It just so happened that the sales girl who sold me my shoes back in Chicago was Tanzanian. After she told us how we had to dress for cool nights and wear comfortable close-toed shoes, she -being hospitable as Africans generally are, gave us her uncle's and mother's phone numbers in Dar es Salaam.
Our first night in Dar, however, we relied on Lonely Planet to find us a trusty little backpacker's hotel that suited all of our basic needs just fine; you could sit on the toilet, brush your teeth and take a shower all at once in that place!...but the most amazing thing was being woken by the Muslim call to prayer that blasts over the town's loud speakers at 5 a.m. Breathtaking! We clambered to our windows and looked out over the crumbled landscape of once-standing, or never-quite-ever-standing buildings that encircled our humble hotel. It looked like a war zone. The only movement was a child or two playing or a lonely dog scavenging about in the rubble.
In the streets, vendors in microscopic shops were roasting their meals over small fires, people were rushing everywhere and Papa Wemba was wafting joyfully through the air. No one we ran into, with few exceptions, spoke English. That was the first place I ever saw an internet cafe; two stories, 40 square feet and six computers!
That next day we 1) met up with the shoe sales girl's mother and 2) were given a three-room suite in a magnificent, yet nearly empty hotel overlooking the bay, which her generous uncle happened to own. Everything in every room was red velvet, and he wouldn't take a dime from us.
Dinner at her mother's was a jolly affair that involved a tour of much more sophisticated parts of Dar, hours and hours of cooking, lots of extended family, hours of story-telling, and us being presented with gifts of hand-sewn outfits! Luckily, we had come prepared with our own American gifts, as we always do. (Some silver necklaces.) It was a spectacular evening, by all accounts!
Early the next morning we were headed via ferry boat to the enchanting island of Zanzibar, without, of course, a single idea of where we were going to stay!