of old oil cans, which are beautifully detailed both in their construction and their hand painted decoration.
We’ve also been to the bustling Kariakoo market which is full of brilliant, useful and ingenious stuff for everyday Tanzanian life and business. Amongst the sewing machine, laundry basket & farm implement stalls we stopped at a woodwork stall to buy some cooking spoons, and I found myself wishing I had need or use for a giant wooden stick with prongs on one end designed to be used as a food mixer. We’ve also had a wander round the compact botanical gardens here, and watched families of vervet monkeys chase after peacocks and each other, while the male monkeys strutted around showing off their very bright blue balls.
And yesterday we had a very lazy day, ending it at Coco Beach, refreshingly devoid of wazungu (apart from us). It was absolutely packed with people enjoying a beer, splashing in the waves, or offering cassava chips or cigarettes for sale – and that’s not counting the scores of kids swimming way out into the waves with their inflated tyre inners for support. The beach traders were joined by ingenious “photo-boys” who have somehow sourced portable photo-printers and digital cameras and who offer to capture and print (in 3 minutes) mementos of people’s beachside afternoon. Blackpool has nothing on Coco Beach!
I’m really liking how inclusive Dar feels. There are so many types of people dressed in different ways here: patterned dresses made at the tailors; bright kangas worn the African way or as hijab; the obligatory Arsenal and Man Utd shirts; an assortment of western trousers or skirts, T-shirts, tops or suits; and some Tanzanian mods in very shiny suits driving around on their pikipikis. There are Maasai in beads and shukas who will tell you where to park, one of whom has befriended Jean and is now determined to honour him with a gift of a goat to cement their friendship, and which he is eager to show Jean how to kill and eat it in the traditional Maasai way (Jean is not too convinced about this latter aspect…). There are friendly faces everywhere, the shopkeepers aren’t pushy and it’s been really easy to chat to them about what they are selling without feeling obliged to buy – most just seem genuinely happy to be meeting new people.
So what next for my stay? It looks like we will have to leave our planned Tazara train trip to Lake Malawi till my next visit as we are juggling with Neil’s work commitments (he works where it is notoriously hard to book leave so we just have to work round it). Tomorrow we are off to Zanzibar for a few days, and I hope to fit in a bird walk around Dar, a visit to the Tinga Tinga arts centre, a couple of potential live music venues, lots more food, a few more day trips further afield including to the old capital Bagamoyo, and a return visit to the Kariakoo market to pick up an African cooking stove which will make a perfect barbecue in my new garden at home – as long as I can work out how to fit it in my luggage!
I think it’s important to mention the impact of reserves and safari tourism on the Maasai people they have displaced (more for conservation reasons rather than tourism, but you can see how they would interpret their government’s treatment of them as pandering to tourist demand). We had the chance on the second evening to look round the nearby Maasai shanty village of Oloololo, see some traditional dancing, and go on a guided bush walk to see the sunset overlooking the game reserve.
Johnny and I opted not to see the village as we’d been living in one for the last few weeks but as we met the others at the village “marketplace” before the bushwalk, I was saddened by the pushy and surly selling techniques the girls used, small babies strapped to their backs. They obviously hadn’t been to school, had been made to marry young, didn’t speak English, and hadn’t been taught that tourists are more likely to buy their trinkets if they returned their smiles, could answer any questions, and didn’t grab and shove them. I got the distinct impression that these young village wives would be beaten if they didn’t make enough sales, but I felt anger at a society that forces these girls into making money from tourists they obviously resent for the impact on their lifestyle, without giving them the skills to do so successfully.
I found myself in a dilemma as to whether to buy variable quality junk I didn’t want in an unpleasant environment, in an attempt to make these girls’ lives easier for one day, but I just couldn’t buy into that culture. Things certainly are a far cry from this situation in Kimuka, and it did make me feel more positive about my time there.
Even the bushwalk guide had clearly polished his patter to humour tourists, and while he could speak English very well, he was all about sticking to his slick plan, mixing explanations of traditional Maasai bush techniques with tall stories of achievement and proud claims of how much of the local plant and wildlife he had wiped out. It was entertaining if you took him with a pinch of salt!
Both these village tours cost a small amount extra which seemed perfectly reasonable initially, but our guide, like most other Kenyans in the same situation, had worked out how to use the tourist situation to his advantage. When you multiply the individual fee we each paid by a busload of 8 tourists, his 2 hours of patter earns him the equivalent of a Kenyan teacher’s monthly wage, and I’d bet that amount again that this wasn’t shared with the village. It’s very easy for Kenyans to charge Westerners inflated prices because they know we’ll pay it, distorting the local market, and pushing up local inflation. I can only hope he was investing his earnings wisely so he could send his children to school but I’m not holding my breath.
One thing I can definitely say I’ve brought home from my trip to Kenya is that you can never underestimate the importance of education, reading and travel.