City of Boredom

Robert Konigsberg blogged of his love for Slitherlink.

Slitherlink brings back memories. Memories of being stuck for a few days in sticky, tropical Dar es Salaam, Tanzania a couple of years ago, with nothing to do except Slitherlink. The name “Dar es Salaam” is Arabic for something like “haven of peace”. I found it to be a haven of dullness. I’ve been to numerous cities around the world, and almost always find a way to pleasantly pass the time. But not Dar es Salaam.

This million-person city seems to have been cannily designed by leading experts to be the most boring city in known history. I couldn’t even find a cinema. I did find a small shopping centre that caters for ex-patriates. By far the biggest and most popular section was the alcohol section. As far as I can tell, the ex-patriates in Dar-es-salaam mostly try to drink the boredom away.

Downtown I found one – and only one – cafe. It was pleasant enough, but not the place to pass too much time.

In the ex-pat shopping centre I bought a puzzle book which had – amongst others – Slitherlink puzzles. I sat in my airconditioned and overpriced hotel room for most of each day, doing all the Slitherlinks in the book. Then in the cooler evening I’d go for a walk through the city, desperately and futilely trying to find a lively bar. Eventually I’d end up at the Kempinski hotel, the only place I found with a half-decent restaurant.

Why didn’t I leave sooner, you ask? I couldn’t reschedule my flight out. And it was the wet season which meant that if I left the city there would be a good chance of getting stuck somewhere due to muddy roads. Forcing me to stay even longer. And I was more than ready to go home.

Tip for anyone planning to be in Dar es Salaam for more than a few hours: There is one – and exactly one – activity I can recommend. Take the ferry to Zanzibar. And stay there until the last possible moment. All the photos in this blog entry are from Zanzibar.

In Zanzibar the street food is cheap and delicious. The beach views at sundown are sublime. And once you are swimming in the water you won’t want to get out for hours.