Mwenge Market and Kipepeo Beach
Posted June 1, 2009on:
So this weekend we got a change to relax. Friday night we had some intentions of exploring, but I think we were all a little too tired, plus we had a meeting Saturday day to prepare for. However Saturday afternoon and Sunday we finally got to go out and do some exploring in the Dar es Salaam area. My first destination was to the market in Mwenge, which is not far from University of Dar es Salaam.
Being new to living abroad and Tanzania specifically, I was both excited and cautious of the open air markets. They were crowded and busy, and I had been warned against theft and that some vendors would follow me because I was pretty obviously American. I was apprehensive especially about the last part, but the excitement of seeing what the markets were like, what they sold, and how they traded goods overcame that initial fear. What I found was worth it.
Mwenge was huge, we were there for about an hour, and we only saw half of it. They sold everything: fresh fruits, shoes, bicycles, kitchen supplies, clothes, backpacks, furniture, industrial supplies. Previously we had done all of our shopping at the local mall, but it was clear that we were missing some other options, as well as the experience of interaction with local culture. The other surprising part was the people were very friendly and did not bother us much. A lot of them were helpful as well. Take for example the barker for daladalas. He wants us to get on his bus, but when we say the stop we want to go to, he just as gladly points us to the proper bus. I think that interaction is indicative of Tanzanian culture. Friendly and laid back, this experience taught me there was a lot less to fear than I had been told.
Of course, I still travel with healthy precautions, but definitely not as much fear as I came in with.
The next day we traveled to Kipepeo beach, which is about a 2 hour trip from where we live. We walked for 20 minutes to the bus stop, caught a bus to Mwenge, then transferred busses and went to Posta, which is downtown. From there it was a 15 minute walk to the ferry, which took us literally across the inlet to the bay (a 5 minute ride, which we could have swam across if necessary), and then finally a Bajaj ride to the beach. For those of you who have never been on one, a Bajaj is like an enclosed three wheel motorcycle which acts as one step down from a taxi. It’s a fairly cheap and convenient way to travel short distances.
We had some interesting interactions when we got off at Posta on the way to the ferry. Posta is the old bus station, which is right in the center of downtown. It’s also close to the ferry to Zanzibar, so tourists are common there. As such, the scalpers selling tickets to Zanzibar zeroed in on us and Rotimi in particular. Our favorite line (and Rotimi’s least favorite) was “Sista! Sista! Why do you ignore your brotha?”
Downtown was bustling, and definitely an interesting sight. There’s a mix of old churches, new business centers, fancy hotels, and old colonial style administration buildings. It’s definitely a place we’ll be exploring more in the future.
On the way we rode in the Bajaj with a man from Jordan. We were sad that Hatem wasn’t with us, because when we got there we found that there was a whole group of Jordanians, which would have made him feel right at home. They said they come here every weekend, so he’ll get a chance to meet them.
When we finally got to the beach, it was beautiful. The sand was white and the water was clear and warm. It was our first time in the Indian Ocean, and it felt great. How it works in Dar es Salaam is that you go to a beach resort (our entrance was Kipepeo Village) and you pay an entrance fee. There they give you back your fee as a voucher at their bar. From there, you are free to wander up and down the beach as you please. There were people swimming, playing soccer, flying kites, going on fishing day trips, and even a camel ride up and down the beach.
The beach had a lot of foreigners, some Dutch, some Jordanian, and us Americans. It was strange to see the division of class that price and privilege creates so prominently, as we went from the daladalas to the resorts. However the people there were very nice; we talked to a man from South Africa and saw a group of Dutch men gearing up to ride dirt bikes on the dunes. We did end up eating there, and the food was fantastic, though a bit pricey. I paid 9,500 tsh or roughly $7 for BBQ Kingfish, but it was one of the best meals I’ve had since I came here.
I think we’ll go back to that beach, as it was very relaxing. However, part of this experience is to learn from the local culture and people, who tend not to spend their winters at expensive beaches. With that in mind, our next adventure will likely be downtown, or to the cultural district. Thanks for reading!