Harabi, Dar es Salaam

dar garbage

Aaahh… the blissful feeling of arriving at a place that is totally new and strange. There just isn’t anything that can compare. You feel your brain open up like a flower, totally uninhibited by any preconceptions that you might have. You are like a child, absorbing, learning, your senses at maximum capacity. To always be in this state, that is what I desire. I am starting to unerstand the eternal traveller…

Here is a riddle: It sounds like the Middle East, it smells like India and it looks like Africa. What is it? We arrived at Dar es Salaam yesterday and were welcomed by the lovely smell of garbage, ocean and badly burned fuel. It brought back memories of Thailand, India, Lebanon and Egypt -all at once- but with a tinge of something else, something unique. That must be Tanzania, that sliver of strangeness, the thing I want to explore. I am once again reminded of the power of association that smells can induce. Some people are visually stimulated, some by sound. I must have a smelly brain, because I am smelling all the time: the people, the food, the sewage (Dar has some issues here…), the garbage and the harbour.

I asked a rickshaw driver (hurray! rickshaws!) to take me around the city. He had a hard time understanding that I had no wish to go to a particular destination and at every crossroads he anxiously asked if this was my stop. “No! Keep driving good man!” To no avail. He seemed terribly frustrated with my lack of direction. To keep him quiet, I asked to go to the city dump. I have always wanted see an African dump and Dar felt like a safe enough city to to this. He was appalled, but I stuffed his pockets with enough Tanzanian schillings, and all of a sudden he was completely willing to take me to any dirty, garbage filled corner of the city. Garbage! Lovely!

Why do I have this urge to expose myself to African filth? I don’t know, but I finally have the feeling that in Dar el Salaam I can shake off the layers of whiteness and Europeanness. My inability to experience something real, something unfiltered (I am writing this in the squeaky clean lobby of the Hilton hotel in oyster bay… sigh…), it takes some uneasy urban exploring. But I am getting there…

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