In the winter of 2019, Henderson Productions took a small group to Tanzania for a 14-day adventure.   This blog series tells the story of the trip and our fellow travelers.  Using our network around the world, we curated a tour to give us local connections and experiences beyond the normal tourist choices.  For more information about our upcoming trips, subscribe to our newsletter.

Dar es Salaam Tanzania Barak Obama Highway

The broad Barack Obama Highway in Dar es Salaam

Our short journey from the enclaved Msasani peninsula where most hotels and embassies are located to downtown was comfortable and scenic.   We used the Barack Obama Road along Oyster Bay – a broad, tree-lined median and, most unusually, virtually pothole free.   The President and Mrs. Obama had opened the road to great fanfare in 2013 on a Presidential visit and it doesn’t take much imagination to visualize the joyous spectacle it must have been.   Must try to google some images to check it out though often imagination is better than reality.

Slavery display National Museum of Tanzania

The slavery sculpture at the museum

National Museum of Tanzania

The earliest known remains of man

National Museum of tanzania

Plenty of space to look closely

Our first stop was the National Museum – primarily to see the Olduvai Gorge finds of the Leakey’s and the empire of descendants they created by finding Lucy.   As often happens, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of other offerings prior to the big reveal.   Our $20 guide spoke quickly and with a gentle singsong lilt that was both soothing and challenging to hear.   A couple and I had the same thoughts to wander ahead and read most of the exhibit without the commentary though we didn’t get too far away.

Of particular interest was the frank and direct presentation of the Arab slave trade, a tedious and chronological description of political history and an unusual modern art collection of Tanzanian artists.  We also very much enjoyed the exhibit on millennia of African rock-art pictographs which used carbon dating to determine different motif periods plus a layer of geographical distinction so it might be “Early Pleistocene, Zimbabwe, the animal era”. Fascinating.   I admit I have never considered that level of distinction of cave art.

Modern Art National Museum of Tanzania

My favorite abstract art

S and I found the modern art show dark in both tone and content.   As with most of my continually refining tastes, I was more drawn to the abstract and geometric imagery.   One straight line, elongated, monocolor warrior on a scroll caught my eye.

We finished the tour with D and I having the entire History of Mankind exhibit to ourselves to absorb and photo to our hearts content.   Australopithecus Africanus – by far the oldest hominid skull ever found, reminded me of long-ago university classes.   Homo erectus, mandibles and million-year-old 8-foot tusk fossils were simply displayed to help put context on the vastness of the unknown between then and now.   And bonus: no lessons in archeology.   Just the artifacts.   No fluff.

National Museum of Tanzania

The museum was built around this giant ficus which now hosts an educational gathering space

National Museum of Tanzania

Detail of a sculpture in the museum courtyard

National Museum of Tanzania

A view from inside the older building

We spent another hour checking out the 1945 original museum building (not currently used due to roof leaks), the modern courtyard tribute to the US Embassy bombing of 1998, a giant ficus tree, giftshop and some ice cream before our next drive.  (Freddy late 28 minutes.)