An outsider’s take on all the things that Dar has to offer. From food to beaches, this is not a bad place to be! Most of what I’ve been writing about, admittedly, has been rather esoteric with one post on Dar 50 years from now, another on impermanence, one on faith, and another on the AKDN. I want this post to be a little bit more practical and to give you an idea of the fun things one can do in Dar. Let’s begin.
There are a lot of places one can go to satiate one’s hunger. You are likely to find any type of food that you fancy in Dar, from Chinese to Lebanese, from Mexican to Korean. Of course, these all vary in terms of value, authenticity and taste but they’re there and for the most part, quite good. My favorite type of food to eat in Dar is without a doubt street food. I love street food. There’s just something about it that makes it taste so much better than what you would typically get at a restaurant. The two places I enjoy the most are the mishkaki stand next to work and a BBQ joint on the street I live on. Mishkaki is basically a brochette, usually made of beef (nyama) or fish (samaki) that’s flame grilled over charcoal in makeshift barbeques. The mishkaki at this place is delicious. The meat is tender and tasty. It’s usually accompanied with fries (chipsi) and kachumbari (a mix of onions and tomatoes in vinegar with some habanero thrown in for good measure). Add a Coke served in a tall glass bottle to accompany the food, and you’ve got a great meal. The cost for this? Each mishkaki stick goes for 2000 tsh (roughly a buck and half) with fries going for 1500 tsh and a drink at a little under 1000 tsh. My usual under comes to 8000 tsh, so roughly $5 CAD.
The other place I love to get food from is a street BBQ joint on the same road as my apartment. Run by an Ismaili fellow, their sekela chicken is fantastic. The word sekela means “dry” but this chicken is anything but. Juicy and moist on the inside, but charred on the outside, coupled with naan bread or chips, accompanied by a mix of sauces and served with a cabbage salad, this meal is epic. I’ve literally had this food numerous times in the span of a single week. Slightly more expensive than my go-to mishkaki joint, it is worth every penny for such delicious food.
Now, if you want to get good food in a proper restaurant setting (the other two places mentioned above have sparse seating areas), there are a great many options to choose from. For pizza, I recommend Waterfront Café at Slipway. I wasn’t the biggest fan at first (I even made a sweeping declaration that I would never return there only to break it the next day) but the quality of the food and service has improved markedly in the last month or so. For a lazy Sunday, whether lunching or grabbing a drink, Karambezi Café at Sea Cliff is by far one of my favorite spots. It’s certainly on the more expensive side, but the view and atmosphere make it well worth it. You could eat next door at a nice food court near the grocery store at Sea Cliff Village and then enjoy a coffee, draft beer or fresh juice at Karambezi. You can also get decent Thai food at Sala Thai, some pretty good Chinese food at Great Wall Restaurant, good Lebanese at Al-Basha in town, I even hear you can get decent sushi at Thai Khani (something I have yet to try).
In the map above, you can see Coco Beach, the Kigamboni ferry terminal as well as the coast line, and the peninsula marked by the letter ‘A’ at the very top.
Dar borders the Indian ocean so it goes without saying that there are many beaches around to enjoy. 3 come to mind in the immediate vicinity of Dar.
Coco Beach is right on Dar’s peninsula. A beach by simple definition that it is surrounded by sand and water, it is unfortunately not a place where one would venture into the water. With the pollution around Dar’s shores, going into the water here is probably not a good call. However, Coco Beach is very well known for its Sun Downers, the equivalent of our Happy Hour or, au Quebec, le 5 @ 7. This place is bumping in the evenings. It’s also a place where a lot of locals will tailgate during weekends with different food vendors selling snacks and drinks alongside the beach. Now, not many muzungus (basically, white people, or any foreigner) go there and to be honest, I like it that way. It’s typically local and it is so much fun. At night, music blares from speakers and the sound of Bongo music filling the air. Shisha can be had as well and in terms of scenery, if you can’t get lost at the sight of the Indian ocean lapping the shores with the moon and stars hanging overhead, there’s something wrong, and it ain’t the location.
Bongoyo was one of the first beaches I visited when I got here. Getting there is somewhat of a journey necessitating the use of a boat to get to this small island off the coast. The cost to get to the island is roughly 30,000 tsh, so it’s not the cheapest place to get to, but half the cost goes towards the park entrance fee (Bongoyo is considered to be a national park) and the other half for transport. The boat leaves from Slipway (just right of Waterfront Café) on the jetty that protrudes out in the water. You have to make sure you get there early and that you are on the first boat heading out otherwise, you’ll arrive at the island with no lounge chairs or shaded areas available. Once there, you’re basically in your own little paradise. The drinks are cheap and cold and the food is fantastic. For 10,000 tsh, you can get chipsi and a protein. I usually forgo the fries and get two seafood items for the same price, usually opting for the crab and shrimp. The crab is freshly caught and there’s just something fun about going to town on it and getting every single morsel of meat off the shell.
Kigamboni refers to a region just outside of Dar. Accessible by ferry, once on the other side, you have a variety of resorts facing the beach to choose from. Getting there however is not as simple as one would like it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not overly complicated but if you’re just hoping to magically show up at a beach or to get there with little effort, you’re in for a surprise. The first time I went we took Dala Dalas (the local bus system) to the ferry terminal where we disembarked and waited for the ferry. Once on the other side, we again embarked on a Dala Dala to take us to the beach. And once on the other side…let’s just say, it’s very, very busy, with people jostling to get off the boat and to get to where they need to go. There are Dala Dalas waiting roughly 200 meters or so away with a Bajaj stand not far either. So far, using Dala Dalas and the ferry, you’ve only spent 1000 tsh. Had you wanted to take a Bajaj instead of the Dala Dala, you’d of course pay slightly more. To be honest, the Bajaj is the way to go but the Dala Dala is certainly an experience, though one I wouldn’t recommend to someone new to Dar. The few times I’ve been, we went to Sunrise Resort. At every resort you’ll have to pay a small entrance fee ranging from 5000 to 10,000 tsh. Once there, you can enjoy a beautiful coastline, good drinks and decent (though not great) food.
There are a lot of parties going on in Dar every weekend. The one I’ve enjoyed the most takes place every third Saturday of the month at a restaurant called Mediterraneo. It’s basically an all night party that doesn’t end until the sun rises the next morning. Typically, we would go there for dinner and therefore avoid the cover charge to get in which is usually 15,000 tsh. During one of these nights, we stayed up until the crack of dawn. We got there by 10:00PM and stayed long enough to see the sun rise the next morning. That was a great night. However, you have to plan your night well in order to maximize your enjoyment. The one thing you ABSOLUTELY must do before going is arranging a ride there AND back. Medi is not close to Dar. Getting there may not be too difficult, but trying to get back home at any point during the night becomes hazardous without a pre-arranged ride. We basically found a driver through a contact who would wait for us at Medi until we were ready to go home. This of course incurs a cost so take that into consideration. Other places worth checking out are Triniti Club during the weekend at nights, House which is not too far from Triniti, Club Bilicanas in town, Maisha just off of Halle Salasie road, and Samaki Samaki in Posta/Town. Most of the music that’s played in these places are throwbacks to my by-gone days of club hopping, at least as I remember them. You hear a lot of hip-hop and bongo music which typically has a West-Indies/Caribbean feel to it. If you were ever into dancehall or soca, then the music will be reminiscent of those days when clubs use to play that genre of music. If you’re more into EDM, Medi is the place to go though the music is also a little dated but well mixed.