Dar es Salaam is chaos.
Stepping off the plane into the airport, we wade into the bustle of the ‘visa hall’, wade through to the baggage carousel, then wade out into the arrivals area.
Our driver takes us across town through dust and humidity and smog. The streets are swimming with movement, packed minibuses reeling about, bikes and dinkie rides, cars, trucks, and people everywhere, standing or walking. No two vehicles are alike; the most common sight, the myriad ‘City Bus’ minibuses, each have modified paintwork. Traffic controllers are directing at the intersections, where some of the lights work but drivers may or may not obey them. Car horns sound constantly, although with no hint of anger. Half-finished resurfacing jobs punctuate the roads.
Past a couple of the bigger intersections, the roadsides are speckled with little ramshackle stalls and stands. We see some drab concrete apartment blocks but otherwise the buildings, like the vehicles, come in every shape and size and level of repair. Lean-tos are dwarfed by the silos of the industrial plants they stand next to.
Then we’re off the paved roads and into Kurasini, the industrial area where we’re staying, along haphazard dirt streets. We lurch over a train line that runs bare and straight through the middle of our dusty track, with no barricades, lights, or signage. That says it all, really. To an Australian, everything seems unstuck and jumbled up. This is a different world.
Or is it? As became plain to us on our bus to Dodoma, speaking with some of the passengers, Australia has its own chaos: we abandon our elders, we have tiny families with selfish parents, we continue to ostracise our first peoples. We Australians arrange our society to be orderly and predictable but this can be an illusion. Tanzania peels back this veneer and it’s unsettling!
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.