Pondered East Africa

Disclaimer: I was only in a very small part of Africa for a week - I am by no means any sort of authority on the continent. These are just my thoughts, a little over a week after my return to the UK.

I was really surprised by the income disparity in both Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar. I don't consider myself wealthy at all (I have a small, cheap car; I don't own any property; I work full-time), but when compared with some of the people I saw in Africa I'm unfathomably rich. I have excellent healthcare, heat and running water, any food I can think of, a smartphone and a computer, and a two-bedroom apartment all to myself.

Downtown Dar:

Driving through Dar:

This pharmacy made me laugh - the UK company is "Boots the chemist" - I'm not sure if this is their Tanzanian equivalent or not!

At the Village Museum, we saw various different dwellings from around Tanzania, and were both a bit stunned by the fact that these are not from the 1900s or earlier, but from the 1970s and 80s and are pretty much unchanged today. We saw similar homes on our way out to Zanzibar Retreat - the further we got from Stone Town, the fewer cinderblock walls and tin roofs there were.

Also, this. A carved wooden sign advertising a computer workshop. Kind of sums it all up.

We mentioned to our taxi driver from the airport to Stone Town that we were hoping to visit Prison Island and go snorkelling. He said that it would be no problem - we could take a boat. We asked what time the boats went (thinking it was a scheduled trip) and he gave us a funny look and said "whatever time you want!" So for the equivalent of $20 each, we had a return boat ride (in a boat called Mr Bean, bizarrely), snorkelling equipment hire, and a guided tour of the island. Our guide was very funny and extremely charming, and we had a really excellent time.

When we flew back from Zanzibar to the mainland, we took a taxi (equipped with WiFi, bizarrely) back to the house. Everywhere there were people waiting for busses, crammed into busses, squeezed onto scooters and bicycles, and generally making their way around town.

I was initially startled by the Tanzanian currency, the shilling. This 1000 shilling note is worth about $0.60, or £0.37. The more I thought about it, the more I realised they must have had some periods of terrifying inflation in order to make it to where the smallest paper denomination of money is 500 shillings. According to Wikipedia, inflation is currently over 11% (inflation in the UK is just over 1%).

So I guess I'm not sure what to think - I spent money with hotels, restaurants, small-business owners, individual fishermen and taxi drivers, and artists. Haggling is part of pretty much everything, but I was very aware that what I consider to be pocket change is actually a fairly substantial amount of money once you're away from the main tourist areas. Things like restaurant meals and hotels were actually NOT terribly cheap, mostly because they cater to the tourist economy and are entirely out of reach of the locals.