Painted Walls


Good day from a very rainy and very dreary Monday in Dar. I thought it was dry season…?

Anyway, one of my favorite things about African cityscapes is not the rain, but the usage of hand-painted signs and advertisements on various buildings and walls around town. From advertisements, to store signs, to government-funded AIDS propaganda, African sign painting is a lucrative profession that exists in large cities and small villages alike. While this practice has since been lost in the Western world, here in East Africa they can still be found in most parts of towns and along roadside villages. I’m treasuring the ones I see on my trips in and out of City Centre, as I sense they will soon be lost to the emergence of blinding electronic billboards (I’m looking at you, you eyesore on Ali Hassan Mwinyi Blvd!).

Anyway, here are a few of my favorites from a (much less rainy) recent visit to City Centre. Also called, Pepsi vs. Coke, who wore it best?






Daladalas, this city’s crazy and colorful buses that shuttle the general public from one end of town to another. I could post a million pictures of these things and not get sick of them, and I probably will, so I hope you feel the same.


They are a big part of city life here- along with the bajajis (tuktuks) that zip along ‘sidewalks’ and in between cars. After spending some time in Dar, one could definitely not picture the urban landscape of this town without them.

These Magic Schoolbus-like Mitsubishi minibuses run to all corners of the city (and beyond), serving as Dar’s only form of public transit. Aside from being fun to say, I am infatuated with daladalas because of all the character that packed into each tiny bus and the mystery behind the system of operations.

IMG_2426 copy

Daladalas, like buses anywhere else in the world, make daily regular pickups at pre-established stops in each neighborhood. Unlike the buses that most of us know, however, there is no schedule, no marked stops (not even any benches or stations to determine a stop), and no information that is listed…anywhere. Forget a public transit card. It’s cash n’ carry, and it’s word of mouth. To someone completely new to this city, he or she would have no choice but to ask around to find out where the closest stop is located, what the fare is, and if there are any rules (there are, but they are few and simple).

From personal experience, location of stops can be deduced fairly quickly based on a few factors: an empty dirt corner on a major street; a place where people seem to naturally congregate at dawn and dusk—Tanzania’s working class heading to and from work each day. To figure out if your home is along a stop, you simply ask your neighbors, and to get to where you want, you might just have to guess (really though, just ask).

Needless to say, it’s extremely daunting for a newcomer or when visiting an unfamiliar area.



It’s been said that the name of these buses come from a bastardization of the English word “Dollar”, since back in the 70s when the daladalas started servicing Dar es Salaam a trip was in some way equal to a “dollar” or two (hence, “dollar-dollar”). There’s also some legend that says the Tanzanian shilling was once equivalent to the dollar in international market, but I can’t confirm the truth of that anywhere. These days, a trip on the daladala costs 400 shillings to any point in the city, or roughly 25 cents, but the name has stuck. Aside from walking and biking, it’s the cheapest form of transportation around.

Fare is collected once on the bus (at no particular time, often when you reach your destination) by the conductor, a person who is important to one who does not know the system, because despite their seemingly hasty and gruff exterior, they will remember you and help you out (just sayin’). There is always one conductor to to every driver, and I’ve often wondered the hiring mechanisms and contracting details of this entire system. The conductor isn’t distinguished by any uniform or badge, but rather is usually identifiable because he hangs out of the door or is the only one holding a wad of cash in public. Supposedly they call for stops, but I’ve never seen this happen.


Daladalas are color coded depending on where they go, with one color marking one end of the stop and another color marking another. They are also marked with painted slogans or holographic decals on the back of the bus, anything from photos of Osama bin Laden to random soccer balls and star decals to the words “Inshallah”. All in all, very colorful, and also making me wonder–who is responsible for choosing these images?

Each mini bus seats around 25. Or, I should say, it has enough seats for 25, but usually holds anywhere from 12-40 passengers, maybe even more. If you look through the huge glass front window, you’ll see people crammed in the aisles, some even sleeping while standing up. I have yet to encounter a daladala with a/c, so the windows are always open, even during the rain. The lucky few who do get a window seat are just short of hanging out of the windows, which makes for a photographer’s delight.

As we see daladalas regularly circulate around the peninsula, I wonder where these workers come from—some ride as long as an hour or two from their home to homes like ours, to work at jobs for $80, $100 per month (but, that’s another story).

That’s about it for my musings about the daladala. Now some more pictures! And, follow my thread on Instagram, I’ve ‘hashtagged’ (oh geez, that’s a verb now) it: #daladalasofdar

IMG_3281 copy


IMG_2442 copy

IMG_0008 copy


Before I get trip’d out on tryptamine…

Here are a few more (okay, ten) photos from an excursion through city centre a couple weeks ago. This city and its people are so photogenic, it’s too bad people are volatile and hostile towards cameras–most of the images I’m taking around town are shot from the hip, for fear of being verbally assaulted by a subject.











Zanzibar Day One >> A Stonetown Tour

Zanzibar Building

Coming to Tanzania was the first time that I had such little knowledge about the language of a country. No grammatical familiarity, no knowledge of the language roots, no single words that I might know (well, aside from phrases and animal names popularized by the Lion King). It’s been slow going, on going, but I’m picking a few things up. I’m in Zanzibar this week on a language and cultural immersion program, and though it’s sometimes hard to concentrate on classroom learning when you sitting on a rooftop overlooking tin roofs and an ocean so blue that it’s almost neon (complain? me? never.), it’s been fun learning alongside a culture so rich in history and an island so beautiful.

Four Corners, zanzibar Town Center

Woman Sweeping

I knew about Zanzibar’s history as a slave trade port, about its significance in being the original “spice island”, but what was left out of my historical knowledge was the fact that Zanzibar is, boiled down, simply a melting pot of an ex-country, a mix various cultures that, over time, created the Zanzibarians. Arabs, Hindi, Spanish, French, Asian, African people trickled in throughout the centuries and made their homes here, as Zanzibarians. This mixing of heritage means, or as they claim here, that there’s no signature nose, no signature hair, no signature build, but there are the signature eyes- the kind, smiling, twinkling eyes, ones that would make Tyra Banks proud. And though I had to see it to believe it, there is tremendous beauty, dignity, and strength in the Muslim religion that reigns supreme here.

And can I mention how extremely photogenic this place is? Seriously, look at these photos. Everywhere I turn my head I’m rendered breathless for a short moment. Beautiful, looming, carved doors. Narrow, stone alleyways. Muslim women, with their head coverings waving like flags in the cool(ish) island breeze. Muslim men, sporting their signature caps, embroidered with such intricate and colorful threads.

Purple scarf

2 Men in Zanzibar

The nights here are my favorite- because of the close alleyways and oddly placed lighting, each street looks like it is a scene in a movie set. Getting lost in the alleyways, street lights dominate and the moon, however bright, is lost.

Street Scene in Zanzibar

Our first day was this Monday, and as it is in most places, I spent much of it attempting to find my bearings. Which in this city, mostly means being able to figure out where in the twisted maze of narrow alleyways our hotel lies. We also took a quick tour of Stonetown – where though a zillion and one facts were recited I’ve promptly forgotten most of them, and visited the market, where a zillion and one more facts were spouted at us but I was so busy snapping pictures that I didn’t listen to a single word. Photos of the market will, dutifully, be posted soon!


Two Girls in Zanzibar

School's Out


In the meantime, these photos are some of my favorites from Day One in Zanzibar, and I feel like give a pretty good idea of how beautiful this place is. Lots of pretty blues, greens, and greys around here, don’t you think? If you’re interested to see more, click on over to flickr where I’ve got a whole set of photos!

A City of Layers >> 24 Hours in Amsterdam

Tulips, Anne Frank, Van Gogh. Weed, and Prostitution…Hot Dogs?

Amsterdam 1

There. A short list (okay, my short list) of possible things to-do in Amsterdam, one that ran through my head as we took off from JFK. What a funny place Amsterdam is, truly unique in its attractions. Six things that I would never, ever have put together, not in one place, let alone in a sentence.

On our recent trip (move) to Africa, the DiploMan and I chose a layover in The Netherlands. And so, there we were, presented with 24 hours in the city of Amsterdam. (There are no non-stop flights from the U.S. to Africa. The layover is often Amsterdam, but sometimes other ports, then off to your point in Africa)


The question was, how to tackle the 24 hours? I had never before been, and the DiploMan was there for something like 20 hours as a poor student while studying in Europe. So, we could either pack it, brim-to-brim, with museums, monuments, buildings, sites, and markets. A virtual checklist of the aforementioned short list. Go to see the tulips! Go check out where Anne Frank hid! Go take a canal cruise, go to the red light district, go the the Stedilijk, the Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh museum! Eat cheese, eat waffles, eat pancakes! Get a hot dog! Drink coffee! Go to a “coffee shop”!

Or, we could not.


Because as you know, 24 hours, in most cities, won’t even begin to scratch the surface – especially in a city as rich in culture, history, and seriously, with so many layers.

Tulips, Anne Frank, Van Gogh. Weed, and Prostitution…Hot Dogs?


From the way I see it, with 24 hours in a city, especially in Amsterdam, we were better off throwing our guide book (if we had one) out the window. Because trying to tackle a hot llist – however short the list – would have inevitably fallen short of expectations.

Yes, that’s the moral of this entry. Don’t have high expectations, and you won’t be disappointed.

Amsterdam_Beach Volley

And you know what, Amsterdam was AMAZING.