Like many East African cities, Arusha is big on cafes, and when Raphiele heard the slight squeal I tried to suppress when I saw coffee bushes outside one of them, he asked whether we’d be interested in seeing a plantation. So we hopped in a cab, and about 10 minutes and $3 later, we were on the outskirts of town in the middle of thousands of bushes of unripened coffee cherries on a plantation by the side of the road. The sun was setting and Mount Meru, the continent’s fifth-highest and most picturesque mountain, loomed on the horizon.
Deciding to walk back to town, we came upon the Arusha Coffee Lodge, an upscale hotel in the middle of its own coffee plantation. In the manicured courtyard, we had a cup of the coffee that was grown about 20 feet away. The small nocturnal mammal known as a bush baby staring adorably down at us from a nearby tree gave me a hint as to what all the safari enthusiasm is about, but the sun was down and a chill was rolling in, and I was happy to be able to call a cab and be back at our hotel before the last butterscotchy charcoal notes of the coffee left my palate.
City bar vs. Zanzibar
Just as Arusha and Moshi are, for most tourists, gateways to Mount Kilimanjaro and the national parks, so Dar es Salaam is where you catch the ferry to Zanzibar. But we weren’t going there. We had one full day in Dar, and two nights, both of which, it being Ramadan in this mostly Muslim city, we spent walking through the Kariakoo, the huge market area with its late-night street food scene, featuring roasted meats, or nyama choma in Swahili.
During the day, the roads are filled with bustle. At night, the still well-populated neighborhood takes on the pace of a boulevard or rambla, with families and groups of two or three men strolling, talking, often hand in hand or with arms wrapped around each other. We found a brightly lit ice cream parlor/bakery called Azam that was drawing crowds. Though the ice cream was mass-produced, it was good — Ryan had a nicely subtle scoop of saffron and I had two scoops of kulfi — and the scene was a reminder that no matter how exotic the locale, some things never change. Like the frantic, joyful little dance that kids do when their parents take them out for ice cream.