Tuesday, 3 May 2011

An Algerian girl in Africa

I land in Dar es Salaam, the Tanzanian capital; get hassled by the taxi drivers outside the airport, this one tries to charge me 25$ for a trip to my hotel in dar Es Salaam city centre, I laugh in his face, dollars? really? and move onto the next one, I threaten him by heading towards the buses, so he sighs and agrees to 25,000 TZS (Tanzanian Shilling).
It’s about 30 degrees and humidity is very high, it looks like a typical African capital, lots of green, heavy road traffic, bicycles and small calibre motorbikes with incessant noise pollution.

My hotel was simple, very friendly staff, the porter calls me sister which I thought was sweet, I tip generously and I am left to my own devices, I forgot all my notes on “what to do in Tanzania” so I head to the business centre to google Dar es Salaam, most feedbacks report a dead zone with not much to do and I will have to agree, I finally take the advice of the girl working in the business centre, her name was Widad, I take a taxi to an area called “Mwenge” it’s a big market and consists of many small mud huts lining the dirt road, all selling the same things, artefacts, Massai wooden statues and paintings, as soon as they see my taxi pull out, they start chasing me to go into their respective shops, all greeting me with “Karibou” which is Swahili for Welcome, I respond “Asante” which is Thank you and add No.

Every time I set foot in a “shop” I get hassled so much that I end up leaving, I venture into another one and always greeted with “Karibou” I explain to the two young men that I want to look on my own, they understand and leave me to it, so I purchase a few items, large paintings and wooden artefacts and some massai crafted objects, they are very happy and I advise them the trick to getting a tourist to buy anything is to leave him/her alone, he laughs and thanks me “Asante Sana” (thanks very much)

I should have stayed no more than 24 hours in Dar es Salaam, there is not much to do here, some tourists on their way to a Safari, Kenya or Zanzibar or over from South Africa for Business. It’s my second and last day here and it’s raining, heavy tropical rain that doesn't last longer than an hour, I knew that April/May is the rainy reason, I am bored, I log into facebook and to the blog, still bored, so I decide to go running, yes I brought my running gear with me, I pack my camera and take to the streets of Dar es salaam, I try to keep to the main roads but inevitably get lost in the markets and mingle with the locals who look at me like I am a Martian, humidity was very high and I was sweating profusely, I run for 3 km and take some pictures, I ran to the harbour and back, past many mosques and a Kanissa (Swahili and Arabic for Church), every step is painful, I found myself jumping and skipping more than running, trying to avoid the mud holes and rain puddles, I run past the bus station in the rain and people either ignore me or try to sell me something, I just keep running, get back to my hotel to take a well deserved shower.

My last night in Dar, I want to make it count, I find myself way too over dressed for the place, so I put my flip flops on to tone it down and take a taxi to Oysterbay area to a place called Q bar, I immediately notice some prostitutes sitting at the bar drinking and eying up the old muzungos(1) and expats, I sit at a table and order some grilled fish with some fried rice which is the local speciality, it was so hot I couldn’t even eat but it was delicious, I stayed for a couple of hours wathching the news on TV, Al jazeera showing the uprising in Morocco against the regime, I think about Algeria, about home and about the Tanzanian president, who is he? What are their resources, there are 36m inhabitants, most of them live in poverty. I get to know a local girl there called Sam and we chat about the local people and expats, laugh, I buy her a beer and she’s very grateful, she told me about the lack of husbands in Tanzania, I laughed so much and welcomed her to the club, she described how difficult it was to find a boyfriend or a husband who didn’t already have a baby out of wedlock, I explained that we can’t find any men here, with children or without, then went back to my hotel.
The streets of Dar Es Salaam are very dark at night, the electricity supply is very problematic, streets are not lit, I imagine myself living here and I immediately discount the idea as improbable, I hear the muezzin calling to prayer, I stand still listening to it and look up to find myself standing by the local church, I walk into the church and sit in the front pews looking at Jesus and the writing in Swahili, I am either dangerousely dehidrated or bored.

The next day, I buy my ferry ticket to Zanzibar and head to the port, where I get hassled by a couple of porters who badger me into giving them 20,000 TZS, I of course refuse and tell them to take 10,000 or I will call the police, they quickly back off when I tell them I am not bloody Muzungo I am muarabo and African too.

I sit in the “waiting room” swatting flies away from my face, waving my fan with one hand and holding my book with another, I was reading “the Girl who kicked the hornets’ nest, the 3rd book in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, I was so absorbed by it that I did not see the huge wave of people waiting for the ferry and sitting in front of me, my “travel calm” tablets have kicked in and I started to yawn non stop, my jaws hurt, I try to keep myself awake by looking at people and registering in my head a detail about every single one of them, there is a Muslim family, with the father, the mother and children, the women balance large containers on their heads, a Christian group of girls, wearing tight denim skirts and wearing weaves, a cage with 2 chickens inside, bags of tomatoes and onions, the ferry docks at the harbour and a huge wave of soldiers start offloading their luggage, people start shuffling and pushing, I have a suitcase, I do not travel with a rucksack like some backpacking tourist, so I have to work out a strategy, how do I get on the ferry…. I decide to push with them, I get full respect from them and they clear the way for me, the porter tries to take my suitace from me to put in the luggage side which the front of the ferry and about 100 metres away from my seat, I scream NO NO NO so he gives up and lets me go, the couple of English boys behind me, claim they’re with me and follow suit, two and half hours later, Lisbeth Salander has been arrested and is in hospital with a bullet in her brain and we arrive at Zanzibar.

Karibou Zanzibar: do you have your yellow fever certificate? I say listen here mate, I had it as a baby and I come from London so if anything I should ask you for the certificate, he waves me away like an annoying tourist and I get into a taxi for 40,000 TZS, the taxi driver is an old local legend, he shows me pictures of him on stage singing, and the whole hour from the port to Nungwi where my hotel was, he sang to me in Arabic, he sang old Egyptians songs of Farid Al Atrach and Abdeouahab, I was so tired and sedated I think I remember clapping my hands and asking for more.

Along the way, I got a glimpse of the real Zanzibar, Zanzibarians living in huts and shacks built on mud roads near the spice farms and fruit trees, they live on rice, fish (samaki in Swahili and samak in Arabic) and tropical fruits, life is tranquil and very very slow, “pole pole” as they say “slowly slowly” it is to hot to rush anywhere and not much to do, women walk balancing objects on their heads with such elegance I envy their posture and men on their bicycles, not too many cars around, fuel is very expensive and electricity is imported from the mainland, so there is none in the villages whose life is very primitive.

My hotel is beautiful, as soon as you cross the gate to the open space hotel you forget the poverty that lies beyond the walls and enjoy a 5 star service, albeit a slow one, food is so fresh and meticulously prepared. The beaches are paradisiacal, white sands and coconuts trees, turquoise waters and amazing sunsets; my hotel is in the middle of the fishing village, fishing boats line the beach and we get to witness the fishing ritual everyday at sunset the fishermen come back from sea, they are met by their waiting wives with empty baskets to take the bait to sell or make dinner, I made the mistake of taking a picture of them as I was sailing by on a boat, I provoked their wrath, there was screaming and shouting and waving, all the local boys on the boat started laughing and told me how lucky I was not to have been on the beach when I took their picture ooops

People are so friendly here, you are greeted everywhere and by everyone “jumbo” means Hi and “mumbo” is “how’s it going”  I thought about the expression "Mumbo Jumbo" did it come from Swahili?

You feel a genuine liking and they are all smiley and sweet, you don’t feel any animosity or danger, people work here, they will try to sell or fish or work but they will not steal, but they seem bewildered as to why I am travelling alone and do not have a husband, I answer there are no men and they laugh and suggest a good swahili boy to make mixed babies. I'll think about it, Cheers.
When after my first dive I lost my dive camera, my diving instructor said “hakuna Matata” I looked at him in disbelief “are you f*cking kidding me” he said that it meant “No problem”, again “are you f*cking kidding me” like in the Lion king??? He laughed and said he didn’t know what that was, so I was like Oh Ok “Hakuna Matata”

After a few days in paradise, and many days on sea, I believe I developed land sickness, as soon as I stepped off the boat and onto land, I start getting sick and dizzy! I am thinking I am made to live in Zanzibar.
I met a Massai warrior named “Jackson”, after I watched him with his tribe jump and generate amazing noises from their throats in a ritual that I think is a mating one but cannot confirm, he asked me to marry him, presumably to come and live in London, I told him I’ll think (I am not gonna) about it and he made me a bracelet for my ankle as a promise which I am wearing still, Jackson was serious, it is a new trend now, white girls coming to Africa and falling in love with local beach boys or Massais, bewildering stuff.
On a snorkelling day trip over to Mnemba island, I met a Swedish girl who was in love with a Massai and referred to him as her boyfriend, my Massai will have to wait a bit longer, as I am not ready to go back to Africa. I guess he just did not jump high enough to impress me during the Massai ritual.

(1) Muzungo = European
(2) Muarabo = Arab
Muhindi = Indian
Other Swahili words:
Please = Tafadhali
OK = Sawa
Excuse me = Samahani
Swahili words: http://lsfa.moonfruit.com/#/swahili-phrases/4540140729


  1. i can only say that you are very sad. why would an algerian girl go fo black cocks? you have just written yourself off from any potential suitors from your blog readers. your father and brothers are very proud of you.

  2. Dzzz chiiickkk..welcome back dear..I personally did miss u :D...how was the holiday? what a lovely story lol...ghadni hadak meskin he made u anklet wa kolach bless..but it is nice to feel that there are nice people around...

    @ Anonymous: what the hell dude...seek some help

    again welcome back...


  3. Thanks Hanya, it was a beautiful holiday, exhausting though. am glad to be back xx

  4. Welcome back, interesting destination, also good reading choice although I'm always disappointed when stories end up connected to some Nazi storyline :)I prefer the movies to the books in this case.You should watch Wallander and The Killing, two other interesting Nordic crime thrillers.

  5. Thanks Melek, I am dying to finish the book and at the same time worried it'll finish too quickly and nothing will top it! Dilemma

    I do however appreciate recommendations so will probably opt for the book instead of the movie if there is one for Wallander and the Killing

  6. remember when you asked me if i read? i do actually, and i've been trying to finish reading the last of the millenium trilogy for a few months now but i keep getting sidetracked.
    did you watch the movies?

    how was your holiday? what did you do that was interesting?

  7. How can you get sidetracked...I can't get my mind off of it, and I have the DVDs in Swedish but have to wait until I finish reading the last book to watch them.

    Holiday was amazing, interesting stuff apart from the reef dives, swimming with turtles, meeting a Massai, and literally learning Swahili, not much...just a typical holiday I guess but I made time to watch the Royal Wedding.
    Did you go anywhere?

  8. There is few Wallander books,which the series is based on, they're by Henning Mankell (he was on Gaza Flotilla !) but The Killing which is a Danish series is not based on a book. There is few Nordic crime writers like Karin Fossum which I would recommend.

  9. dunno, I just end up doing other things. the books are great though. I watched the first movie, thought it was pretty good for a book to film adaption.

    nice. i am sitting feet away from a native Swahili speaker but he's not a Masai. I went somewhere by car which involved a long drive. it wasn't much of a holiday, it was more of a mission but it was good to be somewhere different and meet up with old friends. weather was spectacularly brilliant.

    oh yeah wedding was so lovely, i loved kate's dress ... and OMGgggggggggg what an adorable couple :P .

    nah i didn't really watch it except for those bits that get shoved down your face when you switch the tv on.

    no swimming with sharks?

  10. @ Malek: sounds intriguing will make sure to look them up. Thanks, sounds like we read similar genre.

    @ TDW: No sharks diving, don't even know if there are sharks off the cost of Zanzibar, I know I have seen dolphins though.

    Sounds like you had a good time off!!! if the car was a convertible ;)
    lol @ royal wedding, perfectly similar to my reaction :)

  11. what good foods did you eat there? did you get a nice tan?

  12. Hi TWD: I have a blinding tan and a badly sunburnt back (from snorkelling), ate lots of fresh tropical fruit, freshly caught seafood and rice and drank a hell of a lot of water

  13. do you mean coconut water?

  14. sea water? did you have any sea weed?

  15. Interesting post as usual. Have to say though, DzChick, you have said something that is Sooooooo common and typical of most algerians which actually bothers me : you've titled it : "An Algerian Girl in Africa". Which implies that Algeria is NOT in Africa which we all know it is! You might reply by saying that Africa has a 'black connotation' hence why Algerians wanna make sure they are not mixed up with the 'K7allich' but honestly, I just find it plain wrong to always imply we're not Africans. The Only time we algerians (well definitely not my case)consider ourselves Africans is when we're playing in the Africa Cup of Nations of Foot Ball.
    That was my shout out of the day! :)

  16. @ Yasmine: I say Africa because I live in Europe, not because Algeria doesn't belong in Algeria!
    I also mention in the story that I inform the Locals that I was African too, so I am aware of the fact that Algeria is part of Africa albeit only geographically.

  17. Of course you are aware that Algeria is in Africa...My comment was about the fact that your title reminded me of how many algerians imply or consider themselves not Africans.
    You do live in London true, but the title here is about you being an Algerian and going to Tanzania. Hence why it sounded wrong to me, its like saying 'A French girl in Europe' or a 'Canadian girl in America' #Justsaying :)

  18. I understand what you're saying, but for me to say "Algerian girl in Africa" sounds better than in Tanzania, as it would give it all away at the title.

  19. go on girls .... fight

  20. LOL..Men and their fantasy about women fighting..or doing other stuff!

  21. @ Yasmine: you said it, not me!

  22. Hi there,
    Welcome back to London girl,
    I work in the media field, and I can easily see you making documentaries from around the world, because of the very spontaneous way you approach your stories, brilliant.

    Also, why don't change the title to 'An Algerian in sub Saharan Africa' so that both of you Yasmine and DZ-Chick will be happy? ;)

    And finally, comment one is being too judgmental, I am Algerian guy, live in London for the past 11 years, and I completely disagree with what he said.


  23. @Anonymous 1, why don't you just crawl back in your cave or better even why don't you just jump in front of a train?

    The world certainly doesn't need bigots like you and I would like to bring to your attention that there are many inter-racial couples (Algerian-Black)hence mixed offspring.

    You are displaying the small penis syndrome, don't blame the black man for your deficiency, he is not to blame that you were born with a penis as tiny as your brain. In future, refrain from making such heinous statement! I guess I should clarify to an ignorant mind such as yours that heinous means hateful! Enough about you!! Three words: READ THE QURAN!

    @DZ-Chick your trip sounds amazing, I can't believe you just went for a run, that's commendable sister! I admire you for going abroad solitarily, it speaks volume about you!! Great read as always ;-)


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