21 March 2013

Market and Tanzanian “Mafia”

We started out well today.  Only a few small objectives.  Find a guide book, exchange our Egyptian pounds to Tanzanian Shillings, and explore the area around us.

On exiting our hotel, we realized we needed another adapter for this country.  No country ever has the same power points, and we are gathering quite a collection.  On the way, we met Richard, a taxi driver that had some time spare until his afternoon shift.  We picked up the adapter at a local hardware shop.  This is easy, as for some reason we can always find the hardware section of any town or city we are in.  Don’t know how, but it is an indisputable truth that we can walk around for less than 10 minutes and find the only place in town that sells hoses, buckets, bolts and electrical fittings.  Every time! Still this time it came in handy.

The big market

The big market

Richard offered to take us to the market, and letting him know we had no money for a guide, we were happy to accept.  This lead to a pleasant hour or so wandering around the major market of Dar Es Salaam, which was quite close to the hotel.

Great weaving!

Great weaving!

Showing us the spices and other bits and pieces on the first level, then taking us down to the basement where the local farmers come in to sell their produce to the stalls upstairs.  All the time trying to teach us some Kiswahili.  After this he asked what we wanted to do.  We mentioned that we wanted to buy a guide book.  He knew a place that was a few minutes taxi ride away, but would cost no more than TZS1,500.  Not bad, and as we don’t know our way around the city yet we thought we would.

M11postmarket

Richard called his friend that he shares the taxi with, and after it arrived we set off.  At first it was a nice change.  As we normally don’t take taxi’s this was pleasant, but as the ride got longer, we started to worry.  The bookshop was supposed to be just around the corner.  When we pulled up at a fuel station, we started to worry a bit, but we were introduced to the boss.  Apparently he was stuck here after another of his drivers had had an accident after having a bit to drink.  When we “gave him a lift” we knew we were screwed.  There were now three other people in the car, and at the fuel station, we found out the car was child locked.  A drive out to the suburbs, and another burly  person climbed into the now overly crowded car.  Here we were told they were part of the “Tanzanian Mafia”  Basically, we were being kidnapped and robbed.  Going through Anna’s bag and taking everything of value.  Phone, Camera, the US$300 of Egyptian money, along with all our shilling.  They also took our key card and demanded the pin.  Telling them they had enough and let us go, we got slapped around a bit.  Here the story gets a bit complicated, as before when it was only “Richard” and the taxi driver , we had mentioned that during the flight to Tanzania, our bags had been gone through, with everything of value being stolen.  That said, when they asked for the pin number, we gave them the wrong one, and told them that we had cancelled the card.  Driving around they pulled up at an ATM.  One guy jumped out and tried to use it.  He was back quickly.  After a quick conversation in Swahili, they turned to us, asking if we thought they were stupid.  We reiterated the story that the card was cancelled, and would not work.  This went on for another couple of ATM’s until they finally let us go.
On pulling up in a small deserted alleyway,god knows where, we were given a few thousand shillings in small notes to get back to town, our Egyptian Sim card from the phone, and the memory card from the camera.  Then they offered to sell us some weed! Escorted to the next road to show us where to catch a Daladala (Mini bus) was in their best interests, as we could not call out without risk, or look back to get the car license plate number.  Then they left us.  I suppose we should be thankful that we were not sliced up, killed or worse.  However we were stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no idea where we were or even how to catch a daladala.  The parting words were that the “Mafia” knew where we were staying, and they had contacts within the police.  If we told anyone they would come back and kill us.  Not knowing how much of this was true, but certain that we were in an area they felt secure, we held our tongues and caught a bus.  This took a while, as there is no schedule, and we didn’t even know the right direction.  However we made it onto one.  Overcrowded and uncaring.  By the time we made it back to the city center, we were shaking like nothing else, and we still did not know how to get back to the hotel!  We did find our way back though, by walking, as we did not want to take another taxi.  Locking ourselves in our room and not venturing out even for dinner.

Unfortunately, this has reconfirmed our ideas on Taxi drivers, and tainted our first day in Tanzania.  Robbed twice in two days!  Still, we are alive and well.  It could have been a lot worse.

Chuck it up to a “authentic” Dar es Salaam Experience…

AA

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