The Bulletin’s French counterpart ‘Urafiki Tanzania’ contains in a recent issue an article by a Mr. Larry Barouch in which he describes his experiences as a tourist in Tanzania.
The following are extracts from his article: (Translation by A. and P. Diop)
I was rather favoured as a tourist in Tanzania because I could communicate with the people much better than the majority of French tourists. I can speak English and I can get by in Arabic ……
I had never been in Africa before this trip, which arose out of a combination of circumstance. I like animals very much and I always dreamt of a safari in Africa. In Paris I had befriended a Tanzanian student who talked to me about the marvels of the Serengeti and of the Ngorongoro National Park. (The Serengeti game park is bigger than Belgium and the Netherlands put together.) These game parks are situated at the Kenyan and Tanzanian borders and the body which arranged the trip designed an itinerary which meant that the Kenyan game parks were to be visited first, before those of Tanzania. Tourist facilities in the Kenyan game parks are marvellous and everything works perfectly well. On the contrary, nothing seemed to work properly in the Tanzanian parks, for the Tanzanian government policy has always been hostile to tourism, this means that the infrastructure is old and rusty. I think that my arrival coincided with a new government political orientation more favourable to tourism, but nothing had yet been done to renew outdated hotels and motels. Furthermore, it was the time when tourists had been bombarded with excessively expensive game park fees.
Of course when on safari one does not have any contact with the locals, driving mile after mile through the savannah taking picture after picture like Japanese tourists in the Champs-Elysees. My first contact with people was in the little Village of Mto Wa Mbu (which means river of mosquitoes, but I never saw one during my whole journey). We had a disagreement with the hotel manager, who had to go and fetch the only person in the village speaking English to serve as an interpreter. Once we reached an understanding I had a chat with the interpreter, who happened to be a prosperous farmer. I asked him whether he belonged to the Ujamaa; he answered me laughing that he didn’t, and didn’t need to. “You understand,” he said to me, “here it is not like Kenya, everybody is free here, everybody does what he wants. There in Kenya the poor are obliged to remain poor but here the poor can unite within the Ujamaa cooperative. I, thanks to God, am rich, and don’t need it, but if I were poor, of course, I would be a member.” ……..
Later, by good chance, when I was in the process of moving into a hotel in Arusha I found that the hotel manager was the half brother of my Tanzanian friend in Paris …… He invited me to have a drink (he was a Muslim – not very devout.) In his nearby house I met his wife who was a ravishing beauty and was busy sewing. She kept on glancing in our direction with disapproval as she noticed the bottle of whisky whose level was rapidly going lower. The manager explained that he didn’t get a very good salary and that his wife therefore helped them to reach the end of the month by making clothes for sale. Whisky must be expensive in Tanzania.
Once arrived in Dar es Salaam after several delays in the departure time (Air Tanzania possesses only two Boeings, and when one of them is in repair the timetable collapses) I quickly found myself short of money. The poor hotels, said to be ‘deluxe’, full of cockroaches in the rooms, and where the lift doesn’t work three times out of four, are beyond the means of French tourists. My Tanzanian friend from Paris, who had not been back to his country for several years, advised me to take as little money as possible with me and to pay everything with my Carte Bleu. Unfortunately, when I was there, there was a dispute between the Bank of Tanzania and Visa International, which made my Carte Bleu useless. I explained my problems to the room steward. (In this hotel, women chambermaids are not allowed. Islamic morals?) He agreed with my complaints, saying that life was very very hard for white people in Tanzania, but thanks to God, it was agreeable for Tanzanians ……
Next I took a plane to the capitalist paradise of Kenya …. Kenya and Tanzania are almost like twin countries – same climate, same topography, same language but strangely I found the Kenyans not very pleasant and the Tanzanians friendly and happy ……. perhaps it is because a left wing person like me prefers it when restaurant waiters tap you on the shoulder and address you as ‘rafiki’ or comrade rather than, as in Kenya as ‘Bwana’ or Sir.
Unfortunately I was not able to see a lot in Zanzibar. All the members of the family I was staying with came to admire the noble foreigner I was, and insisted that they should show me the city, which I could not refuse. This meant that I visited the same monuments four times in three days, marvelling each time at the Sultans Palace, the House of Karve1s and the two cathedrals, one Catholic and the other Anglican, which in actual fact are the only points of touristic interest of this town. I never saw a clove tree. I managed at least to escape one afternoon in order to scuba dive with the young man at the house in the warm and clear waters of the Indian Ocean.