Notes on the Geography of Tanzania: Colonial Dar es Salaam
In the days of sail, there was no need for Dar es Salaam. Rather than navigate the tricky entrance to the embayed Harbor Creek, ships dropped anchor offshore in the generally calm offshore waters. Yes, there was a town here--gridded streets and all. It had been conceived by the local ruler, none other than the Sultan of Zanzibar, but in 1890, roughly 30 years after the town's creation in 1862, its population was perhaps 5,000. Things changed with the arrival of German colonial power in 1887. Big ships now needed not only safe anchorage but docks.
An anchorage was developed approximately where the ships here are at anchor, between the two churches visible in this picture, the Catholic cathedral on the left and the tiled-roof Lutheran church on the right. Later, deep-water ports were developed still farther upstream, to the left of this image. (For much more on the harbor, see Dar es Salaam, City, Port and Region, edited by J.E.G. Sutton, 1970, published as vol. 71 of Tanzania Notes and Records.)
Until about 1900, passengers and cargo, too, came ashore in small boats and walked or was carried upstairs from the water's edge.
Shortly after 1900, docks came to the rescue. Passenger traffic continued to rise until 1954, after which traffic shifted to airlines. Freight, on the other hand, continued to rise, not only with the development of the economy but because the British, who ruled here from 1916 to 1964, were reluctant to invest heavily in Dar es Salaam when they already had a major port 200 miles up the coast, in Mombasa.
The tracks leaving the Dar yards. The Germans began the railway in 1905. The harbor jetty and crane were installed that year, and a quay was added in 1907. Like so many African railways, this one, too, was more a political statement than a paying proposition. The main exports in 1912 were groundnuts, cotton, cotton seed, and skins, and the port ranked second after Tanga, about 120 miles to the north and much closer to the bulk of European-owned farms in Tanganyika at that time. (For an account of one such farm and the career of a longtime colonist, see Werner Voigt's Sixty Years in East Africa, 1995.)
The German-built railway station. Old photographs show that the space behind the arches was originally a covered porch, open to the street.
The railway platforms are very quiet, with service suspended.
An on-site warehouse, occasionally used by the UN's World Food Program.
Passengers arriving in colonial Dar had a choice of hotels, most of which have long since been demolished, although in some cases (the New Africa Hotel, for example) a new hotel has been built at the same location. Here is the one exception as of 2011. Despite the auto-parts signs, the design hints at the building's former use.
Just behind the trees and at the angle, there used to be large signs with the words New Palace Hotel. The streets here don't form a right angle, you'll notice, thanks to a grid-spoiling diagonal once called Windsor Street, now Indira Gandhi.
Directly across the street is this cafe. In the German period, it was called the Java Haus.
Take a look?
See the photos on the wall?
Germans in tropical white.
Women join the group.
A more palatial venue: the DSM or Dar es Salaam Club. It must have been a deeply resented place, because in the first year of independence from Britain, President Julius Nyerere signed a bill dissolving the club. (A year later Tanganyika merged with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania.) The building is now a training institute for the ministry of tourism.
Colonial monuments have fared even worse. This one shows Hermann von Wissmann, a governor of German East Africa in the 1890s and the man who earlier suppressed a revolt. The statue was erected in 1911 and destroyed by the British almost immediately following their takeover.
The site remained empty for about a decade until the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commissioned this statue, the Askari Monument, dedicated to the Africans who fought alongside the British in World War I. (A mile from the site there's a War Graves cemetery, with dozens of well-cared-for graves for those men.) Placed in 1927, the statue stands at the intersection of Inglis, Acacia, and Windsor, now Maktaba, Samora Machel, and Indira Gandhi.
There's a cenotaph, too, also from 1927. It stands on a waterfront site once used for a memorial to Kaiser Wilhelm I. That memorial was destroyed, and the cenotaph hasn't done much better, losing the brass plate once bolted to it.
Churches have fared better, including this bit-of-Bavaria Lutheran church.
From another angle. The building peeking over the right shoulder is the rebuilt New Africa Hotel, built on the site of the original New Africa, whose design was much like that of the New Palace Hotel and which, in German times, was called the Kaiserhof.
The pews have indestructible benches with woven-cane seats and backs.
The catholic church, St. Joseph's, was contributed by French missionaries.
The doors are works of art.
Almost hidden on the hinges of the central doors are inscribed Latin phrases.
Domus dei et porta coeli--The home of God and entrance to heaven.
Quam dilecto tabernacula tua--how splendid your tabernacle.
The Anglican church was added late in the day.
Stripped, it's almost devoid of the plaques that fill such churches in places where the British were more deeply rooted.
One of the few plaques inside the church.
Some of the German goverment buildings survive, including this one, the High Court, later the Magistrate's Court. It's on the waterfront, just seaward from the Lutheran church.
The balcony is supported on decorative ironwork.
The city hall and council chamber, another German leftover.
The post office was also built by the Germans, but the roof line has lost its original tiled gables, and the gray paint is somebody's idea of an improvement.
The British moved ponderously toward independence and in their later years maintained a legislative assembly housed in a building paid for by a wealthy local Indian merchant.
At the entrance. Twining, a former soldier who arrived here in 1949 from British North Borneo, was governor for nine years, an unusually long term. The DNB suggests that he wasted a great deal of time trying to carry out the Colonial Office's mandate of moving toward independence while working to "entrench the position of the white minorities."
The legislative chamber, empty these days.
On a wall, a lineup of local dignitaries.
A curious building, the National Museum opened in 1940 and hinted that the culture of Tanganyika was dominantly Muslim.
But then the British often deceived themselves.
Also on the museum grounds, a German lamp post.
Behind the facades, many of these buildings are in rough shape. Let's take a look through that passage on the left. The building houses the Department of Lands and Surveys.
The far side of the passage opens here.
We're looking for a map of Dar es Salaam, but only an office copy can be found.
Meanwhile there was a commercial city, dominated by Indians. Much of this district has hardly changed since the 1950s.
Here, a building dated 1931.
Another, from 20 years later.
The National Housing Corporation has a fondness for this salmon color.
Blocks of their flats line the Nyerere Road, the main (and usually jammed) route into the city from the airport.
Something more stylish: Deco on Mosque Street.
It stands next to the effusive Darkhana Jama'at-Khana or prayer hall of the Ismaili Community, built in 1930.
Next to it is the Aga Khan Library and this, the Aga Khan's girl's school.
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