Day 3: City tour & Markets

Saturday 3/15/08

City Tour
After breakfast which shockingly also served a few south Indian dishes (Idlies, coconut chutney and Sambhar) we went for a bus tour, passing by the port, the City Hall, famous Askari (soldier) Monument from WWI - a key meeting point for many locals. We then headed north along the Indian Ocean to Msasani Peninsula. This area is filled with wealthy, spacious houses with swimming pools and gardens, and also a home to many embassies. We made a quick stop at a cliff overlooking the ocean, everyone running to take photos at the backdrop of turquoise waters and distant fishermen boats. The weather was gorgeous!

Image: At the Sea Cliff, A house (maybe an embassy) in Msasani Peninsula.

Tingatinga Arts
Next, we headed to the local art markets. The first place Tingatinga Arts - consisted of shops some with an art school, where mostly male artists painted pieces from metal animals to African themed paintings and carvings. It had a feeling of a hand made mass production where artists were creating the same products over and over. I fell in love with a painting of a Maasai woman (see photo) but the artist didn’t like my price. (He wanted $300.) 50-75% cut is fairly normal and one can get a 28x38 inch painting for about 25,000 shillings (or $25).

mage: A painting of a Maasai Woman, An artist at Tingatinga Arts

Makonde Craft Village

Our second stop was at the Mwenge market - the center for the Makonde wooden works where most tourists come to buy wooden carved sculptures made of mpingo (darkwood). They also have small furniture e.g. trunks, chairs even chessboard tables. Makonde people are known to be the finest traditional sculptures in east Africa. The village was full of shops with male carvers (no females in this industry) working at the back. Vendors inviting us with a smile and shouting “Karibu” were competing with other sellers for our attention. “Please come in. No charge for looking.” More carvers were settled in the center of the village under an open tent and I was able to get a few shots without them noticing. (They don’t let you take pictures and ask you to pay). The conditions were poor - dusty, very hot and dirty - but I also noticed a carver using a cell phone.

Towards the end my negotiating skills were coming back and I managed to buy couple of paintings and sculptures. They are stunning!

A good advice from our local driver Steve: “Stick with the 10.”

Images: Professor in action, Carver working at the Mwenge Market, Carver with a cellphone.

We also stopped at a shopping mall that was quite modern with a supermarket, boutiques, banks and ATMs (long lines because people just got paid and there were only 1 or 2 ATMs). Anna and I went to the bank to exchange money and were shocked when a teller refused to give Anna the exact amount. Reason? No coins in her registry.

I saw a jewelry shop that carried Tanzanite stones, but there was no time. However, the search for a blue Tanzanite will continue.

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