Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Cruising Lake Tangayika on the MV Liemba

The MV Liemba, a large passenger boat commuting on lake Tanganyika from Kigoma down to the South tip of the Lake into Zambia once a week, was brought into Tanzania by the Germans, it was submerged on purpose when the Germans had to flee the arriving British troops in the First World War, years later lifted by the British, and recently rehabilitated with Danish support. Travelling on the Liemba along the largely untouched Eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, observing the trade between villagers and fishermen which is performed on the lake, as there are only very few ports deep enough for the Liemba to actually reach the shores, is one of the most enjoyable and exclusive way to discover Tanzania. It is well worth to book a first class cabin and to stock well on some fruit, while the on board restaurant prepares nice Tanzanian dishes and even gets fresh meat on board from the villages. You can get off the Liemba to visit Mahale National Park and track the resident Chimpanzee population (about 24h from Kigoma) , or go all the way down to Kasanga (about 2-3 days from Kigoma), where a daily Landcruiser connects to Sumbawanga town. There is also a very simple guesthouse in Kasanga, a Mission where possibly you can get accommodation, and a local guide that offers boat cum hiking trips into nearby Zambia to the second highest water falls in Africa, well worth the effort (day trip);

Monday, 16 July 2007

Your own temporary Holiday House at South Beach – the Bungalows in Pachikonjo

Vivienne and her husband rent three simple bungalows with double beds, a bathroom with cold running water, and lovely terraces over viewing the Indian Ocean high above the beach. Just behind the bungalows a little kitchen area is established, where very friendly staff provides a charcoal grill, hot water as well as a fridge to keep your food stocks fresh. A steep trail leads down to the virgin beach, which allows for long walks in each direction, provided the tide is out. The waves can be quite rough when the tide is in, and allow even for some body surfing! Sitting on the terrace during sun set, four white headed sea eagles passed right in front of us – an absolutely amazing sight! And just below us, in the coastal bush resident monkeys vocally reminded us that this is their territory, when we descended with our dog to the beach! For bird watchers: there are black storks resident to a little wetland just when the access road reaches the main road to Dar es Salaam and endless trails along the fields of local farmers allow for extended walks – there is a lot of Okra grown!
To rent a bungalow, contact Vivienne, Tel. Mobile 0754 32 42 46 or Peter, Tel. Mobile 0754 88 07 59; A bungalow costs 50US$ per night; To reach Pachikonjo, follow the road from the ferry in Dar es Salaam South, direction Amani Beach; However you pass the turn off to the left to Amani Beach, cross another five villages, and then at 46km from the ferry, at the end of a village, turn left where a small signpost close to the ground indicates Pachikonjo in yellow letters. From this turn off, it is about 1km to the bungalows; Take your own food stocks, mosquito net and towels.

Sharing the life of a Tanzanian Mountain community - A warm welcome at the Tchenzema Catholic Mission in the Uluguru Mountains

At night it is pitch dark in the mountains and villages around the Catholic Mission in Tchenzema at the end of the road winding its way along the West side of the Uluguru Mountains. The little generator, which allows father Moses to watch his favourite TV series, but more importantly to watch the news and play the keyboards during Sunday mess, has just gone off, and with it the last light. The Waluguru people have no choice – they get up with first light, and to bed shortly after last light. Tchenzema Mission was established in 1948 in the thick walled buildings of a former German Coffee Farm. When last year the bishop visited, doors and frames were painted in bright blue. The two resident nuns maintain a little garden and raise chicken around the former farmer’s house; father Moses adores his two sandy coloured dogs. The couple of rooms they rent out to guests come very simple: a bed, a cupboard with a pile of song sheets, a candle and a bucket of water when ever you need it. However, sitting on the little terrace, lulled in by bird song, with the morning mist slowly disappearing and allowing more and more of a view on terraced hills, villages in banana groves and the dark green of the forest is hard to beat, particularly if you have brought your camping equipment to brew a nice cup of coffee and a good breakfast. The stream of visitors to the mission is steady, and thus gives an excellent insight in rural Tanzanian life for any visitor. Father Moses on top is an excellent analyst, and more than willing to explain about his people’s life and challenges, but also his views and initiatives on how to address the problems.We climb the trail behind the mission, which once was planned to be a road, but never finished, as the money for the bridge across the stream mysteriously had disappeared, and everybody wants to talk to father Moses. The “Pombe”, locally brewed alcohol, which was generously drunk during the evening’s traditional girls’ inauguration, has loosened the tongue of this otherwise very modest and hard working mountain people, of which some still follow matrimonial rules. The next day we climb to the end of the dilapidated road, and reach a beautifully located graveyard on a little pass, amidst a sprawling village. What ever the people need here, they carry it up on their heads. We have a little rest, and people stop work in the near by fields to watch these two Wazungus. However, the landlord of the near by house pays us a visit and welcomes us most warmly. There are hundreds of kilometres of walking trails through the steep fields or up through the mountain forest onto Lukwangule plateau, a hardly touched high altitude landscape on more than 2000m, with fantastic views on the virgin forests.Father Moses mess on Sunday is another thing not to be missed. A highly gifted choir is singing, dancing and accompanied by drums and whistles, the Church songs are enriched with elements of traditional music, and sound great. All the ladies are dressed in colourful kangas, sitting separate from the men, children join for the songs and leave into the church yard for games during the prayers. Father Moses returns with two little baskets full of small coins - despite the difficult living conditions, mess visitors contribute each week end about 20US$ to the community!

Good to know: You reach Tchenzema Catholic Mission at the end of the road winding its way along the West side of the Uluguru Mountains. From Morogoro head direction Iringa, turn left at the signpost for the Mzumbe University and then continue to Mgeta, from where there is only one road continuing into the mountains. The last few kilometres of road are rarely driven, and absolutely to be avoided after rains, as they quickly become very slippery and dangerous. In this case leave your car in the last village and hire a guard, and walk to the mission. Take your own mosquito net, several metres of string to fix it, torches and food stocks, except vegetables that you can buy locally. Contact Father Moses in advance, Tel. Mobile, Tel. 0787 12 39 75

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Best treats in Stonetown

The Zanzibar Serena Inn (Tel. 024 223 35 87 or 024 223 30 19; e-mail: zserena@zanzinet.com) does an excellent breakfast buffet. Come early in order to get a table at one of the open windows facing the beach, to watch the incoming dhows from their night catch trips.

Excellent, even though pricy food is served in the Stone Town Inn in Beyt al Chai (Tel. 0774 44 41 11 or 0773 16 91 11; e-mail: reservations@stonetownin.com; www.stonetowninn.com) just opposite the Serena Inn. Try the Sea food linguine, and the chocolate mousse! If you then still feel like Italiann ice cream and coffee, go accross the road into the sea front Amore Mio Coffee place, and let spoil yourself by real Italien treats - the palce indeed is Italian run, and also makes decent pasta and pizza, even though not as outstanding as some of the ice cream.

The restaurant of the Mtoni Marine Hotel (024 225 01 17 or 024 225 01 40 or 0713 32 32 26 or 0757 46 33 99; e-mail: mtoni@zanizbar.cc; www.mtoni.com) about 2km North of town (you can jump on any Dala Dala leaving the town on the road towards the North along the shore) has an excellent Zan Sushi Bar on the beach - the set up is idyllic, and if you are lucky to get the master sushi chef, food is outstanding. Next to Mtoni Marine there is also a small mosque with a little terrace to oversee the fishing harbour, and the ruins of one of the Sultants Palace, where Princess Salme is said to have lived as a child.

Slightly further North to the Mtoni Marine Hotel, the Hakuna Matata Beach Lodge (Tel. 0777 45 48 92; e-mail: info@zanzibar-resort.com; www.hakuna-matata-beach-lodge.com/ and Restaurant does Seafood and Fish Fondues, as well as smoked fish specialities.

Mrembo (Tel. 0777 43 01 17) in Cathedral Street in Stonetown offers Zanzibari and Western Beauty treatments using the island’s natural ingredients including massage and Henna paintings; You’ll be also served ginger and lemongrass tea and listen to local traditional Taarab music.

A nice half day excursion out of Stonetown is to the Mbweni Ruins Hotel (Tel. 024 223 54 78/79; e-mail:
hotel@mbweni.com) – take any Dala Dala Bus direction airport, and leave at the Police station where there is a sign indicating the way to Mbweni Ruins Hotel. Under old trees and through districts where obviously the rich of Stonetown live, you pass a beautiful old Anglican Church semi overgrown but still in use, and finally reach the Botanical Garden and the ruins of what used to be some 200 years a British run school and hostel for freed slave girls. The place is beautiful and peaceful. There is also a bar on a newly built pier into the sea;

For late night drinks, chill outs and dancing, try the Dharma Lounge in the Culture Musical Club on Vuga road.

Bi Kidude (www.asoldasmytongue.net), an over 90 years old Zanzibar lady, is THE taraab music legend of the island, still performing regularely. Against all odds, she devoted her live to taraab music, which has its origin in the merge of arab, omani and swahili traditional music, and contributed much to the role model of women in traditional Zanzibar. She performs in the Sauti ya Busara festival, occasionally in Mercury's restaurant next to the ferry port, and on private occasions - keep your eyes open for the fascinating lady crossing your way, or sitting in the Bi Kidude restaurant sipping a cold beer and enjoying a cigarette.

Well worth a visit are all museums of town, the House of Wonders, telling the history of the Swahili traders travelling with the monsoon winds, the Palace museum telling the history of the sultants, and the recently renovated Old Hospital with a whole room devoted to Princess Salme are all located on the sea front.

Overnight stay in Dar es Salaam

The Swiss Garden Hotel on Mindu Street in Upanga (022 215 32 19; 022 215 27 59;
swissgarden@bluewin.ch; www.swisshostel.net) owned and managed by a Swiss-Tanzanian couple, offers good rooms, good buffet food, a fast internet and friendly service, for about 60US$ per night.

Cheaper accommodation down town is available in YMCA and YWCA.

Gombe Stream National Park
Meeting face to face with the Chimps in Gombe Stream National Park (Entry fee is a hefty 100 US$ per person/24 hours) is fantastic, even if you are not a great ape fan in normal life. The National Park, which is tiny, is beautifully located on the slopes of Lake Tanganyika, and was the research grounds of famous Jane Goodall, who did ground breaking analysis on Chimps behaviour and abilities. Her books are well worth to read. However, as much as then, to reach the place, is still an adventure in itself today.
Best is, if you can hire a boat to go to Gombe Stream early in the morning and in the afternoon go for a first guided walk to the Chimps, and for a second walk the next day early in the morning, before you return to Kigoma; The guest house of the National Park (20 US$ per person; In case it should be full, there is also a little barrack with about 4 of 5 little rooms, for about half of the price; ) has only two rooms, but with a beautiful - Baboon save terrace - and you can swim in the lake just a few meters in front of you; Take your own food, there is no shop or restaurant in the park.
Maybe you can arrange a boat with Winchi, Kibirizi Beach, 0741 68 77 61, only Kiswahili speaking; He charged in 2005 90’000 TzSh for a return trip, including an overnight stay, in Gombe; George Kazumbe, 0745 662 129, is said to offer transport for 100US$, with pick up anywhere at the beach (eg. Lake Tanganyika Beach Hotel). If you cannot organize transport ahead, take a taxi down to the fishing harbor and haggle the price, but expect no cheaper than 100 US$ for the boat return trip; Alternatively, you could go by lake taxi, but it takes a long time, and you will be sitting on the edge of a boat for many hours;
A word of care: In case you see a thunderstorm developping over Lake Tanganyika, keep off the water, even if it means that you stay a day longer! Also be strongly advised not to go any closer to the chimps than instructed, even if your guide does go closer; Be at all times attentive not to end up between two chimps; An attack by a chimp can easily be deadly. Around the guest house do not eat any food outside, there are loads of dangerous baboons around! No crocodiles and hippos reported so far, but ask again with the rangers before you go for a swim in the fantastic clear waters of Lake Tanganyika spreading in from of you!

Little discovered South West of Tanzania : The Mbeya and Lake Nyasa Region


It is a long journey to reach the wider Mbeya region of Tanzania, despite one of the main roads crossing the African continent North South passes through Mbeya, from Dar es Salaam, leading further into Zambia. An enjoyable alternative to reach the region form Dar es Salaam is by the TAZARA railway, built by the Chinese in the 1980th, probably one of the youngest railway lines in the world (

Lake Nyasa

On Lake Nyassa (former Lake Malawi), 130km from Mbeya, Matema Lake Shore Resort, run by the Evangelistic Church (Tel. 025 250 41 78; e-mail: mec@maf.or.tz; there are rooms and a campsite available) has a reputation of being one of the most beautiful places in Tanzani. Lake Nyassa is 580km long, 700m deep and lying right in the African Rift Valley system. The resort is on the foot of the Livingstone Mountain Range, which tops up to 3000m above sea level and make for a great hiking area. About five kilometres from the Mission the famous red and cream coloured pottery of the Wakisi tribe people is made.

Mufindi Highland Lodge

(Tel. 022 286 23 57; Tel. Mobile 0784 23 74 22; e-mail. fox@safaricamps.info; www.tanzaniassafaris.info ; Residents about 65US$ per person and night; Horserides 5US$ per ride)

The lodge, run by Foxes senior, is certainly one of the pearls in the foxes emporium! Located on a hill ridge, with great views over a lake and rolling hills, ample (and very reasonnalby priced) opportunity to go for horserising, great food and always a fire running in the fire place to break the chill of the evening, this is a very un-African place to stay, but great to chill out, and listen to the owners stories of the early times of tourims devleopment in Tanznia! Access leads through extensive tea plantations. Warmly recommended!

Transport in Tanzania

To rent a car, contact Travelmate (
www.travelmate.co.tz) in Dar, which do reasonable arrangements with or without drivers;

The best among the bad – and highly dangerous – bus services in Tanzania is Scandinavia Express – however they serve only the main routes. The head office is in Dar es Salaam on the corner of Nyerere Road/…, Tel. 0784 21 84 84 or 0784 21 84 85 or 022 218 48 33or 022 286 19 47; e-mail:
A much gentler, safer, even though slower way to travel is by train. There is Central line, crossing Tanzania East West, originally built by the German colonial government, with each a branch towards the North to Mwanza and the South towards Mpanda; And there is the much younger, more comfortable Chinese built TAZARA line linking Dar es Salaam with Zambia, through Selous National Park, Ifakara and Mbeya. Make sure you follow the waggon guards instructions for safety, as there are pick pocketers around. One each station, hundreds of villagers will greet you and offer fruit, handicraft and even complete meals for sale. The line to Arusha unfortunately is only for freight now adays, which leaves you only the option of a flight or a long bus journey to the North.

Monday, 7 May 2007

To go out in Dar

Sweet Eazy restaurant and bar in the Oysterbay Shopping Mall (Corner Ghuba Road and Toure Drive) has Live Music every Thursday and Saturday, and also offers rather nice food with a selection of seafood dishes; The Q Bar, famous for Sports fans on Haile Selassie Road (just behind Shrijees Supermarket) has life music on Wednesdays and Fridays, but unfortunately also a lot of prostitutes. Alternatives are the Arabella, with an adjoining driving range for gold fans, the new George and Dragon Pub, and the equally new Irish Pub in the Peninsula Hotel on Chui bay - the latter two also make excellent bar food. A much more local place for live music and dances is the Mango Garden on …If you fancy a late evening ice cream on a huge oval bar brining every night people of all walks of life together, then the place to head for is the bar at the Royal Palm M√∂venpick!

There is quite a hip hop scene local to Dar – the music is locally called “Bongo Flava”. The original meaning of bongo is “brain or head”, but some years ago the term bongo started to be coined with the connotation of Dar es Salaam, meaning that “you need your brain to survive in Dar”. It is in recent years that Swahili spoken hip hop has gained respect. There are performances in numerous places, including the Jubilee Diamond hall in Upanga.

Sal Davis, a voluminous great singer performing almost every evening in Kempinski, is sort of a legend to Dar – he was singing in the Hotel in the good old socialistic times with all the Southern African dignities visiting already. The only down point he comes with – he always starts late (not before nine) and has long pauses between each of his songs, while the singers in between generally are not so much worth to listen to.

In October, the Light festival originating from the Indian state of Gujarati is on; While good spirits are said to visit the earth for a week, the Indian community meets every evening in their temples in Kisutu street for dances and sharing delicious sweets. Ladies are all dressed in most beautiful silk dresses and dance in great circles – a feast for the eye. Guests are most welcome.

Art and Design - Shopping in Dar es Salaam

Mawazo Art Gallery (Open Mondays to Saturdays, 10am to 5.30pm; Tel. 0784 78 27 70; e-mail: kessi@raha.com; info@mawazogallery.com; www.mawazo-gallery.com) just next to YMCA on Upanga Road down town, is a must visit in Dar es Salaam. The Gallery is exclusively supporting artists from Tanzania, regularly holds exhibitions, and has a little shop adjoining with a careful selection of art work for sale, including beautiful coconut wood bowls and horn candle lights. Hopefully the delicious quiche lunches will soon start again!

The Wonder Welders – all living with the serious effects of polio - create lively metal art pieces from a hotch potch of recycled metals. Each piece – mainly animals – is different, and they also respond to individual clients wishes. Next to the workshop there are art pieces on sale, as well as in shops in Seacliff.

Great Leather goods, made in the North of Tanzania, including handbags and belts, as well as at time wonderful bead work, are on sale in the Ngozee shop (Tel. 022 260 19 61 or 0754 37 81 08) in a corner of Oysterbay Shopping mall. They greatly combine leather with horn, and their furniture, including chairs and table made of leather, is simply beautiful, even though special.

In Slipway, in a tiny shop just opposite the entrance to the Shoprite supermarket you can design your own necklaces from beads, coconut, cautchuk and other materials originating from all over Africa. There are numerous shops selling conventional art work from East Africa in Slipway too, as well as two shops selling wooden furniture made in Tanzania.

Kangas, Vitenges and Batiks, bright cotton fabrics with a distinctive African stamp mostly made in Tanzania (but some also in India, watch out, the quality is less good), can be found at Uhuru and Kitumbini Streets downtown. Each day, scores of vendors sit at stalls or behind tables and the selection of cloth is a feast for the eyes and much like a visit to an art gallery. Kangas have all a short Kiswahili proverbs printed on, and some of them are great – so make sure you know what you buy and wear wrapped around your body! The price of a Kanga, which consists in a piece of cloth about 5m long, meant to cut into the wrap around skirt, and the scarf, costs about 4000 to 5000TzSh.

Great Indian Silk cloth to make Saris is available in the Madina Silk Store on the corner of Zanaki and Jamhuri Street in the Asian district downtown.

And excellent and very talented local tailor is Mama Tina (Tel. 0784 66 75 38). Her tiny little atelier packed with cloth, and yet to be finished dresses for a great variety of clients, and half a dozen of fundis (collaborators) on old English sowing machines equipped with an engine later on, is located on the dirt road turning left form Ali Hassani Mwinyi main road just before the Fast Food Restaurant “Quick Bite“ (when approaching from the city centre), about 200m from the main road, on your right. Tina has trained and worked in England, and designing and developing a complete new wardrobe for a wedding or a ball is a great pleasure, yet very affordable (25 to 30US$ for a complete set).

“Mama Africa – African Couture with a Twist” (Tel. 0784 30 38 80 or 022 266 85 55; e-mail:
info@mustafahassanali.net; www.mustafahassanali.net), designed by Mustafa Hassanali is on display and sale in a shop on Kilimani Road in Kinondoni just behind the French Embassy (watch out for the sign post to Patricia Metzger’s Beauty Salon leading of Ali Hassani Mwinyi road to the left, when coming from the city centre).

On the annual “Makutano” Exhibition on the Grounds of the Police Officers’ Mess right on the sea on Toure Drive in early June, some of the best and lesser known art and handicraft from all over Tanzania is for sale – unfortunately only just one day per year. The organizers are always at the search of new talented artists and products for sale.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

About Maasai and other pastoralists in Tanzania

When I first time entered our then to become house, I met a Maasai in the laundry; I was surprised, to say the least. There he stood, in his colourful toga like dress, silver jewellery, long plaited hair, a knife and the obligatory stick. The lady broker that accompanied me remarked that for “decoration” purposes it would be quite nice to have a Maasai... Indeed, many of the young men work as guards in Dar es Salaam, or sell their bead work to tourists in Zanzibar, as a surrogate of their young men “warrior” years they are supposed to spend far a away from their community, originally in the steppe, before returning experienced and ready to marry.

We met some of these young Maasai in a small traditional restaurant on the beach of Zanzibar – when their neighbours got served some fish, they moved as quickly as they could to the far corner of the restaurant to avoid smell and appearance – their thing is meat!

Their real life still takes place in the steppes, however, due to expanding agriculture and urbanisation, not without conflicts. And Maasai are still feared by many. Historically, they had conquered what later on became Tanzania from the North and incorporated so many other tribes, that there is no typical Maasai face feature left. They were only stopped on their raids deep down in the South of Tanzania by the Hehe.

I became aware of the relevance of the pastoralists' issue in Tanzania on my very first journey through the country. Along the roads from Morogoro via Dodoma to Arusha, big clouds of dust above the flowing backs of slim shaped Zebou cattle and funny looking white sheep with black heads seamed the roads, several 10'000 animals that crossed our way, in search of pastures and water, water and pastures, the two key resources the pastoralists restlessly are searching for, and from finding them in time virtually depends their life on. Pastoralists, or in many cases more adequately named agro pastoralists - as many also do some farming - represent about a quarter of the rural population in Tanzania, but graze their animals on proportionally far more extensive lands. To say that they occupy these lands would be wrong – increasing pressure on their grazing grounds due to alternative occupations by farmers, expanding settlements, wild life or – often illegal – hunting parks, all result in shrinking pastures, with the Maasai pushed away. This land issue has become a political issue all over Eastern Africa.

Maasai are amazing. You would drive along extensive open countryside, with grass as long as a meter or more, and all of a sudden wigging sticks and spears would glance out of the grass, shoulders in red cloth quickly moving – the treachery of a group of Maasai walking or rather running through, what we would call a pit full of lions.

Under a canapé tree in the middle of nowhere, no huts and no other signs of settlement anywhere close, dozens of Maasai men would sit in a meeting to discuss an important clan issue, and only god knows how far they have been walking to the place, and how far their way home will be. They all have a home, they are not homeless, as we tend to perceive them. Less mobile members of the family stay in the hamlet, of which a family or clan can have several ones. Greater movements are planned years ahead, and the result of carefully taken decisions of the community.

They are an exotic people to say the least, to fellow Tanzanians as well as foreigners. Many Maasai men are not really wearing clothes, but wrap themselves in bright red and violet blankets around their shoulders and waists, and always wear a stick or a spear. Their sandals are made of coarse profiled tires, the straps made of the inside lining, fixed only with a few small nails. The soles somehow keep the roundish shape of the original tire, and a Swedish company claims that these shoes are not only cheap but also healthy, and is imitating them now, for good money. Men and women are having big holes in their ears to wear extensive silver and bead jewellery, and even when wearing western cloths the holes in their ears immediately identify many Maasai. Women can wear extensive jewellery, with wide necklaces made of beads, but more often you would see them nowadays on tourist markets. Many of the Maasai men and women are lacking a front tooth, which is said to be another sign of identification.

Maasai feel misunderstood, especially by policy makers in the capitals and Dar es Salaam. And indeed fellow Tanzanians have little chance to get to know them. There are numerous pastoralist tribes and clans, but they all are collectively addressed as Maasai. Fire, a traditional mean to re-establish pastures, well planned ahead and set only at the end of the dry season towards the end of the day, when the winds blow into a favourable direction, have been banned by governmental policies. The archetype fear of the settled ones, in agony to loose their stocks and harvests, has been predominating. In some villages, zero grazing models to keep cattle inside all day are now propagated, leaving absolutely no room to pastoralists.

The sign of a spear

If contacts to Maasai men are limited, they are even more limited to Maasai women. Still, many Maasai live in polygamous set ups, with husbands having five to eight wives. It is said that if a Maasai man finds a spear rammed into the soil in front of his doorstep, a fellow Maasai men is “visiting” one of his wives, and he is expected to leave them alone. These traditions have led to a massive spread of HIV/AIDS. Polygamy is said to be part of a survival strategy. Only a huge network of family and other relations allows survival in case of limited water and pastures after an exceptionally dry season, and water and pastures are all the Maasai depend on. Though being married to many families with pastures and water holes in different locations becomes a viable strategy.

Female genital mutilation, which is now fought by some powerful Civil Society Organisations, only some years ago touched upon 80% of the pastoralist tribes’ girls. Some claim it cultural heritage that has to be respected, yet pain and risks these women have to go through are beyond imagination. It is amazing that men and women publicly talk about so called FGM.

There are other alarming gender issues. Women Maasai, as well as many other Tanzanian ethnics, in case they divorce or become widows, often loose their complete economic basis to male relatives. Since the new land code of 1999 has been assuring the right of land ownership to women and men, things are slowly improving. The customary law, which is prevailing in many rural communities to governmental law, and thus a tribute to the multi ethnicity of Tanzania, disadvantages women to a high degree. Again, the strategy of survival is to prioritize by all means the male line of the family.

Yet, there are clans and clans, families and families, where the role of women differ from one to the other, to the better or worse of the women. There was this young married woman returning to her family with her baby child, because she could not stand any longer to live in her husband’s clan. The family sat together, and the elder accepted her to stay. Yet she was asked to identify her new husband, that – to everybody's surprise or not? – had been waiting just around the corner, ready to marry her on the spot; The elders had decided so despite the ex husband's family to come and claim for compensation for the lost wife, in cattle;
"My cattle do not go around"

When pastures or water get scarce – only one or the other is not sufficient for survival – Maasai start to move, in search of these resources. Their most mobile elements of the community are the so called "warriors", young men. They go out for survey, and return to the community and the elders’ council, that will take a decision on where to move next. From one community the warriors were sent out to another traditional hamlet of the clan, in search of better pastures and more water. They returned only with the message, that this hamlet had been plundered for fire wood by a neighbouring village, and diseases would be abundant there, but no pastures and water. So they were sent out again into a different direction, and found a place with abundant water and pastures, but numerous lions and still diseases. My Maasai friend of the clan was then requested to go and buy syringes to apply vaccines, tires for new shoes to go the long way, bells to put around the cattle’s necks to chase away the lions, maize as a food stock and torches and soon the move started!

When in shortage of pastures or water, Maasai enter into negotiations with other clans, having been blessed with better rainfalls, or a borehole, always aware that next year they will be asked the same favour in return. Or they enter into barter with farmers, for crop residues, or access to their water resources. There is a lot of conflict potential, understandably. It is about life or death. There are not only different laws, governmental, customary and the Muslim Sharia, but also different traditions on who should enforce it. If a Maasai clan reaches another clan’s water resource, they will be allowed to stay and water their animals minimum a night, maybe more. But if they do not leave after an agreed deadline, first their women and girls will be stolen, and then their cattle, and finally the curse would be put upon their men, the ultimate punishment in a Maasai culture.
In the desperate search of water and pastures, their cattle would trample across farm land and raise conflicts with the non Maasai. "My cows do not go around" has become a political slogan, expressing not only the challenge of co exiting, but also the fact of dwindling pastoral resources.

But it is not only men in conflict with each other, but also the Maasai are in competition with wild life. On ponds and rivers, Maasai shepherds water their animals next to elephants and buffalos, they strive through lion spotted grasslands day in and out, always wearing a spear or a knife – that is said to kill even an elephant when thrown like a propeller aiming to cut off their trunk - for self defence. Yet, it is the water they compete most for. And when Maasai water their cattle on a throgh, they always leave it with "water for the night", as thus the wild beasts in search of water will do far more damage to them.

The dry season lasts about four months; the better the rain season was, the more it is bearable. The dry standing grass is what the Maasai animals will have to live on until the next rains will fall, and the water in the ponds and rivers the liquid to go with. Shepherds drink only when their cattle are drinking, and this can be as rare as every third day, and the water can be pretty dirty. Maasai shepherds are loosing weight during the dry season, restlessly walking in search of pastures and water, and to carry the spear at all times becomes an increasingly heavy burden. When nobody can see it, the lightened men start to pull it behind them, yet they are supposed to carry it at all times in an upright position. They fast, when they have to fast, and they eat, when they can eat, incredible quantities of meat.

When in the training centre, where I met with Maasai from all over Eastern Africa, vegetables were served for dinner, my fellow pastoralist claimed that there was “no food” for dinner. In a restaurant the twelve pastoralists with three Europeans went for farewell, we ordered eight kilograms of beef, five kilograms of goat and three chickens, yet some people in the end complained about not having had sufficient meat. I understood that eating and drinking small portions throughout the day and every day is a luxury pastoralists for thousands of years did not enjoy. To survive one had to eat as much as possible when food was available!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Selous National Park

Visiting by train

Selous National Park is the only Park that you can drive through by train – a very particular experience, having wildlife passing in front of your railway cart window. One can then easily beam oneself back into the colonial times in Kenya, when the railway was built from Nairobi to Mombasa through endless plains full of wildlife; Karen Blixen describes these journeys in her book “Out of Africa”.

Sable Mountain Lodge
(Tel. 022 211 05 07 or 022 215 11 06 or 0741 32 33 18;
www.safariscene.com; http://www.selouslodge.com/index.htm; The booking office in Dar is in Osman Towers, 5th, floor, just at the corner of Bibi Titi Mohamed road and Zanaki Street, Doubles are 145US$ per person and night sharing)
is located on forested hills just outside the Selous National Park, with splendid views over the wooded plains towards Uluguru Mountains. It is also next to Kisaki railway station of the TAZARA line leading from Dar es Salaam to Zambia (Tel. 022 286 03 44 or 022 286 03 47; timetables see http://www.tazara.co.tz/). Sable Mountain Lodge does pick ups at the railway station. The beautiful bandas have all individual terraces on stilts, the dining area looks into lush green hills, and there is even a refreshing swimming pool despite its location on a hill top! They do safaris into the park and walking safaris in the woodlands around the lodge.
Visiting by car
The round trip Dar - Kibiti- Mbega Gate - Kisaki Gate - Morogoro - Dar es Salaam make for a great adventure. Driving down on the main road to Mocambique through endless coconut land, you turn inland at Kibiti and change on a sand piste along Rufiji river, and some sleepy villages.
Mbega Selous Camp
(Tel. 0784 62 46 64 or 0784 74 88 88; e-mail: info@selous-mbega-camp.com; www.selous-mbega-camp.com, about 60US$ per person and night resident rates)
Located just outside the park, but equally spectacular right on the banks of the Rufiji River, this German owned camp is very good value. The round bar has direct looks on hippos, tents are simple but greatly located, and food not bad at all. If you want to go for an even more bush flavoured night, pitch your tent in the adjacent camp site and get your cold beer at the Mbega bar. Be aware, an elephant visited us on the camp site, stepping right over the fire place! Rather than rushing further, it is well worth to go for a slow day trip into Selous and stay another night in Mbega, wildlife is very rich in this part of the park!
On your way further through Selous, Sable Mountain Lodge is recommended for a further stay, or if you prefer camping, the Ranger Station in Jukumu, some 20km outside the park on the way towards Morogoro maintain a beautiful and simple location, with friendly staff, and loads of black and white colobus just adjacent in the forest to watch and get entertainment.

Bagamoyo – Where the Past comes Alive

Bagamoyo is a heritage centre illuminated by its rich history. The Old Fort, the German Boma, and numerous semi relict old Swahili buildings, some still with fantastically carved doors make India street running parallel to the sea a must walk, particularely pitoresque early morning or at sunset. Bagamoyo was one of the principal trading centers of East Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. For several yers, it was the terminus for caravans of ivory traders and notoriously involved in slave trade. Bagamoyo means “Here I lay down my heart”, a reflection of the pain of the slaves who on their capture could not bear to think what laid ahead. Bagamoyo was also the starting point of the explorers on their way in search of the source of the Nile. Livingstone, Stanley, Speke and Burton, all crossed through here sooner or later. In the North of the town, a huge cross on the beach is marking the spot where father Anthony Horner landed in 1868, with the purpose of founding the first Catholic Mission in East Africa. The Mission, today still located at the end of the beautiful Mango tree ally starting just behind the cross, established a Christian Freedom Village, where freed slaves were accommodated and educated. The excellent mission museum offers glimpses of the slave trade in the form of old photographs, documents and relics. In the vicinity the beautiful fathers’ house, now in dilapidated state, is under slow restoration. It is hard to imagine how in the same little town down on the Beach slaves were shipped to Zanzibar, while a few hundred meters further up in the mission freed slaves – the museum reports about the prices of slaves – were educated and found a new life. Bagamoyo gradually lost importance after the British took over rule from the Germans. Post independence, maintaining the historical buildings of the town was not the first priority and much of it since has decayed.

Walks along the Beach in Bagamoyo are interesting, however avoid the lonely stretches towards the North. Fishing dhows are repaired, transport dhows arrive from and depart to Zanzibar with passengers carried on strong shoulders on land, fish is sold, and young folks are training in gymnastics and acrobatics. Currently, the Badeco Hotel is closed, but on the long concrete bench in front, you still can sip a small cup of coffee with the locals towards sunset, and fresh fish is fried in huge pans in the sand, just behind in the shacks at the harbor.

About 5km South of Bagamoyo are the Kaole ruins, the relics of a once prosperous town of the Shirazis. Here you find remains of pillar tombs. The mosque at Kaole dates back to the 13th century.

A visit to Saadani National park can easily be combined with an overnight stay in Bagamoyo. The Traveler’s Lodge (Tel. 023 244 00 77 or 0754 85 54 85; Double Bandas are 65’000Tzsh per night and banda) has bandas and camping opportunities in a spacious garden, and food is good – try their sea food pasta, or the generous sea food platters for two! The next door French run Bagamoyo Beach Resort (Tel. 023 244 00 83 or 054 58 89 69) prepares excellent Seafood Pot au Feu, and great sea food fondue bourguignon, however ask for more vegetables and salads to accompany it.