Earliest Arusha Memory: When I came to Arusha for the first time last summer, on the drive from Kilimanjaro Airport into town, I was riding in a dusty Land Rover, windows down zooming past these golden fields. It felt like a movie.
The last film you saw: Movies hit the theaters late around these parts. But you can go to the cinema at Njiro Complex if you’re feening the experience. I’ve only been once since I’ve arrived. Don’t laugh, but I saw The Expendables 2 movie with two male co-workers of mine. It was so bad that I thought it was trying to be funny by being self-aware of how awful it was, but it didn’t fully commit. So instead, it was just really bad.
Shops you rely on: Back in the states I’m a big fan of pillaging my sisters’ closets, vintaging, the State Street boutiques in Redlands, and Topshop—though I’m fairly inconsistent and I go where I feel a calling. In reality, I actually only rely on Trader Joes and local open air markets for fresh fruit. I’m not above spending whole paychecks on snack foods. Here in Tanzania, I’m not doing too much clothes shopping, but you can get some ridiculously good deals on just about ANYTHING at the second hand market off Sokoine Rd. In terms of satiating the desires of my western palette [i.e. Nuttella, yogurt, dark chocolate], I usually head to either Shop Rite in town proper or Village Super Market at Njiro Complex.
Advice you would give to a tourist:
- I have a lot of this, but I’ll give a few big things. You will be called “mzungu” which means foreigner—because you’ll definitely stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t get offended, just embrace that you are an outsider and make the most of it. That’s not to say that you’ll be the only mzungu walking around. Arusha is a major tourist hub during high safari season and there are plenty of NGOs operating around here staffed with ex-pats (much like myself) if you’re ever in search of some solidarity.
- This one is for the ladies. There are three types of boobs in Arusha: shoulder boobs, knee boobs, and your boob boobs. While no one will scold you for it, just understand that if you expose any of the three, especially gratuitously, you will get even more unwanted attention from both men and women.
- Leave the lodge, leave the hotel, and explore. A lot of times, safari lodges and hotels in Arusha are bubbles that have restaurants, spas, convenience stores—all inclusive. Many tourists will go on safari and then go straight back to their hotels. This will give you no sense of the people or place of Tanzania and you pretty much may as well have stayed at home. Get out there. Tanzania isn’t Disneyland—there’s more to it than its main attractions.
The best meal you’ve had in Arusha: I’m approaching this question in terms of local fare. Arusha isn’t big on assigning places physical addresses; and most of the local dives don’t have websites—so you might just have to take my word on these and ask around.
- Chips Mayai with Mishkaki from this place across from Hotel Bristol near the Torch Roundabout: Chips mayai is basically a french fry omelette and mishkaki are beef kabobs. You can get this meal at almost any Tanzanian place in Arusha—but this stand is exceptional. They cook it with the perfect amount of egg, crispy chips, well-marinated meat, and the pili pili (hot sauce) makes it.
- The Mixed Grill & Salads from Khan’s on Mosque Street: Spare auto parts shop by day, best Indian BBQ chicken by night Try everything at the salad bar, and don’t miss out on the bright red carrots. They will clear your sinuses and probably make you cry but they taste so good they’re worth it.
- Small Bites (Falafel, Pakora, Samosas, and milk desserts) from Yogis Restaurant on Bread Corner off of Sokoine Rd.: Get there early in the morning when everything is fresh—and go to town because they price their orders by the kilo rather than the piece. From past experiences, if it sounds like you’re ordering too much you are ordering just enough.
Favorite Cocktails: I don’t drink a lot of complicated cocktails here unless I’m at a mzungu restaurant or bar simply because knowing my Swahili, I’d probably order something strong or disgusting or both on accident. But my favorite beers are Safari and Windhoek and if I’m feeling slightly sassy I’ll sometimes order Konyagi (the spirit of Tanzania—I honestly don’t know what kind of alcohol it is) with lime on the rocks.
The most romantic place in Arusha: In the absence of the light pollution of my native land, any open air space in Arusha at night where you can see how epic the stars pretty much always takes my breath away. If I had to make a specific recommendation, I’d say to cozy up on a couch at Blue Heron. It’s elegant, decadent, and star lit.
The best place for a night out with friends: I’m a bit of a homebody, but I’ll give you a few from my more lively days. For dancing and drinking: Pinpoint and Babylon. For drinking and talking: Mawenzi Bar at Mount Meru Hotel for happy hour or if you’re feeling something more casual and want to be around a lot of tipsy tourists, Empire Sports Bar.
Currently listening to: Alligator // The National
What are you doing right now?: Currently sitting in the SIC office, alternating between sending out work e-mails, this blog, and fearing the impending future of being jobless and stateside.
In Five Years: Probably in a PhD program, helping Miraya run her fabulous company, still advocating for HIV/AIDS awareness, still seeking self, maybe dating an intellectual hipster with zero pretense and a solid music collection, and on my way to a self-earned Birkin bag.
And if you don’t know, now you know.