DARESSALAAM IN THE OLDEN DAYS

 

<<This vision about Daressalaam of my childhood has been running in my head for quite a while, just wanting to get out. It is a long story....>> 

Thanks for those wonderful memories of Daressalaam. You are a real old timer to Daressalaam when most of us were not even born. My memory of Daressalaam, now my home, goes back to the fifties when we would visit it from Zanzibar during our school holidays. The Daressalaam that we knew then was wondrous and had its naturalness. It was spacious and that added to its ethereal beauty. The Oysterbay breathed refreshing coolness. Today the preference is for commercialized resorts like Slipway and Seacliff rather than Oysterbay. The stretch of sea shore (Nano Dario) further down along the city made a lively resort and welcomed the crowd even beyond midnight. 

Acacia Avenue (now Samora and earlier Independence Avenue) still forms Daressalaam's main road but its unfriendly commercialism obscures its intimate familiarity. The Askari monument is still there but the avenue is now also characterized by skyscrapers that appear here and there. The skyscrapers also adorn the once shanty Kariako and Simbazi. Daressalaam stretches up to Mbezi, some 12 miles from the city. A lot of new structures have been built at Msasani, Masaki and Mikocheni where the affluent reside. Many Asians have shifted from the city to these newly developed localities. 

The evenings in Daressalaam unlike the past are uneventful and drag. Once there were as many as seven Cinema Houses (Odeon, Empress, Avalon, Cameo, Amana, New Chox and Empire besides the Drive in Cinema) which have been forsaken and new set up established. Also gone are those days when spectators thronged Gymkhana and Chungani grounds to watch thrilling cricket and volleyball encounters between various communities. Today Gymkhana provides membership to only the elite group who dominate its golf course and tennis courts. Those were the days when the dedicated C.D.Patel, a teacher with Azania Secondary School, groomed the youths into potential cricketers, and the Isherwood Tournament thrived. Today the Indians no more patronize Azania but join private schools like the Agakhan Mzizima, Shaban Robert or Almuntazir. The rich opt for International School run by the Americans. 

Those restaurants famous for the peculiar taste of their specialties like Dsm Hotel (kachori & sambharo), Naaz ('mix'), Pandya (thali), Embassy (bhajia), Pakodiwala (bhelpuri) and Koyas (icecream) have disappeared from the scene. In their stead spring up barbeques, fast food restaurants and ice cream parlours. The 'A.T.Shop' and 'K.T.Shop' famous for the taste and flavour of their kabab and tea still flourish. 'Raj Kapoori' is still there but its paan do not sell as before. The good old Abdulbhai is said to be somewhere in Toronto. 

Those were the days when tennis ball cricket and volleyball could be played in the openness of the veranda (lavani). I recall our (Ithnashris) mosque which was small and its attendance hardly a hundred. In the evening the elderly gathered in groups and sat on the pavement around the lime tree. It had scenic beauty. By the side of the mosque stood the musafirkhana with its peculiar and oblong minaret that was the cynosure of the public eye. It made us proud and could be traced from a long distance away. Whenever we lost our way we would resort to it for direction. Today the mosque is transformed into monumental structure and the dome of the musafirkhana minaret slashed indiscreetly. 

The Ismailis formed the majority and numbered more than 15,000. They reined the place and Daressalaam's initial development must be attributed to them. Today there are hardly 1500 Ismailis but even then they have as many as 5 jamaat khana '(Dur, Upanga, Karimabad, Kariako and Changombe).  

The Sikh gurudwara stands tall at 'Kidongo Chakhundu' along Mnazimoja. It is famous for its langar. The good old pal Dr. Kulbirsingh Gupta being our main acquaintance. Most of the old inhabitants, Sikhs as well as other community members, have fled Daressalaam and emigrated to the UK, States, Middle East and Canada. The present lot is mostly from upcountry. The expatriate class is also on the increase. Inflation is at its worst and the $ costs about TShs 1150. Its under capitalized economy has prompted South African (Wakaburu) investment and they are making the best of it. Burglary is rampant and its cause ascribed to extreme poverty resulting from unemployment, below subsistence level income and very low purchasing power. Daressalaam, once the heaven of peace, is hell today.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                


Last updated November 2007 Copyright Abdulrazak Fazal 2007 - All Rights Reserved