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Brief trip report: Tanzania (Dar and Zanzibar)

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I had always hesitated going to Africa, but this trip was a pleasant surprise. After getting past the multitude of shots and drugs, etc., the trip went relatively smoothly.

I flew from LHR-DAR direct on British Air. The plane has only two classes (Business and Coach), and while the business class seats oddly faced each other--they did lie flat which was much needed. I watched "Blood Diamond" upon departure and then slept the rest of the way into Dar. Little did I know that two comments made in the movie would come home during my visit: 1) American women can't come to Africa without hand sanitizer and malaria medicine (Malarone), and 2) TIA--This is Africa! About an hour from Dar, we got to see the sun starting to come up over the Indian Ocean. What a great sight!

I was surprised upon descent of the number of unfinished concrete structures around--I guess I didn't anticipate the large number of structures. Dar is a huge city--pop is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million+.

Clearing customs in Dar is very easy and somewhat comical. You surrender your passport and your money and then standaround until they either call your name or waive your passport. My colleagues who flew in the night before paid a business visa fee of US$50, I had to pay US$150 for a "visitor's pass". Payable in US dollars only. Go figure.

My driver picked me up and took me to the Kempinski Kilimanjaro. This is a fantastic hotel with great air conditioning, spa, restaurants, shopping, etc. I had a huge Executive Suite with a balcony overlooking the Dar harbor. Just a great view. The breakfast buffet was included in the rate, as was access to the Executive Lounge. The breakfast buffet was impressive--a combination of British, European, Western, and other breakfast options--large variety, great selection, and no issues with eating any of the fruits, veggies, etc. We did, however, stick to the bottled water.

The only thing I couldn't get used to was the inefficiency of just about everything. You have to get used to it and our colleagues took the line from Blood Diamond and modified it slightly so our motto became, "That's Africa, Baby!"

We had business in Dar, so our visit was limited mostly to the Kempinski and our office there. On Friday, we took the ferry from Dar to Zanzibar for the weekend. I would highly recommend getting a first class ticket (about US$40 one-way including the departure tax) if you are taking the ferry. The economy class is packed and appeared unpleasant for a number of reasons. 1st class was upstairs, they provided water and cookies, and they showed some Chuck Norris movies and African cartoons. The 2 hour trip was extended when we got stuck on a sandbar--but we finally made it to Zanzibar.

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