Arriving in Dar es Salaam
Before I could get out of the airport in Dar, I had to, of course, clear the typical points of immigration, baggage claim, and customs. I had pre-obtained my visa so, at least, I saved the messy line to get the visa at arrivals (where it was also very hot!). The desk sat in the baggage claim area which was chaotic and very hot as well. So, once I had my bag, I was ready to go.
A driver was ready waiting to take me to my hotel so that part was smooth. The airport was on the small side but the arrivals area was in the shade and convenient to parking.
As we drove into the city from the airport, the areas we drove through looked industrial. Eventually, we passed some residential areas that looked poor but didn’t seem to be shantytowns.
My hotel was outside of the city center. There did not seem to be much around it except a church. It seemed rather puzzling. The hotel grounds were surrounded by a high wall and had a gate and guardhouse at the entrance. It was kind of like a Residence Inn (it was part of the South African Protea chain).
As I learned later, the hotel which was near Oyster Bay, was at the edge of a neighborhood of large houses where ex-pats and government officials live but, again, there was no commercial establishment in the vicinity. I also eventually learned we were not far from the new U.S Embassy built after the former embassy was destroyed by terrorist bombs in the 1990s (as was the Nairobi one). This embassy was of significant size and very well secured. A little further from the Embassy lay a restaurant and shopping area clearly targeted at ex-pats and people of money. It was no different in a way to places we see in the U.S. and that surprised me.
The best though was a local shopping strip between my hotel and the embassy which, though probably also geared to ex-pats, also seemed to have a local bent. There was a great little bakery, a supermarket, and a homestyle eatery that was actually pretty good (though on my first visit there I was a little hesitant…).
I did eat my breakfasts and many dinners in the hotel’s restaurant. The food was very good. But the same playlist kept playing over and over with maybe 5-7 songs in it…
Returning to Dar from Zanzibar yields a mild scare…
My funnest experience was the day I arrived by ferry from Zanzibar and I accidentally skipped the path to customs (it’s all the same country but they make you go through customs on the way back from Zanzibar) and I missed my driver picking me up… I waited for like 45 mins as it was getting dark and the crowd from the ferry left. I was left alone with some local young guys and a taxi or two. I didn’t have enough currency for a taxi ride to my hotel but I figured the hotel would have to help me out on the fare… when all of a sudden, my driver comes out from the customs area! He had been waiting for me down there and had been calling folks from the local office to figure out what had happened to me. A little bit of a moment for all of us (especially when the taxi driver I was about to use wanted one of his “friends” to ride with us – which I refused to very forcefully).
Anyone have any other insights for tourists or others who may be moving there? What are some recommendations on places to live, dine, etc.?