Here, a muslim girl and a christian girl are, by all appearances, best friends. Based on the time of day, they are returning home at the end of their school day. Religious interdependancy and mutual support are touted as strong country assets.
The above photo was taken in the early morning as crowds gathered to in a port area of Dar El Salaam to board vessels to various destinations, including Zanzibar.
Dar El Salaam is Tanzania’s major port city on the Indian Ocean. Its population is 5.7 million, 10% of the country. The city’s population has swelled in recent years as a consequence of the same urbanization trend which appears to be sweeping eastern Africa as people in the country migrate to bigger cities in the hope of finding a better life, I imagine.
Dar means ‘Port’, and El Salaam means ‘Peace’, Port of Peace. Does the city live up to its name? Tanzanian’s say that their county has complete religious tolerance, everybody lives happily together. One guide informed us that its only terrorist attack was in 1998 when the American Embassy in Dar El Salaam was bombed as part of a coordinated multi country strike on the same day by the pariah Bin Laden and friends.
Over 60% of Tanzanians are Christian, mostly Catholic, about 30% are Muslims, the balance being Hindu and others. Christianity here, we were told, dates back to biblical times when St Luke was the original missionary who evangelized Africa. The Catholicism and christianity was reinforced over centuries by European explorers and colonizers, the Portuguese mainly, we understand.
Markets line major streets and highways for miles and miles. Vendors purchase their selling location by the day. Land in Tanzania is government owned and leased in 99 year contacts, and in daily contracts also, by all appearances. Tanzanians flock to the roadside markets in droves, where everything appears to be available from food, to tires to drywall to … there is no end to the list of what we saw. Based on activity, its a very active economy. To western eyes, they appear poor but they are not wanting. Note the supped-up BMW in the foreground of the photo on the right. They are happy.
I find fascinating that in the previous centuries and milleniums, the Indian Ocean was the trading ‘back yard’ of Arab nations. For centuries, boats from Arab countries crisscrossed the Indian Ocean, and set up an extensive network of trading posts and settlements. As a result, in northeastern Africa, Islam is a ‘coastal religion’ due on one hand to the numerous costal settlements, and on the other, very little evidence that Arabs travelled in land. And it explains Muslim presence on all countries which rim the Indian Ocean.
And Arabs from previous centuries apparently did not like to travel into the southern hemisphere, and had no apparent trading activity or presence south of Tanzania (namely Mozambique), Australia, Seychelles or Madagascar, as examples. Life I am sure would be different today had they cared to circle Cape of Good Hope, instead of leaving it to the Europeans.
Our day in Tanzania included an excursion to the ancient port town of Bagamoyo. It was an Arab trading outpost, also used by the Portuguese. The port prospered above the others for the principal reason that it is the closet point on the African mainland to the incredibly rich Island of Zanzibar. But, as trading ships increased in size, Bagamoyo ceased to prosper because its coastal waters were not deep enough. So Dar El Salaam, about 40 kms to the south, with its deeper waters, naturla harbour and inland bays, became the dominant port.