On my third day in Tanzania I went with Hanna (who I had met in Cairo Airport) to the city center to see what it was like. We had taken the dala dala (the local minibus) from the outskirts to the center. After we had walked around for a while we took a break to figure out what to do.
A guy came up to us, and started chit chatting with us for 5-10 minutes. He seemed really nice. At some point he told us he was a taxi driver and offered to take us to the beach. We had just talked about going to the beach, before he came, so after some consideration we agreed. This guy had the craziest scar I have ever seen. From one side of the throat, all the way across to the other side. At least 15 cm/6 inches long and 1 cm/0.4 inch wide.
I thought to myself that he had been really unlucky and had ended up in a really bad situation, to get a scar like that. Which I figured could easily happen when living in a country like Tanzania. But I also thought that he had been way beyond lucky surviving that thing. Only a miracle could have saved him from that knife-wound. Because that scar clearly showed that whoever did that to him, did it with the intention to kill.
When we got to his taxi, his driver was already there waiting for the next costumers. So we all got in. They were in the front and we were in the back. They told us it would take around 20 minutes to get there. Along the way we picked up one of their friends who were going the same direction. This was a big guy who was nicely dressed with a white shirt, sunglasses and a big smile. He went in the front and the guy with the scar came back to us. We were all having fun, listening to music and chatting, and I was thinking it was interesting to get this close to another culture. They asked us a bunch of questions; where we were from, where we were staying, how long we had been in Tanzania and so on.
After around 15 minutes we picked up a forth guy, who squeezed in the backseat as well. After seeing how packed the busses were, I wasn’t surprised the taxies were working the same way. So, completely squeezed together, we were driving through these poor neighborhoods on bumpy dirt roads, in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.
After approximately half an hour, after having avoided a military barricade, which they told us were there only to get bribes, they stopped. We had stopped in a shanty suburb and the big guy who had been doing most of the talking told us that this was a dangerous neighborhood, because it was mafia territory. Then he turned around and looked directly at us with a serious expression. When he started talking it took me a second to process what he was saying, which was in sharp contrast to the past 30 minutes of laughing and chatting. In a very serious demeanor he said, “This is a bad area, and we are not good guys! Do you understand what I am saying? This is serious. We want all your money. Don’t lie, don’t hide anything, give us everything you have.”