{crazy market} Morning Madness at Mzizima Fish Market in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Most people only visit Dar es Salaam as a stop in a journey onwards to Zanzibar or a safari. There is something in Dar that’s totally worth a visit, though: the morning madness at Mzizima Fish Market.

Mzizima (“healthy town”) is what the city used to be called before it became Dar es Salaam (“house of peace”.) If you’re staying at the fabulous Kilimanjaro Kempinski (which you should, by all means) then you can walk your jet-lagged self to this market at sunrise for all the early morning action.(NB, the Kempinski is also very well-located for walking to the Zanzibar ferries.) Here! I made you a map.

Mzizima Market is almost exactly the opposite of the orderly Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo–and if you’ve been to both, the contrast is startling (and invites thoughtful conversation about culture and food.) At Mzizima, the fish comes in on the boats in the Indian Ocean…

…and is immediately and unceremoniously slapped down and gutted with lightning speed. Guts abound. The haggling, poking, and prodding begins even before the fish have been cleaned.

The bigger fish are carried from the beach and simply thrust aloft. This invites a crowd to gather around the fish and start yelling out their offers. These impromptu auctions are over in seconds and occurring constantly.

Gutting a fish requires a sharp knife. This guy will handily hone it for you on his ingenious bicycle knife grinding contraption.

This being our first morning in Tanzania, after a very long journey, we were initially a little apprehensive about the crush of people. It turned out that everyone was just being by turns curious and/or friendly. At five o’clock in the morning, we were definitely the only people there solely for the sights and sounds (and, sigh, smells; it’s a fish market after all)–and we were hardly inconspicuous! Was it the giant camera? The blonde hair?

I love how these women match their shrimp, and how they manage to look so fashionable and put together even with 2 or 3 inches of fish slop on the ground.

I made you a map so you can find it. Hint: don’t wear sandals!

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1 Response

  1. October 5, 2011

    […] is an island. Although it was messy and slippery and slimy, it was a lot less chaotic than the Mzizima Fish Market across the bay in Dar es […]