I recently went on a whirlwind tour of Tanzania and Zanzibar. It was my first time in proper Africa — I lived in Egypt for two years but North Africa doesn’t really count. The itinerary we had planned covered most bases: City-life (Dar-Es Salaam), Village/Small town life (Bagamoyo), Safari life (Mkumi National Park), and Island life (Zanzibar). It was an amazing trip, meeting and talking to locals and expats about the intricacies of life in Africa, the politics of being a non-African in Africa, fighting off everyday dangers like malaria yet learning about what it is that seems to draw so many foreigners to this continent. Time and time again I saw proof of the old adage, once you have Africa in your blood, you can’t stay away. There is so much I want to say and talk about with regards to my trip, but for the sake of time and space, I will focus on the food. I will publish a photo blog in four chapters, one chapter for each change in landscape.
Note: To be honest, the food experience wasn’t as amazing in mainland Tanzania. But there were a few items on the itinerary that I particularly enjoyed. Zanzibar, in contrast, had much better food. More on that later!
DAR ES SALAAM
The bureaucratic focal point of the country, Dar is a mix of nationalities and locals. We used Dar as a transit point mainly, but making sure we got a taste of the city as much as possible in the little time we had.
One our first night:
My first time eating Ethiopian cuisine, I was told this is one of the best places to eat in Dar. Set on a romantically lit balcony, Addis in Dar was a very sweet introduction to this fascinating cuisine. The food, consisting of mainly stewed meats and vegetables, is served on a bed of “injera”, a large sourdough flatbread. Eaten communally, everyone eats off the same basket, tearing off pieces of the injera to mop the curries up. No utensils necessary — my favourite kind of eating.
The next stop: Gujarati Indian food. Where? Very appropriately: the Patel House. The number of Indians (especially Gujaratis) in East Africa is astonishing. And the interesting thing is that they identify themselves as being from Africa, not India. I have numerous Indian friends from the U.K, who, when first introducing themselves, would always say they were from East Africa. Being a freshie Singaporean who knew nothing about the world when I first arrived at the age of 16 in London, I would be thoroughly confused. Indians who say they’re from Africa? What?
One my favourite experiences in Dar was taking a boat across to a small random island across from Dar, called Bongoyo Island Marine Reserve. The island is tiny, and noone really lives on it other than one or two beach hut vendors. You can catch a boat from White Sands hotel. They will drop you off on the beach, you then walk along the beach to your left and you will come across a small beach restaurant. Here you can lie on one of the rattan beach loungers, and order lunch. Another random man will approach you and demand a “Marine Reserve tax” from you. You will ask for a receipt, and lo and behold, he will not be able to produce one. Oh wait, he will produce one, but it will say ‘2002’, making it quite clear that he is trying to have you. You will then refuse to pay this “tax” without a valid receipt, and he will leave in a huff. Don’t worry he won’t return to beat you up. Back to lunch: The restaurant owner (who is very nice and not trying to cheat you) will then ask you how many lobsters you want, then promptly stroll into the sea and pick up a few fresh lobsters and carry them back to his kitchen in a plastic bag. He will then BBQ them for you, served along with some fat homemade chips and wallah! You will have quite possibly the best meal of your life. The sun on your back, the crispest, freshest, simplest lobster you can imagine and a beautiful emerald sea of water to marvel at. Life will be good.