Thursday, March 10, 2011

Navigating Arusha

It's been two full days here in Arusha and it's a bit of a cultural shock just coming from Mwanza.  If I had come and stayed in Arusha first, I would have a completely different view of the city.

First off, Arusha Town (or city centre) is much larger and much more developed compared to Mwanza.  It is vibrant with lots of Westernized shops and businesses nestled right up against traditional markets.  I think the biggest case in point (or eyesore depending on how you view Americanization worldwide) is the massive Shoprite grocery store owned by Wal-Mart, which is on the southwest corner of the city.  You step inside and you might as well be in London, Ontario doing your weekly grocery shopping at Loblaws.  It's comforting and normal but odd and out of place all at the same time.  Some people hate to see a place like that here in Tanzania or Africa, but at the same time, capitalism knows no colours or nationalities.  Money is colour blind.

Arusha is a tourist town.  It's the central hub for safari trips and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  And if anyone who has ever been to a place or country that is known primarily for tourism, the region is primarily geared - with the good and the bad - towards tourists and most importantly their money.

I don't think I have ever seen so many hotels, lodges, camp sites, tour companies, safari vehicles, in one place.  Everywhere you turn it smacks you right in the face, 24/7.

The good news is is that rich tourists are pumping money into the economy and the development of the city compared to Mwanza is a sure reflection of tourist dollars.  And good news for Whites, Mzungu shouts are nowhere near as prevalent as in Mwanza.  Not even close.  And most people speak english.  In all fairness, there is a much larger Mzungu population in Arusha as tourists come and go throughout the year.

But Mwanza does beat out Arusha in three important categories:

1) Natural beauty:

Yes, Arusha has mountains and is lush and green, but you can't beat that Lake Victoria sunset view in Mwanza.

2) Roads:

Well at least the road that we're living on (Nairobi highway), is a mess.  Rocks, dirt, and ditches.  I washed my shoes this morning and by time I got across the road to hop on a dalladalla, they were dirty again.

3) Dalladallas:

If you've been following my blog you'll know how much I love Mwanza dalladallas.  Well, the ones in Arusha are 10 times worse.  I mean, at least in Mwanza they are regulated and the price for the trip is painted on the side of every van, but here if you don't know the price or ask, you'll never know.  And it's like Mwanza sends Arusha its old beat up dalladallas.  They're impossible to avoid because we live about an hour walk from the main city centre.

Once again like when I first got to Mwanza, the internet won't let me post pics.  Hopefully after a week or so here things will change.


  1. Disappointed not to see photos, but you paint a pretty vivid picture with the post! Can't wait to see it..........

  2. hope to see pics :) im totally living through your experiences :) Good luck be safe

  3. I'll try and get pics posted as soon as I can.