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Tanzania, March 1, 2003

Forget Dar, Head to Z-Bar!

Zanzibar's nightlife makes up for the daylight

every sign is hand painted!
Even the artists wilt!
the indian ocean is flat
Bye Bye Dar!
So I get off the bus from Arusha, and I step into the oven they call Dar es Salaam. The name translates as something like 'Port of Peace', but it should really translate as 'Damn, its HOT!' With temperatures in the high 90's in the shade all day, and not a whiff of a breeze, the oven just cooks ya and showers are no help, as even the cold water is warm from the heat.

Instead of watching candles melt (really!), I split for the cool breezes of Zanzibar, the island of the coast of Tanzania that used to control all of Tanzania and Kenya.

But that was then and this is now, so I arrived in Stone Town and was immediately reminded of Istanbul, for both cities were once rich and beautiful, but the last few hundred years have not been kind.

With its faded elegance and restrictive Muslim culture (think plenty of lazy men, but not a single woman, loitering on the streets) Zanzibar was about to be grouped with Dar, and get only 24 hours of my attention, when I found the undercurrent that gives it the nickname 'Z-bar.'

While walking home from a tourist bar, empty since its low season and there is a terrorism alert, I heard wonderful reggae beats pumping out from an alley and was drawn, like a moth to the flame, to its source.

There, wedged in a crevice between towering limestone buildings, was the aptly titled 'New Happy Bar'. I could tell it was African, and worthy, even before I breached the doorway, as the girlies started to play with alluring shout-outs of 'Hey, baby' and 'Oh, I love you!' as I squeezed past them into the doorway.

Once inside, the unisex toilets (you don't even want to know...), cheap beer (75 cents), and token mzungus (3 of us in a packed bar of about 100) made it all feel right.

Of course, the pinnacle of the night was when they tossed out a guy who was stoned out of his mind, but not cuz he was high or stripping naked on the dance floor, but cuz he was starting to insult one of the ladies there. Classic Africa!

It's only too bad that I didn't learn my lesson Friday night, and avoided the tourist clubs on Saturday. That night, I started out at the Africa House, watching the sunset with the other tourists, then headed over to Garage. There, the DJ succeeded, despite tough competition from Russia, in winning the coveted 'Worst DJ Worldwide' award.

Fleeing the auditory pollution, I split for Komba Disco, which like the Lonely Planet says, has a more 'local flair'. That means that, like New Happy, I am one of the few token mzungus and the DJ knows how to mix reggae flawlessly. So good, in fact, that it took me a minute to realize that he wasn't playing the World's Longest Reggae song, but mixing them seamlessly together.

He even busted out my favorite African singer, Saida, who does great songs, in Kswahili, about her need for a good man, in live, love, and bed.

Still, Stone Town is kinda boring in the daylight, which is why, in the morning, I'm off to Nungwi, a beach that is supposed to be Africa's version of Thailand's Koh Samui. We'll see if it lives up to the hype...

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