Posted by: passedportsnyc | August 24, 2009

First Impressions: Tanzania

August 21, 2009, Tanzania

1. We found the Italians.  They are all in Zanzibar.  This place is loaded with them.  When the locals speak to you, they try Italian first, then English.  Signs are in Italian.  The hotel next door to where we’re staying is exclusively for Italians.  We wandered onto the grounds and a Maasai warrior security guard yelled “STOP. No Italaino, STOP.  No English here.  English STOP.  Not Italiano STOP.”

2. Where does all the tourism money go? Between its beaches, national parks, and safari opportunities, Tanzania sees millions of foreign tourists every year.  It is not a cheap place to travel: entry fees to national parks hover around $100 per person per day, even the dodgiest of hostels with shared rooms and bathrooms, no hot water (often barely any water at all), and not amenities of any kind charge up to $30 per night for a double. So one has to wonder where all of that money goes.  Most to the population is still desperately poor.  Driving through towns mean driving on dirt roads past mud huts.  I can’t understand how all those national park fees aren’t being used to improve infrastructure and increase local wages.

3. Jambo, Hakuna Matata.  How’s it going, no worries.  Despite being visibly frusterated by the fact that the tourism profits do not seem to trickle down everyone here is super laid back, almost to a fault.  (The hassle here is very similar to what we experienced in Egypt – people desperate to make a buck from the only source of money around. The paradox is difficult to wrap your head around: a land so rich in beauty, history, nature, or otherwise, with a population so desperate and yet so unable to profit from it.) Your bag is lost? Hakuna Matata. No rooms at the hotel? No worries, hakuna matata.   So long as you embrace the mantra you can have a good time too.

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