Admittedly, in the last months our reviews were either rather negative (Ethiopia and Nepal) or too complex to be summed up with just a positive/negative attribute (India). So we asked ourselves whether we do not like poor countries or whether we are a bit sick of travelling after all this time. Fortunately, Tanzania relieved us from these doubts: This Eastern African nation extends the list of countries we have fallen in love with.
It is not that everything is perfect here, by no means! So many prejudices about the Black Contintent proved to be true. Culturally there is not much to see in Tanzania. Except Zanzibar, the historical sites are not that impressive. And we know that we have written something like this about Bolivia, so we have to apologize and correct ourselves: Tanzania definitively is the country where nothing works. Unfortunately, this starts in the kitchen. The national dish that all Tanzanians are proud of is “Chipsi Mayai” – French fries and egg, a dish every other nation would be ashamed of serving to anyone but the worst enemy. All other food is not any better, some rice, some ugali, with lean chicken or fatty beef, accompanied by a monotone sauce. The best you can do is pouring ketchup or chilli sauce over it and eat fruits as lunch. But Tanzanians are just happy with what’s on offer, they never think about ways to make their cuisine more diverse.
Surely it is a cliché, but in the case of Tanzania it just describes the mentality in a perfect way: “Hakuna Matata” – “No Worries”. Tanzanians are always able to enjoy their life and they won’t let reality prevent them from doing so. The bus is broken and the sun is shining, so that’s a reason to smile. Or if a CD-vendor with loud music comes along and if they like the song, they start singing and dancing for a few seconds. They do not do so to show everyone their good mood, but only to enjoy the moment. They’re super friendly and want to have good relationships with everybody.
However, the coin has a flip side. They are not really interested in making things work – at least when it requires some effort. No matter how late the buses are, the driver will always have time to chat with a friend. At the train station, no one has any information about the current situation, and they do not know how their own institution is actually organized. The most important thing is that everyone is happy – may the problems be what they are – so they always will tell you that the solution is only one minute away. Usually, this explanation already replaces the solution. So Tanzania is a country where you soon become fond of the people, even when they are ruining all your plans. Yet for them it really is a pity and at least partly hampers development. It is such a waste of potentials and in effect, everything they do in Tanzania – cooking, driving, selling tickets, maintaining some kind of infrastructure, making a proper haircut – they do it very unprofessionally, without routine, chaotically, like the first time. Perhaps with the notable exception of music.
So Tanzanians have few reasons to be proud of their efficiency, instead they can be proud of something else. You hear so much about conflicts in the world but few things about the success stories of tolerance. Definitely, Tanzania is one of them. The country is roughly equally divided into Christians and Muslims. Nevertheless, there are no conflicts at all. In every small village, you’ll find a mosque and a church, often side-by-side. Little girls who come from school wear the same uniform, and some cover their hair, some don’t. A Muslim employer will have Christian workers, or the other way round. They even intermarry with each other and no one has a problem with it. Tanzanian can get very passionate when complaining about people who want to force others to believe this or that. They’re glad that only a small minority behaves like that.
Moreover, they have dozens of tribes in their country. But tribal conflicts are virtually absent. All live peacefully together and tribes actually do not play a big role in the society, except as source of stereotypes for popular jokes. The nation-building policy adopted by Julius Nyere, which included strict enforcement of Swahili at school, may have yielded some fruits. Nowadays, Tanzania is open for refugees from the whole region, who make their way to this African country to benefit from its stability. Even better for us, they are so tolerant that foreigners do not need to feel alien. We were astonished how unimportant the color of our skin seemed to be. They never thought that it was a reason to overcharge us or to start begging and the ratio of beggars is probably not significantly higher than in Western Europe. Tanzanians treated us friendly and fair, just like everyone else. They did not stare at us or seemed to be surprised when seeing a white man. They simply were ready to have a friendly talk like they use to have there and to enjoy the time we have together. So thanks to Tanzania, we now definitely feel welcome in Africa!