This time last week, we had not long arrived in Dar Es Salaam ... the commercial capital of Tanzania. Dodoma is the actual capital but to be honest it doesn't have much to show for itself!
When I lived here before I only visited Dar a couple of times. On a teachers budget and without transport of my own it wasn't very practical. But even so, it was a real treat and a taste of the 'real world'!
I was really surprised to find just how far it had all moved on since my last visit about 12 years ago. A choice of great restaurants, supermarkets, shops, resort hotels, even a shopping mall ... the list goes on! Some I was able to revisit, some try for the first time and others note down for future trips. In fact, today I set up a Dar Es Salaam board on Pinterest so I don't forget before our next visit, although to be fair a lot of places don't have great websites if at all!
To be honest it felt totally surreal to be there. Waking up to the view below. In some kind of paradise bubble!
After 7 months of living in Dodoma. With a choice of only a couple of (western!) restaurants and just a handful of tiny food and stationary shops that are worth frequenting regularly to find ourselves in a big city surrounded by the more familiar trappings of a 'western' lifestyle felt fun, excessive, wonderful, strange, unnecessary, indulgent, relaxing ... and so many other things. A real mix of emotions. More so than a usual holiday, by far!
We ate in a Subway sandwich bar one lunchtime ... could have been in one of many different countries after we walked in through the door! I bought a 'Mainstays' ladle in one store ... Walmart's finest budget range! And a Jamie Oliver cookbook in another! Every supermarket we walked into had a wider range of Brit goodies than anywhere we went when we lived in Ohio! It really was just the strangest feeling!
Some aspects were a little more sobering though. We went to Mlimani City, Tanzania's largest shopping mall. (To my US and UK readers, think small shopping mall ... living in Dodoma for the majority of the year though it was pretty impressive for us!) As we drove into the carpark we had our car searched and as we walked into the mall itself we were searched, men on the left, ladies on the right. A direct consequence of the horrible situation in Nairobi just a few weeks ago. It reminded us that even though things felt familiar, the reality was actually very different.
We had a great time and are looking forward to going down to Dar again, to both stock up and indulge. It makes knowing that although things in Dodoma are relatively basic, the other stuff is within reach and ready for us to enjoy at a later date. In some ways coming back to Dodoma feels even more weird now knowing that just 8 hours drive away life would be so different. When it involves moving to another country/culture you expect there to be differences but when it is all 'just down the road' it seems all the more strange somehow ... more like a dream!