Dar es Salaam

Posted on December 19th, 2009 by

Last week, business called us to Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam is a big port city on the Indian Ocean and though it isn’t the capital of Tanzania, it is home to many government buildings and embassies. While in Dar es Salaam we needed to get a research permit approved, pick up 90 kilos of books from the US embassy as well as get a security briefing at the embassy. Rising at an insanely early hour, we set off for the airport to take a plane to Dar es Salaam. Morning blue clouds hung from stars on a scarlet dyed sunrise as we took off, leaving Africa’s highest mountain behind us. Dar es Salaam can be described in one word: hot. Luckily, we found an air conditioned hotel where we could retreat from the oppressive heat and humidity. During the first day we got the research permit approved, visited a cultural museum and went to a main shopping district. The second day which included a visit to the US embassy was more interesting. The embassy was bombed eleven years ago and has been rebuilt since with increased security that seems a bit excessive. To get into the embassy, you first pass through a building with constantly locked doors that are opened by a security guard in a secure room. Inside you are required to deposit all bags, cell phones and other electronics, show identification, get scanned and proceed though another permanently locked door. On the inside, the embassy is quite nice. Walking in, you really feel like you have left Tanzania. Ergonomically designed office chairs fill conference rooms and modern art hangs on the walls. In Tanzania, offices are generally sparse, white walled rooms, with only perhaps a picture of a current or past president hung high up, flush with the ceiling. Walking through corridors with fake house plants and artsy black and white photographs created an illusion that the security building leading into the embassy was actually a portal to a location in Washington D.C. Once settled into comfy office chairs, we sat back for a short security briefing. Much was less relevant to our situation in Mweka, but it was interesting nonetheless. Evidently there really are people whose job is to protect information. It really makes you wonder, what kind of information they have that is so important to protect. And it is even more interesting to wonder who they are protecting the information from. At one point during our briefing, the presenter stopped and said, “Oh, no. I don’t think I can tell you that. I think it’s classified.” After the briefing we got official ID badges and we collected our four boxes of books. Lugging around 200 pounds of text is no easy matter, but we eventually got all of the books back to the hotel. There isn’t a terribly lot to do in Dar es Salaam so we cut our trip short and returned to the pleasantly cool slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro a day early.

 

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