Tag Archives: Dar es Salaam

Street Level

Congested like an old smoker, and crumbling in parts where it’s not being demolished, Dar es Salaam still attracts. Outsiders sometimes seem bewitched by its not always obvious charms. And sometimes they put a book together.

JAK Leslie’s 1963 Survey of Dar es Salaam was supposed to be a report of a comprehensive survey of living, working and playing conditions in colonial Dar. What was finally published by Oxford was an idiosyncratic love letter to the city by an unusually empathetic official. It remains essential reading. More recently, 1997’s Dar es Salaam: a dozen drives around the the city similarly went way beyond its stated brief. Many of the ‘drives’ described no longer quite exist, but driving wasn’t the point of course. Laura Sykes and Uma Waide were intent on exploring the history, structure and characters of town.

Sarah Markes similarly takes a tight focus and thereby opens up the city to us. Street Level sets out to record the under threat mid twentieth century town houses that characterise the city centre –  Uhindini, the original Zone II reserved for Asian residential cum commercial premises under German and British building (read: racist) codes.

Her drawings capture a grand, if difficult, past but always the foreground is dominated by vibrant, modern young Dar-mites* in their Bulls vests, vitenge, tops and balagashia, always looking to move forward.

A Tea Room: possibly the best pickled pepper in town

Street Level gives a viewpoint that maybe only an outsider can give, seeing the angles we otherwise miss.  Insiders who live here should try and get their hands on a copy; it’s a valuable record, and a serious contribution to recording how we see the city and how we’d like it to be.

images © Sarah Markes

* a term I’ve only ever seen used in Dar weekly, The Express


Who does Mo Ibrahim think he is?

Really. His absurd idea of cash prizes for ‘good’ presidents is rarely greeted with the guffaws it deserves. Flying into Dar this last weekend with Angelique Kidjo and Youssou N’dour as his court jesters – paid for by mobile phone company Zain, the company he established – smacks of megalomania.

They played two shows – one in a suburban shopping centre for the esteemed leaders and one in town for those who can afford 25,000 Tanzanian Shillings. That’s not a lot in Mo’s world, or indeed in mine, but a small fortune in Dar terms. Were they flown in just to entertain Mo and his governancistas? Couldn’t he pony up for a free show for those busy being governed?

Oh my dear Youssou….. You were once so good…