Our last day in Tanzania and we had no specific plans before our flight. I called up our tour operator and asked them to send a driver to take us around Moshi. This post was inspired by that trip’s most memorable moments.
Moshi, population 184,000, is probably best known to those who have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. It and Arusha are the two most likely places for climbers to stay before and after their trek. When researching for our safari, I noticed that not a lot of people write about the time they spent in Moshi. For this reason I expected to find a normal, small town with not much to offer. It turns out that Moshi is filled with history and a thoroughly enjoyable place to spend the day.
1. The Old Moshi Railway Station
The first place we visited was the old railway station. No longer in operation, the abandon buildings speak of a time when European countries held influence. The train station was originally developed by the Germans and then taken over by the British. Trains ran through it as recently as the 90s.
Walking through the archway past the booking office, we found ourselves on the old platform. The tracks are overgrown with grass and covered with dust. A few industrious people have turned some of the side buildings into small shops and a convenience store.
Behind the convenience store under a large tree was this public toilet. Wanawake means female.
2. On the Road in Moshi
Leaving the train station, we drove through the various streets of Moshi. You can tell a lot about a town when you drive its streets. Moshi’s are generally broad and straight – a result of the German and British influences on the town’s infrastructure.
There are many different types of public transport available. The tuk tuk shown below was very common and could be seen weaving in and out of traffic.
Further into the town center, the tree-lined broad streets start to be replaced by roads with mid-rise buildings and taxi stands.
After a short drive we ended up at the bus station. There were dozens of dala dalas, mini buses that can seat ten to twenty people depending on the size, and a handful of standard size coaches at this central bus terminus. Small stands selling tickets and hawkers holding signs for various destinations were everywhere. We weaved our way through vendors selling for-the-road snacks and drinks. I watched them passing items up on long sticks to passengers already on the tall coaches.
We headed up a flight of stairs for a birds-eye view.
3. Spice and Grain Market
Later in the morning we headed to the local market. Unlike those markets that you find in tourist destinations that always seems to have stall after stall of decorative trinkets, the market in Moshi is a practical place designed for local shoppers and traders. Burlap sacks were filled to overflowing with different types of rice, millet and sorghum. Other stalls specialized in various spices, salts, and sugars. At one end, large cages were filled with live chickens and other poultry. Directly opposite this section, stall after stall was filled with wooden cooking implements, baskets, and practical cleaning items. The entire market was humming with soft-voiced negotiations, the rumble of engines, and the cluck and crow of avian life.
4. Ugali and Goat – EAT WHAT THE LOCALS EAT IN MOSHI
Lunch time! Our driver asked us what we wanted to eat. I’m sure he expected us to request something standard and ‘safe’ like pizza. So you can imagine his surprise when I told him we wanted to eat local food and asked him what he would generally eat for lunch. We ended up in a large restaurant filled with locals. I always recommend eating somewhere that has a local following – it usually means the food is good and safe to eat.
Goat, beef, and chicken glistened on large rotating spits as they passed in an out of an eight foot high barbecue. Women stood off to one side of the kitchen cutting up fresh fruit and preparing other side dishes. A large tree was growing in the center and appeared to be holding up the roof. The whole place, filled with smoke and the aroma of cooking meat, made me incredibly hungry!
We ordered a selection of items and then headed outside to grab a table and wait for our meal. A server came by with a bottle of water and a large basin and we each took turns rinsing our right hand. Tanzanian people eat with their right hand only. It is very rude to use your left hand while eating as the left hand is reserved for other things like going to the toilet.
When our food arrived I was so happy that we convinced our driver to take us to a non-tourist restaurant. Plates were piled high with subtly seasoned barbecue goat and beef, fresh sliced fruit, chopped tomatoes and onions, and rice. We also had ugali – the large white lump in the left of the photo below. Ugali is made by boiling maize or sorghum until it forms a thick dough and it is absolutely delicious! A very satisfying and enjoyable meal!
5. Just Beyond Moshi’s Town Center
After lunch we headed into the outskirts of town which covers a fairly large area of 23 square miles. We passed fields filled with sunflowers and millet, homes erected very close to the roadside, and a few mid-size convenience stores. One thing that I found fascinating was the habit of drying clothes along the side of the road.
6. Muugano Makonda Craftsman Village
A short drive later we came to the Muugano Makonda Craftsman village. Just off the road, over a footbridge, and nestled amongst a grove of trees, the craftsman village is a place for local artists to sell their works. There were about a dozen artists and craftsman all eager to talk about their art. Unlike a tourist shop selling magnets and obviously mass-produced items, the village was filled with unique, hand-made paintings and other crafts. I fell in love with a few items.
A popular form on art in Tanzania is the tinga-tinga painting. Tinga-tinga paintings are abstract works of art that generally depict local animals. These stylized paintings are uniquely Tanzanian.
Our day out in Moshi was really enjoyable and the perfect way to end our trip to Tanzania.