If one isn’t in a hurry, on a train is by far and away the best way to travel. Ignoring for the time being the cramped bunks, incessant loud Swahili music and refusal of other carriage occupants to turn off the light at night, the journey to Dar es Salaam had some amazing vistas of African savannah and hills. We managed to get kicked out of the dining carriage by ordering drinks instead of meals (and possibly also by playing the guitar).
Both Dar es Salaam and Stone Town (on Unguja, typically called Zanzibar Island) were quite European and not very much like I expected them to be, which has been a consistent feature of every African city I’ve visited (with the possible exception of Pretoria). However, as I have managed to visit during Ramadan life is a bit muted and they may be different at other times.
Despite heavy rain (there are only supposed to be seven rainy days in October, and we might get them all at once), Unguja has been pretty interesting. There is a night food market (vegetarian options: bread, sweet potato, banana and some very strange falafels with no chickpeas in them) which, due to prominent featuring in every guidebook, is crammed with wazungu (white people), all talking very loudly in pidgin English and complaining if prices go above TSh1000 (about GBP0.40). The complete lack of locals aside, there is some very good spiced tea (with Zanzibar doughnuts) and the Zanzibar pizza, best described as a vegetable omelette encased in pastry.
As a tourist, I felt obliged to do a tour of the spice plantations – which turned out to be pretty informative as I’d never seen things like cumin and pineapples in the growing stages. The plan had been to head out to an eastern beach, but with no sign of the rain abating we may have to retreat back to Dar es Salaam. According to the guidebook, there are no less than 51 mosques in Stone Town (all broadcasting calls to prayer with loudspeakers) – the one next to my hotel has taken to using a pilfered air raid siren to signal the start (raid) and end (all-clear) of fasting.