A Gator in Dar Es Salaam

"Ex Africa semper aliquid novi - Out of Africa always something new" -Pliny the Elder

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chagua CCM Chagua Kikwete and Kilwa Kisiwani

I have today, Wednesday, off from school because of the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. CCM will win, and Jakaya Kikwete will be the President of Tanzania. Hopefully the process will be violence free, but surely problems will arise somewhere. The US Embassy has told us to be careful and what not, but no real problems anticipated. I talked to a number of people yesterday who said they would not be voting because it didnt matter. It is hard to argue with that logic.

I have made arrangements to go to Zanzibar on the Dec. 23-26. Should be great and will be right in Stone Town. Anyways here is what I did the rest of last weekend.

Saturday Morning we left our guesthouse at 9, went to the market and purchased Pineapple and Chapati and water to get us through the day. We then walked about a mile to the end of the road where the harbor is. The 5 of us, along with a Italian woman who lives on Zanzibar and her boyfriend boarded a dhow and headed for Songo Mnara, about 2 hours away. It is only 8 km, but traveling by dhow is a slow way to travel, but very nice. We were in inlets, similar to the intercoastal all the way, with the Indian Ocean opening out in front of us at times. We arrived at Songo Mnara and saw a small fishing camp, where local fisherman stay from time to time. There were many fish drying on a table, and naturally the smell was not fantastic. We walked up the beach and then in to a path with knee deep water. There were mudskipper fish, but being saltwater there was no reason to worry about tropical water borne diseases. Walked through this little path for about 10 minutes and then it opened up in to the ruins at Songo Mnara. There were many coconut trees as well as cattle grazing around the ruins. The ruins are not in great shape, but their setting is amazing. Built around the 14-15th Centuries, you can sense the history of a once thriving city. Old Mosques, houses, all set amongst palm trees, baobab trees, and other huge trees that have grown up amongst the ruins. We had fresh coconut and coconut meat here. Not a huge fan of fresh coconut but it was pretty good. It is safe to say that we are probably among less than 100 hundred people to visit Songo Mnara this year.

From Songo Mnara we headed north to Kilwa Kisiwani(Kilwa on the Island). Took about 90 minutes to get back, but beautiful sailing. To the west you can see coastal highlands rising on the mainland. We arrived at Kilwa Kisiwani, on a sand bar that was perpendicular to the Island, walked about 100 yards on the sandbar up to the shore, blue-green water, very tropical. We walked about 10 minutes to reach the ruins, fortunately it was low tide, so it took less time to get anywhere. The ruins at Kilwa are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are relatively well preserved. They are very extensive and stretch in some degree for miles. Many old mosques and some huge palaces. Some were originally 3 stories high. Built around the same time as Songo Mnara. People live on Kilwa Kisiwani, and over the years some of the stones from the ruins have been used to build houses on the island. Their is a 16th century Portugese fort that was renovated by the Omani Sultans in the late 18th Century that is is pretty massive and the famous building from the site. We spent some time in the west ruins and then walked about 20 minutes, on the beach that would have been covered by water a few hours earlier. Beautiful, amongst mangrove swamps, and rising hills. We reached the bottom of the remaining ruins and climbed up the hill to reach them. There is a mosque there that was built in the 11th century, so not to long after the beginning of Islam. The ruins here overlook the harbor and the Indian Ocean, the view is amazing and I think the Omani's had great taste in where to build there palaces. At this palace there was a swimming pool that once contained 5,000 gallons, all brought up the hill by slaves. The ruins here were really cool, but we were getting tired. We went to see one more site, but to reach it we had to run through tons of ants. This was hilarious but the ant bites were not great. Millions of ants, and even sprinting they managed to climb on to my feet.

We waited about 30 minutes for our dhow to pick us up, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, so it took some time. We headed back to Kilwa Masoko about 7 after spending an entire day in the sun and viewing great ruins. Got up at 5 on Sunday and boarded a small bus back to Dar. We traveled on better roads this time and the journey was much safer, shorter, and more relaxing(though that is a relative term). Made it back to Dar at about 1, exhausted and took a cab back from Temeke bus station which is south Dar, near the airport.

Not sure what I have planned for between now and next Friday, when I will be heading by ferry back to Zanzibar, cannot wait for that. Beach and 19th century Arab buildings. Interestingly Zanzibar is over 95% Muslim, but it is a popular Christmas destination, for somewhere in East Africa anyways. Merry Christmas to all, I miss Christmas music, haha. No big Christmas trees growing here in Tanzania, that I know of atleast.



  • At 12/15/2005 8:13 AM, Anonymous Emily said…

    You intentionally ran through a pile of African Ants? oh, Matt I no longer wonder why you got Malaria, haha. Oh and I did a google search, and this was the cheesiest site I found. enjoy.



Post a Comment

<< Home