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Glimpses of Dar es Salaam

As a child, I used to walk along the beach and looked at the bare horizon; wondering whether it was the boundary of my world or the beginning of another. I never found the answer until I began travelling in 2011. I thought it would be an exploration of boundaries and an expedition of territories, but it was more. Travelling turned out to be an institution that shapes us in a way or another.

I could feel the burnout after months of intense office works and after competing in the highly challenging law exams. Apart from works and studies, I had few more subtle reasons why I felt the urge to halt everything and to turn more inward. Like every year, I filled my loyal backpack and set out in quest of stories that few would have to share.

But this time, there was something exceptional and meaningful about the voyage: my father was my travel-buddy. Our chosen destinations were the majestic Tanzania and Kenya. It was a dream coming true. Two years have elapsed since I have last travelled to Africa.

We spent few weeks preparing for this trip: from watching a series of revealing documentaries on the colours and contrasts of these countries to getting immersed in devising the most convenient travel plan. Additionally, I made a checklist of the things I should obligatorily carry with me while travelling. I would highly recommend you to prepare a detailed checklist if you are travelling too. Your checklist should be reflective of your destination.

Here are a few things that my checklist included:

  • Travel documents including reservations, tickets and passport
  • Credit cards
  • Contact information of hotels and the tour operator
  • Emergency contacts
  • Creams including sunscreens, organic aloe vera serum and pain-relief cream
  • A basic first-aid kit comprising of bandages, antiseptic ointments, paracetamol and other essential items
  • Medicines including eye drops, ear drops, insect repellant, fever relievers and anti-malaria
  • Book (Mayada: Daughter of Iraq, a book by Jean Sasson)
  • Travel journal and pen
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner; especially to maintain my curly hair 
  • Photography accessories including lenses (70 – 300 mm, 50 mm and 18 – 105 mm), cleaning kit, memory cards, battery grip, spare battery and charger
  • Macbook Pro and headphones 
  • GoPro Hero3
  • Selfie stick
  • Travel watch

As far as possible, I tried to adhere to the checklist but after all I’m human and I tend to forget things too. Can you guess what have I forgotten from the checklist? One of the most important items: the anti-malaria medicine. Consequently, I am strictly using the insect repellant and the mosquito nets to protect myself. Cross fingers.

The most awaited day finally arrived when we had to pursue our adventures on the African territories. We departed from Mauritius at 08:40 a.m. to land in Dar es Salaam at around 11:20 a.m. Our eyes remained glued on the spectacular topography of Dar es Salaam as we looked down through the window of the plane few minutes prior to landing.

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Upon arrival in Dar es Salaam, I walked inside the airport with conscious pride and gratitude. My eyes could not cease to scan the surrounding. I proceeded to the international arrivals concourse and surprisingly, VISA requirement was not imposed on me. The official, at the arrival counter, stamped my passport with a blue entry stamp and said “Jambo” (salutation in Swahili) while wearing a wide smile on her face. No mention of VISA requirement was made. I stood stunned as I remember having been informed by the Consulate of Tanzania of the VISA requirement for Mauritians to enter the country. But I masked my surprise, smiled back at the official and exited the Julius Nyerere International Airport. Everything was new to me. I was walking in a place where no one knew my name and I loved that feeling. Unplugging from the common world and connecting to a quieter inner world was the best gift I could offer myself at this point in time of life.

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I stayed at the Transit Motels, a small but comfy hotel located 400 m from the Julius Nyerere International Airport. If you aren’t carrying heavy luggages, you can easily walk to the hotel. This place is good for an overnight stay. The rooms were simple and clean. Mosquito nets were provided. Free WI-FI was available too. The hotel staffs were friendly and readily responded to my queries. Coffee and tea are freely available at any time. There’s something I would not recommend you though. If you are intending to explore the city, I’ll advise you not to go with the hotel’s drivers. They’ll overcharge you. The best thing to do is catch a bus outside. It’s not only cheap but it’s the most authentic way of living life as a local in Dar es Salaam.

 

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After settling in the hotel, we preferred to have lunch outside as it served as an excuse to explore the city too in the little time we had in Dar es Salaam. The temperature outside was warm but not inconvenient for a walk.

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Our driver recommended us several shopping malls but being quite exhausted after hours of flight, I chose the closest one which was the Quality Centre Mall, one of the popular and highly frequented shopping malls in Dar es Salaam. The mall is situated at Nyerere Road. From entertainment to healthcare services, it is a one-stop shop where you shall find a wide chain of products and services.

We had lunch at an affordable restaurant found on the first storey of the mall. I forgot the name of the restaurant though. We paid 6000 Tanzanian Shillings per person for an open buffet.

I could not leave without meeting people and understanding their stories, as this remains the focus of all my travels. I walked in the compound of the mall and indulged in deep conversations with strangers. They all had to something to share: from their struggles to their dreams. From my experience, people in Dar es Salaam are approachable and good.

In the evening, we took a walk in the surrounding of the Transit Motels and again, our focus was people. We met a lot of strangers and some even invited us to visit their homes. This touched my heart. I was on the brink of accepting one invitation but time was not in my favour; I had to politely decline. If ever you are landing in Dar es Salaam and you have enough time to visit around, then you should not bother about going too far. There are a number of villages around the area. Just walk around, meet people and create stories.

As the night drew to an end, we walked to the Flamingo Restaurant which is found in the Julius Nyerere International Airport and it is open to the public. Though the food was expensive, it was a tasty treat to the stomach.

 

Behind the hustle and bustle of Dar es Salaam, there’s a lot of stories awaiting to be lived. If you are heading to this beautiful part of Planet Earth, I hope this blog post will give you some ideas about where to stay, where to go for lunch and dinner and how to make your stay meaningful.

 

 

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The beginning of everything – from a new look to a new book

India is a home away from home and I felt the call of home again this year. Without pondering too much upon whether I should embark on another expedition or not in this country of colors and contrasts, I walked out resolutely to the nearest travel agency and purchased my ticket to Mumbai. Whatever it was at that moment in time, it was a beautiful feeling.

I started preparing for my voyage and needless to say, I kept counting days until the time came to depart from Mauritius to Mumbai.

Here are the main things that I stored in my backpack:

  • First-aid kit
  • NIKON D7000, lenses, memory cards and camera cleaning kit
  • Travel journal, sketch pad, eraser, pen and colored pencils
  • Map of India
  • Passport and travel documents
  • Galaxy Note 10.1
  • Flute
  • A treasurable memento
  • Debit, credit cards and cash

I dressed quite differently this time compared to my normal dress code when I am in Mauritius. There’s a reason behind this. A lot has been going on in my life before this travel. I thought I was in a battle with the world but gradually understood that I was at war with my innermost being. I felt I deserved this voyage and I wanted to renew myself – my lifestyle and my vision. And so, I did it.

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I was silently persuaded that my problems were nothing when compared to those of homeless people wandering on the streets of India, in quest of few morsels of food to satiate their hunger; at least for a night. This instilled in me a stronger purpose to commence my tour. I completely disconnected from who I was before and felt ready to fly high above the sky to reach the land of my ancestors – the incredible India.

Whenever I travel, my family always drive me to the airport. This time was no different. They all came and bid me goodbye; knowing that this travel would mean a lot to me.

Once in the airplane, I took out my tablet and jotted down my emotions in my virtual diary. It is something I often do whenever I feel overwhelmed with emotions. The plane took off at around 16:15.  It took me approximately six hours to reach Dubai where I transited for four hours before departing for Mumbai. The Dubai International Airport is so immense and businesses invade the place to such an extent that there’s no way of getting bored there.

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But, I had to find ways of spending the four hours in Dubai well. I walked for nearly an hour inside, looking at the little things around me and talking to strangers. It was fulfilling. To spend the second hour, I ordered a hot cup of coffee at Starbucks Coffee – something that requires no introduction.

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While having coffee, I seized the opportunity to write in my travel journal about so many things – from unrevealed intricacies of my heart to the untamed desire of travelling. Like so many other travelers, I had a meal voucher offered by Emirates too. I hence proceeded to a restaurant, where the voucher could be used, to have a light dinner. I had to opt for a light dinner as it was quite late in the night and I had another plane to catch in the next hours. I loved the dinner – vegetable soup, salads and bread, sandwiches, fruit, coffee and water.

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The remaining one hour at the airport passed in the blink of an eye as I had to undergo the boarding procedures to catch the connecting flight to Mumbai.

I wore a smile on my face throughout the boarding procedures, knowing that time has come to step into the plane that would bring me to the land of wonders. I reached Mumbai at the dimmest hours of the morning and from there, my first road trip to Lonavla began. It was the start of a three weeks’ unforgettable and meaningful adventure. Road trips never lie; they teach and I become.

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There’s a lot to say about the road trip from Mumbai to Lonavla. I will write a post specifically for this in the near future. If there’s something I’d like convey at this point in time, to let you know what India did to me through this voyage, it’s simply that it did everything that I needed mostly at this stage of my life.