On the second leg of our April trip to Tanzania, we left Zanzibar and flew to Arusha, the safari capital of Tanzania. We were immediately relieved by the temperature in Arusha. The city, which has grown from a town to city in a relatively short period of time, is 1400 meters above sea level and the days are pleasantly cool. The growth of the city can be attributed to its proximity to some of Africa’s most famous landscapes and parks, namely Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Olduvai Gorge. The city is very green and fairly clean, and a nice respite from some of the other towns that we have visited in Africa.
Although my stay in Arusha was very short, I made an effort to make a note of the differences between East and West Africa. I must say, first of all, that I found people to be just as friendly, warm and welcoming as they are here in Ghana, so, so much for not visiting the East for the people. One interesting thing is that all conversations must begin with the proper greetings.
In St. Kitts, if we want to ask for directions, we would go up to someone and say politely:
“Excuse me, how do you get to the XYZ store?”
In Tanzania and here in Ghana, the process is much more involved, and this was obvious although I don’t speak Swahili. The conversation (even with a stranger) might go like this:
“Hello, how are you today? And how is your family?” And then some commiseration because someone is always ill. Finally, we can get to the crux of the matter: “Can you tell me how to …”
The scenery around town was quite similar. One thing very noticeable was the use of motorcycles as taxis. Motorcycles weaved in and out of traffic each carrying a passenger tightly clinging to the driver. Taxi stands look a little different as seen below.
I also noted an absence of babies. In Ghana, babies are a standard part of the scenery, perched on their mothers’ backs. At any time, one can spot women selling in the market, working in certain industries and just moving about their daily life with their babies comfortably secured on their backs. I did not see many babies in Arusha and I actually saw a few women carrying their children in their arms, something you would hardly see in Ghana. The few babies I saw strapped to their mother’s backs were tied differently (one strap across the shoulder) from the way they are tied in Ghana.
One of their staple foods is Ugali, made from pounded white corn. I quite liked it, and it is similar to some foods here in Ghana.
Market scenes were also very familiar.
Tanzania is one of the countries that is home to the Maasai tribe. I will talk a bit more about them in a later post, however, it was interesting, even surreal to see them moving around in the city of Arusha, riding their bicycles and moving about their business in their very distinct garb (Shukas).
While in Arusha, we were the guests of a very distinguished Kittitian, Sir Dennis Byron, who is the current president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the next president of the Caribbean Court of Justice. I was so proud to encounter a Kittitian in such a prestigious position and doubly proud when I heard that a Jamaican, Judge Patrick Robinson, is the current president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Kudos to my Caribbean brothers for making a mark in international justice! The Rwandan tribunal is slowly coming to a close (some say too soon), but it has certainly had an impact, not only by bringing those in Rwanda to justice, but by signaling to world leaders that certain actions will not be accepted.
We spent just a few days in Arusha before embarking on the primary reason for our visit to Tanzania, a 5-day safari that would take us to the endless plains of the Serengeti, the famous Ngorongoro crater and much more.