We had our second guest visit us last week, the first to stay longer than 24 hours. One cool thing about having guests in town is that it makes you realize how much you’ve come to learn about your city…it also makes you realize how little you know about your city!
Karibu Dar es Salaam. Welcome to Dar es Salaam. Dar’s a really cool place to live- we get to enjoy the beauty of the Indian Ocean, warm weather year-round, and the convenience of exploring some of the world’s most beautiful sights, which are just a plane ride away. The beauty and fun of this city lies in everyday sights and sounds of Dar life, which means unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot for tourists to do in this city. Plus, public spaces are often dangerous and the midday sun is pretty brutal, keeping walking tours to a minimum.
But there are a few things one can do with visitors in town (besides go to the beach, besides eat really amazing Indian food). The Village Museum, for example.
I had wanted to check out the Village Museum for some time now, almost having gone with Erica a few weeks back when her friend was in town. I figured I’d take Erica’s lead, and take my own out-of-town visitor there as well. After all, a Tanzanian museum, built by the Tanzanians for the Tanzanians was certainly something that could be interesting.
But first, I had to figure out where it was. My online search resulted in four or five different locations across town that all claimed to be the location of the Village Museum. After comparing a few websites, I was able to find a phone number for the museum. When I called, the woman on the other end of the line was interested in telling me everything but the directions I was looking for. “Karibu Dada,” or, “welcome sister,” she kept saying. Would you like to watch the dance? Karibu, Dada. When are you coming? Today? Karibu, Dada. You are trying to find us? Karibu, Dada. Finally, I managed to extract their approximate location, just off Ali Hassan Mwinyi, near the Millennium Towers. Karibu, Dada.
Typical Tanzania. You see, most locations don’t have physical, numerical, addresses here. In our neighborhood, houses on some streets are in numerical order, but these numbers vary from street to street. I’ve heard that the plots on the peninsula were numbered in the order that the houses were built- which is great, if you know when the houses were built….and that’s just in our neighborhood. As far as elsewhere in the city, most physical addresses are marked by landmarks, either a large hotel or popular restaurant. Or large buildings, in the case of the Village Museum. Having an idea of where the Millennium Towers were located (and, hoping there was just one), we set off.
As I was driving down Ali Hassan Mwinyi, I realized that it wouldn’t be as easy to find as I thought. I don’t know why I’m always caught off guard by the lack of signage in this city, but I am. As we neared the Millennium Towers, I slowed to a roll (not too difficult, given the traffic on the road), but couldn’t see anything resembling a museum. It, surprisingly, only took two wrong turns into two wrong parking lots, and asking two guards, before we found where the Village Museum was located. I file that under a win, in my book.
Once we were parked inside the museum gates, we paid our entrance fees- 1000Tsh ($0.62) for me as a resident, and 2000Tsh ($1.25) for our visitor. We decided, since it was mid-morning on a Tuesday, to forgo the 5000Tsh dance performance as well as guide (but if we were there on a busy Saturday afternoon, it’s something that I would recommend).
The Village Museum was interesting, at first. Set up on a large plot of land, the museum serves to educate its visitors on the different tribes in the different regions of Tanzania. So the “museum” was actually an outdoor display of various huts that were native to Tanzania. Stepping into these huts was certainly humbling; to see these bare, utilitarian homes that people live in today. As I peeked into the various mud, clay, and straw huts, I thought about all the things I had–closets full of clothes, running water in three bathrooms, air conditioners in every room–I said a few silent thank-yous to whatever or whoever put me on this earth.
The museum display is pretty impressive- about 20 or so various huts representing various tribes. However at about hut number five, they all started to look eerily similar. And as a person who doesn’t ever fully read museum signs, I was getting bored pretty quickly.
With that said, there were a few interesting points throughout the museum. It was interesting to see the outdoor bathroom in one of the huts. It was entertaining to see how many of Tanzania’s tribes had “senior wife” huts. It was unbelievable the fact that so many others considered cows family members; allowing the animals their own spaces INSIDE of the huts. It was fun to see the various music instruments and cooking utensils used, and interesting to see what kind of door contraptions were used to keep unwanted visitors out.
In the end, it was a fun reason to get out of the house on a Tuesday morning–and as always, I’m down for anything that gets me off the peninsula. I probably wouldn’t go back by myself, but I would probably take our next visitor who stays in Dar again- and probably invest in the dance performance, next time. I’ll also know where it is, and that fact is an accomplishment already around here.Dar es Salaam Village Museum Near the Peacock Millennium Towers on Ali Hassan Mwinyi (aka Bagamoyo Road) If you are heading West on Ali Hassan Mwinyi, away from City Center, the museum entrance is just past the Millennium Towers on the same side of the road. +255 22 270 0437 I think they are open from 10-6, but as most information is in Tanzania, is subject to change.