Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dar es Sweaty.

I'm in Dar. Busy, sweaty, traffic-jammed Dar. This is not the capital of Tanzania, but you probably think it is. So do all the government officials who live here even though their office is a bone-rattling, multi-hour rough road drive away... in Dodoma... the actual capital. So, you're in good company.

I'm passing through on my way to America for a few weeks of visiting the land of milk and honey (and Chipotle).  But since I'm here for the next 4-ish hours, I thought you might enjoy a few fun facts about the de-facto capital of my current home.

  • The first thing you should know: Dar is the hottest place on earth. I have no evidence for this other than the perma-shvitz I'm working whenever I'm here.
  • The city was founded in the 1860s by the Sultan of Zanzibar as a summer residence. Zanzibar is now one of the world's premier paradise island destinations, so I really don't know what this guy was after.
  • The Sultan of Zanzibar was also the Sultan of Oman.  That's not really a Dar fact but I still think it's weird. He moved to Zanzibar from Oman because of how much cash he made from the slave trade. Oh, also, he had 36 kids.  Whoa.
  • Dar is really Dar es Salaam which is commonly translated as "Haven of Peace" or "Abode of Peace." Given that the city was christened by a man who was making his fortune from slavery, I find this name weird. That said, Dar is known to be much safer than its East African counterpart, Nairobi.
  • Swahili, the lingua franca of East Africa, originated in and around Dar (or maybe Zanzibar... it was a really long time ago so there isn't really a common consensus on this point). Swahili is a member of the bantu language group, which is a sub-branch of the Niger-Congo languages (think: interior Africa). But, because of the heavy Arabic influence (12 centuries), a good deal of its vocabulary is derived from there.
  • Rent in the nice areas of Dar is absurdly high - easily 2,500 USD (or much, much more) per month for a small flat. While that's frustrating enough, most Tanzanian landlords expect a full year's payment up front. You can see why we only visit Dar and don't stay.
There you go. If you're planning a visit, there's plenty to see, do, eat, etc., but you can get a guidebook for all of that.

Happy trails.

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