The Schizophrenic Tout – Dar El Salaam – Tanzania.
Dar el Salaam is a town that grows on you if you’re willing to give it a chance. Masai hang around outside the light fitting shop sitting on steps in traditional dress, fruit and veg markets brighten up the side walks of dusty streets with exotic wares, Indian tea, food and snack cafes spring up at night crowding against each other on pavements, whilst restaurants packed with locals eating traditional dishes can be found down many of the side streets. Although there is not much to do and walking around will take a day and a half to see most of the sights it’s worth the stay to just chat with locals and wander in and out of shops. Outside the centre there are beaches, islands and other low-key attractions to visit.
Warnings of robbers, muggers, touts and persistent pests rang in my ears as we ventured out on to the streets of Dar. Money enough to eat and have a drink tucked firmly away underneath my clothing we walked the streets responding to’ Jambo’ from all directions. We were staying at the Safari Inn in the Indian Quarter close to the ferry to Zanzibar and shortly after arriving we had headed out to find the tourist office. Unfortunately once located it did nothing to reassure as the building was a crime scene surrounded by police tape. However it turned out that this was the old office as we stumbled across the new offices the next day. Our 2 days in Dar were filled with surprises, the food was good, the people were friendly and I felt much safer as I got my bearings. Although I never took my camera out.
On our last night before heading to Zanzibar, we ate a restaurant called ‘Chef’ ,which plenty of locals frequented. Here we met he schizophrenic tout . The first thing that alerted us to the fact that something was wrong was when moping up the leftovers on his plate with a chapatis he declared that the food was “on the money” several times whilst addressing the empty chair opposite him. We were then treated to a huge list of standard phrases that touts use spoken in a number of different languages interspersed with snatches of Bob Marley and verses of the Koran. He then had a heated debate with the invisible person opposite before throwing his drink across the table. To avoid paying the bill he waved it away, headed toward the toilets, hide behind the stairs and then left . The staff let him go. Very sad really as it was clear the man was intelligent and untreated. The rest of our stay was uneventful and we headed off to Zanzibar the next day.