Monday, April 18, 2016

Bye Bye Tanzania

For the past some years life has been taking on so many twists and turns that can’t fathom myself where I am headed to or rather where I will be living soon. Couple of years back when I left Middle East I thought I will be returning to India for good and settling down in happy family life, India did happen but to my utter dismay I discovered that life in motherland had its own share of stress along with professional challenges that forced me to look at overseas options. Now that I am abroad and that too in exotic Africa, I am again returning to India next week only to embark to a new country soon

My stint in Tanzania has been too short however every place we get to live in has its own share of memories and every time we recall that place it’s the smell, look, weather, people etc which come racing to mind. True the look and feel of many cities changes faster than the blink of an eye, especially in the fast paced urban jungles springing up across the globe. However many of these so called hot spots are also deteriorating very fast, but the soul of human settlements never fade; and it is these souls which get ingrained in the personality of the inhabitant so deeply that soon the person starts reflecting his city. However frequent flyers like me who keep changing abode soon, hardly have any city to influence them but at the same time get richer by the multiple hues experienced across multiple locations

Being a South Indian who lived most of life in Kashmir and Delhi, I have already experienced the lifestyle and tastes of far end of India and my stints abroad have given me a fair idea of how life shapes up when living as an Indian expat. However it seems my experiences have not stopped and will only increase in the coming days if my plans to move to a new continent bear fruit

As I leave Tanzania many thoughts keep rushing in, as it seems only yesterday that I landed up in Dar es Salaam and was driven from Airport to the town. My first memories of the place were of the green trees lining up the roads and the clear sky. As the days went by I realized that this city is indeed one of the better places for Indians what with many of them residing here for generations together. Add to this the scenic beauty around and the many tourist and wildlife attractions which makes this as a better option in entire Middle East and Africa

Very soon I will be boarding a flight back to Delhi and then after a series of travels back home I again plan to fly out; not sure how long I will survive at new destination but whose complaining. After all life is about enjoying the journey rather than reaching the destination

Friday, February 19, 2016

Zabardast Zanzibar

When I was living in Oman there was a tribe of locals there who were addressed as Zanzibaris; that time I knew Zanzibar was in Africa but had wrongly presumed it to be some forlorn deserted island, but It was only after coming to Tanzania that I became aware of the place and its strategic importance (I will not bore any hapless soul reading this by elaborating history, all information is available by just few clicks on Google). So when last week I had made up my mind that come what may I will visit Zanzibar for the weekend, immediately after lunch on Saturday I left office and went straight to port to catch the afternoon ferry

For first timers, my advice would be to book ferry tickets in advance to get a better deal and also to avoid the touts who abound around the ticket booth. I was not so lucky as I reached the port just sometime before departure and was immediately accosted by the local touts. Since tickets had almost sold out so I ended up paying lot more than I had planned or anticipated and ended up worrying on the ferry if the remaining funds I had would suffice for my stay; thankfully, inspite of my mind being occupied with the number of notes remaining in my wallet, I did not miss out on the beautiful sights or the splendid lush sea, thanks to my open seat on the top deck

Upon arrival in Zanzibar the first thing to hit is the old world charm of the place. Visiting this island is like visiting grandparents in some old town of India, with the same narrow dingy lanes, old wooden houses, tall walls and inhabitants enjoying their cramped existence with gaiety unknown to big city dwellers. Thankfully some good soul from my workplace who was currently posted there had offered me his place for the night so I was saved from hotel cost and also had good company for the evening

One of the most amazing things about Zanzibar, apart from the pristine beaches, is the amazing seafood as I discovered on the night of my arrival. For anyone visiting the place, missing out on seafood is a crime and almost every night there is an open street food market by the sea with almost all varieties of seafood available. And when it comes to street food, I have to admit Zanzibar Mix is the most awesome street food I have tasted. Period. When it was recommended to me the first time I thought it to be some down market variety served in plastic bowls with eggs and pakoras floating in browny liquid but it took only few bites for me to start gorging on it. The lobster sticks I ate later easily paled in comparison

The same night I also took a walk around town and must say for an island in Africa, Zanzibar is reasonably safe. Being a tourist spot there are enclaves where tourists can roam around freely and with a fresh sea breeze blowing almost all the time, a late night walk is not a bad idea at all
The next morning I was up early and after devouring maggi for breakfast, I left to see the sights of this amazing place. Since I was alone for the day, I decided to take the help of a scout who gleefully took me around town explaining the history around the crowded streets. The spice market, Indian temples, slave market, old palace did make for some splendid sightseeing after which with time available I decided upon another famous attraction, the prison island. The island is some distance away and getting a good bargain on the boat cost can be tricky but upon reaching there, the sparkling blue water by the beach instantly took my breath away. The island has some old turtles and some of them are indeed gigantic, at first I thought them to be stone replicas till I noticed some movement. The best sight I witnessed that day was turtles having sex, which made up my Valentines Day!

Few things about Zanzibar stand out remarkably. First is the gora crowd seen almost everywhere; this place seems to be a cleaner version of Goa. Second is the variety of restaurants around town, however eating out can be very expensive, so better stick to street food only. And lastly to move around, walking is not a bad option, as I found out. If time and dough are scarce, the two feet given by Almighty can work wonders although the temptation of visiting the alluring beaches located far away by taxi can be hard to resist

For me this was indeed a welcome break, as my time in this country is limited and there is so much to explore around. On the ferry back to Dar es Salaam, before dozing off, I could happily imagine ticking off a major item from my to do list

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Big salaam to Dar es Salaam

When I had mentioned to people around in Delhi that I was leaving for Dar es Salam, to my little surprise not many knew about the place and some did not even know where Tanzania was. For those who knew or had someone who had lived here, the only description I got was of a quaint little place which would be more or less good to live. Located on coast of East Africa Dar es Salaam can be mistaken for a crime ridden African city but after living here for three months, I can say this city is indeed exciting, exotic and enchanting

There are many facets of this remarkable place which make it stand out and the most noteworthy of this would be the colorful streets and markets. One can easily go around the town area and City Center and spot vendors of all hues selling their stuff on the road, let it be the open stalls with all vegetables on display, or locals selling coconut water, or vendors carrying exotic fruits in a tub on their head. And not to forget if you are in the bustling market place, vendors will themselves come up to you and offer their wares right from belts to cigarettes to pirates DVDs, all at a discounted price. Another unique aspect of Dar is the delicious chicken street food on offer with tandoori bar-be-cues spread all over town; I have to admit the most delicious chicken I have tasted would be bang on the streets of Dar

If Dar has an interesting market scene, the areas outside market and the city is even more enchanting if one goes to the extremely scenic coastline. This city has the most breathtaking sea view and beaches that one can hope to see and some of the sea side bars are simply amazing. It is not hard to figure what to do on a Sunday evening if one has a car and a group of pals to go along; to say the sea side bars and cafes are simply superb would be an understatement

Talking of bars, one can’t miss the variety of local beer available here. Although all international brands are available in abundance, it is the local variety which makes it all the more interesting. Tanzania has many local beer brands all named after one of the country’s attractions with names ranging from Kilimanjaro to Serengeti to Tusker, all having a different tinge in taste. And yes there are plenty of places to drink around town here, not surprisingly this city has a buzzing nightlife. Even in Dubai I had never seen the kind of open air discos that one gets to see and visit here, all having females ready to be picked-up for the night at half the cost they come for in Dubai

However the most unique aspect of this country for me are the Local Indians that one gets to see around here. There are countless Indian origin Tanzanian citizens who have been here for generations and have embraced the local culture in total. In fact for a newcomer to this part of the world, initial few days are very surprising as it is hard to figure if the Indian appearing person you are talking to in fluent Hindi is actually an Indian or Tanzanian; only when he starts talking to the locals around in Swahili that realization dawns of the person being a Tanzanian passport holder

And if one is talking of Dar, it would be criminal to miss out on the weather. This city has the cleanest sea breeze that one can experience, which is indeed a welcome relief from the terrible pollution from Delhi. The climate remains more or less the same all through the year; it is perhaps the first and only time in my life that I am seeing 35 degree temperature even in January! However one flip side of this weather is that its always humid and for someone who sweats buckets like me, even a short stint in sun is enough for me to start melting. Thankfully my electricity charges are included in rent for I can keep the AC on all night

Reading all this may sound that I am living in wonderland, however am not too sure how long I will last here; working in a lala company has its own pitfalls which I am now discovering, for the plug may be pulled any time. However the only mantra life has taught me in past stormy years is to enjoy it as long as it lasts