As the summer draws to a close and as we have visited more and more places, it really seems like Dar is the only true city (perhaps, in the Western sense of the term). The cities we visited—Mwanza (town), Sharati, and Musoma—can only be categorized as quiet, quaint, and small. Though they all border Lake Victoria, these are the types of towns that boast little to no traffic (that is, if there are even cars), Sharati, despite it’s lack of running water, was actually my favorite town of the three. It was definitely the most peaceful and tranquil. Because of the proximity to the lake, they all have a good amount of fresh fish, though they specialize in tilapia.
Mwanza: There are a few expat hotels up in the hills (Capri Point) such as Tilapia Hotel which boasts Tepanyaki-style Japanese food, but we found La Kairo hotel nearer to the center of town to be our best (non-home-cooked) meal of the week. Additionally, there is a certain type of ugali unique to the Mwanza and Mara regions that is made from a combination of millet and fermented cassava. I found this to be my favorite because it reminded me a lot of Cameroonian gari fufu (same as ugali), but with added fiber! That was my staple food when given the option
Sharati: In Sharati, we ate only at the home of a friend of our supervisor’s. Thankfully, this meant saving on food, but it was also delicious and had many more options than we could find elsewhere. The only food we did buy in Sharati was a delicious sandwich bag full of roasted meat from the market. If all else fails, I’d say go for that, but I’d recommend finding the ugail.
Musoma: We were only in Musoma for one night, but the breakfast served at our hotel (okay, let’s be real, it was a hostel) was definitely the best we’ve had so far. We were able to sample all of Tanzanian’s morning-time delicacies and we were not disappointed. I was particularly impressed by the sweet potatoes (fried nearly whole). Much better than in the States.
Mwanza: I found the Mwanza market scene to be rather startling. As I said before, Mwanza clearly does not cater to tourists. We had a taxi driver drive us around town and he showed us one corner of a street rather far from the city center that had 1 souvenir shop. The market in the city center, however, was quite a bombardment of sights and smells. Mwanza is right next to Lake Victoria, so the market contained all sorts of fish in all sorts of places. Across from the bananas, next to the vitenge, just after the mango. And it was incredibly and horribly crowded. It definitely was not a place I would want to visit more than once.
Sharati: As small as it was, even Sharati (well, the town next to it) boasted a special, Tuesday evening market. Here we saw the usual large piles of clothes probably donated by the Salvation Army, vitenge and khangas, and random assortments of odds, ends, and power tools. This was also the place where we found the delicious roasted meat.
Musoma: Unfortunately, we were not in Musoma long enough to find a market, but there were tons of fruit and vegetable vendors around. Additionally, there are a lot of sweet potatoes grown in this area, so many of the women roast sweet potatoes that they sell. It’s so beautiful at night when you drive by all the fires.
Besides Lake Victoria and Bismarck rock, there’s not really much to see. We were actually quite surprised. We figured that the lake considered to be the source of the Nile would have a few more attractions, but we were quite disappointed. One really unique thing about the area, though are the enormous, smooth rocks that can be found almost anywhere. There’s a particular formation in Mwanza where the rocks are balanced precariously on one another and have been for thousands of years. But that’s nature for you.
While there are hotels, for me, stays in Mwanza and Mara regions were categorized by hostels and lodges. They’re incredibly cheap (less than $5 per night), and clean, and a lot of them actually had televisions—when there was electricity, that is. Though the Mennonite hostel we stayed in in Sharati didn’t have running water, it was definitely my favorite. Despite the lack of electricity (at times) and the running water (always), it was very distinctly western it’s style. Our bed even had a quilt! Perhaps that’s a cheap reason for liking it, but hey, I’ve been here a long time! I think I deserve a little taste of home!
Warning: As I’ve said, there’s not a whole lot to do in these places, but if you’re like my colleagues and I, then you won’t mind. I really loved how quiet it was there (besides the roar of the generator). It was so peaceful and relaxing, even with doing all of our trainings and incredibly long bus rides from one town to another.