The starting point for the new face of Arusha

31 May 2002

Book ID 621

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The starting point for the new face of Arusha, 31 May 2002
Page Number: 1
Extract Date: 1903

Origins of the Boma

"The road led to a place called Arusha, and as we approached it we came to our astonishment in sight of a truly marvelous building, erected in European style and surrounded by a moat", wrote English adventurer, John Boyes about the beginnings of the town he saw in 1903.

"The Boma was a one-storey building of stone and mortar, with a huge tower in the centre and the whole glistened bright in the sunlight, like an Aladdin’s Palace transported from some fairyland and dropped down in the heart of the tropics. Emblazoned on the front of the tower were the royal arms of Germany, which could be seen nearly a mile off."

"The Boma had been built on a small hill at the base of Mount Meru facing the plains. Below the town were about 30 Indian, Greek and Arab shops selling cloth, trinkets, soap, enameled plates, bowls, beads and copper wire. One shop even had a sewing machine and produced jackets and trousers for the German soldiers and "more progressive natives."

In this 1903 description of early Arusha, Boyes wrote that one approached the Boma along a "fine wide road, equal to a well-kept highway in England" that was "carefully marked off in kilometres.

"Everything about Arusha was equally surprising, the streets being laid out with fine side-walks, separated from the road by a stream of clear water flowing down a cemented gully-way. We had discovered a real oasis in the wilderness.

"The township was spotlessly clean and we saw natives with small baskets picking up any litter lying about, as though the place were the Tiergarten in Berlin and not the wild interior of the Dark Continent."

The German Boma was completed in 1901 and Arusha remained under rigid German military rule until five years later. It had been built as a military fort with a mounted Maxim machine gun. The first commander was First Lieutenant Georg Kuster derogatorily referred to in Swahili as "Bwana Fisi" meaning "Mr. Hyena".

Those "natives", as Boyes called the Waarusha and Wameru, had in fact been made to build the Boma as a punishment. Spears had been turned into digging tools; shields served as crude wheelbarrows. Swords were used to cut down trees, young women and children forced to carry thatching material, older men and women given the task of stamping barefoot on wet mud to join the stones during construction.

Extract ID: 3395

See also

The starting point for the new face of Arusha, 31 May 2002
Page Number: 2
Extract Date: 2002

Discover Arusha Tours

Boyes’ description of the Boma 100 years ago is clearly over the top. But ironically, this whitewashed German fort, rehabilitated 1999 with Belgian aid, at the top of Boma road leading to the Clock Tower, is today becoming the starting point for the new face of Arusha. It is used as a centre for art and craft exhibitions, music festivals and drama.

Jan Mannaert, a Belgian former art history teacher, has responded to the town’s perpetual transition by establishing "Discover Arusha Tours" (tel: 0744 - 395430). These worthwhile tours begin at the Boma, the first stone building in the town.

Mannaert then takes the visitors to the roof of the New Safari Hotel where on a clear day they can see the town and Mount Meru. Then they are told the history of the Clock Tower. Religious temples and churches, historical buildings, the railway station, the Uhuru (freedom) and Askari (soldier)monuments, and the cemetery are all included.

The Boma houses a Belgian-run café called Via Via which serves soft drinks and meals. Inside the Boma there is also a museum. This is sadly empty at present, while staff vehicles parked on the forecourt leave ugly oil stains on the elegant brickwork, destroying the historic atmosphere.

Below the Boma are the town administration offices on the left and the Regional Administration on the right. Before the Clock Tower are airline offices (including Air Tanzania), two other meeting places (Café bamboo and Jambo Coffee house), Kase Bookshop, the Tanzanian Tourist Board, tour operators and curio shops.

On the way down Boma Road on the right hand side is the New Safari Hotel and just beyond the Clock Tower to the left is the New Arusha Hotel. Both have deteriorated badly. The New Safari Hotel has been taken over by the Lutheran Church, and the once world famous copper bar is now closed in conformity with temperance. The New Arusha Hotel is badly in need of refurbishment.

To the right of the Clock Tower on Uhuru Road there are women selling Maasai beads on the pavement. Also on Uhuru Road is Lookmanji Curio Shop which, along with The Craft Shop on adjoining Goliondoi Road, is recommended. If you are looking for something authentic from the area, there are Maasai bead ornaments and local batik.

Extract ID: 3432

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The starting point for the new face of Arusha, 31 May 2002
Page Number: 3

A Better and Beautiful Arusha

Late in 2000,the Regional Commissioner, Daniel Ole Njoolay, appointed a committee to recommend to him ways of creating "A Better and Beautiful Arusha". One of its recommendations is a pedestrian walkway along part of Uhuru Road. Attempting to discipline minibus operators, initiating a mass transit system, streets becoming one way and keeping heavy trucks from the town centre are among the other recommendations.

But at the end of the day, the report adds, "Arusha will never be green, clean and a beautiful city till a proper system of garbage collection and disposal are implemented." Maybe turning the clock back to some of the German extremes is not what Arusha needs. The man responsible for cleaning up Dar es Salaam was promoted to cabinet in late 2000. This signal is not lost on Arusha’s municipal authorities.

The area of Arusha that is developing as the main tourist route stretches for three kilometers. From Boma Road, the visitor turns left along Old Moshi Road. This road contains the offices of the African Wildlife Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme as well as the Everest Chinese restaurant just across the Themi River, and the Mambo Café.

Then you come to Kijenge roundabout. An ugly giant beer bottle was put on the roundabout as part of as sponsors’ price for redeveloping it and was only removed after public protest.

Nevertheless it is an important junction. To the right down Njiro Road is Chez Nany which serves excellent French cuisine and whose owners have opened Le Bistro opposite the regional offices. Straight ahead on the old Moshi Road are the Dragon Pearl that serves Chinese food and Stiggy’s Pacific and Thai restaurant whose Australian owner has worked in many places as a chef.

On the Kijenge roundabout is the Impala hotel, certainly the best in Arusha, with a good Indian restaurant. A few metres away on Moshi road is Herb and Spices Restaurant which serves good African (including Ethiopian) and other food, and the Mezza Luna, an Italian restaurant that also incorporates an art gallery. Both restaurants have accommodation. The Mount Meru Hotel is on the Nairobi road.

If you want nyama choma (Swahili for roast or barbecued meat) - inexpensive and delightful if the meat is tender - then the Roaster Garden next door to the Everest Restaurant on Old Moshi Road is recommended.

Extract ID: 3433

See also

The starting point for the new face of Arusha, 31 May 2002
Page Number: 4

Outside Arusha

Outside Arusha, mainly off the road to Usa River which is halfway between the town and Kilimanjaro International Airport, a number of new facilities have opened. These vary between those that are open for a drop-in meal to those that are strictly for residents.

These facilities provide an ideal escape from the bustle of Arusha and have the added merit of being close to Arusha National Park. They are well worth exploring by tourists and business people who are stuck in Arusha awaiting their next appointments.

Moivaro Coffee Plantation Lodge is the nearest eating place outside Arusha. It is about twenty minutes by vehicle from the Clock Tower. The atmosphere is relaxing and ideal for a family outing from Arusha. The main thatched building which faces Mount Meru, also encompasses the dining room and there is a swimming pool, massage parlour and curio shop.

Another facility close to Arusha is Safari Spa that advertises "Polo in the African sun" and has over 40 horses. Polo is played on the pitch adjoining the spa while "bush polo" is played near Lake Manyara for the richer clients who like to "rough it" in a luxury tented camp. Safari Spa has a restaurant for residents only.

Next on the Moshi Road comes the Mountain Village that has recently been taken over from a tour operator by Serena Hotels, Tanzania’s premier tourism group. The Dik Dik is located located further along just off the Moshi Road int he foothills of Mount Meru near Usa River. Both are open for drop-in meals.

Just beyond the Dik Dik is the residents-only Ngare Sero. Set in lush gardens with crystal-clear springs and mountain streams, the lodge marries a renovated 1900s German home with today’s comforts. It has 200 bird species, trout fishing, Colobus and Sykes monkeys he owner, Mike Leach, also rehabilitated the Arusha Boma. Ngare Sero is highly recommended.

Further along the main Moshi road on the way to Kilimanjaro International Airport comes Mount Meru Game Lodge, just across the Usa River which gives its name to the settlement. Today, the internationally noted game sanctuary contains fewer animals and eventually these will give way altogether to birds that already exist in abundance. Professional hoteliers have been appointed, and the lodge and food are definitely improving.

Directly across the main road is Rivertrees, a charming new addition to the several "escapes" found around Arusha. It has comfortable, self-contained rooms, excellent country food for residents, walks, birdlife, scenery, small mammals and safari prospects that combine to make this a perfect retreat.

On the right just before the Arusha National Park, and despite its misleading name, is MBT (Mountain Bird Trophies) that is a snake-park and chameleon-breeding farm. While many visitors tend to be squeamish about snakes in Africa, around 70 per cent are non-venomous and the guide at the snake park will help you tell one from the other. The chameleons are particularly fascinating, ranging from the giant to the pygmy.

Extract ID: 3434

See also

The starting point for the new face of Arusha, 31 May 2002
Page Number: 5
Extract Date: 2002

Birds of Arusha

Situated at 1,300 metres (4,290 feet) on the southern side of Mount Meru, Arusha would have once been covered in lowland forest. Approximately 130 resident species of birds exist in Arusha town and surrounding suburbia and this increases to almost 500 with "fly-by" and migrant species.

Among the commoner birds that occur in Arusha augur buzzards with their short red tails and broad, rounded wings are unmistakable in flight. Marabou storks and black kites, which feed on refuse and carrion, are common residents. Red-winged starlings are more often seen around tall buildings. Large and noisy silvery-cheeked hornbills with their distinctive casques (hollow bills), and crowned hornbills that are noticeably smaller, may also be seen.

Smaller birds include yellow-vented bulbul often seen in the town’s gardens, variable sunbird notable for the male’s striking violet-blue back and head and yellow underparts, bright green-collared, white-eyed slaty flycatcher distinguished by its broad white eye rings, red-eyed dove and long-tailed speckled mousebird that "crawls" though the vegetation.

Extract ID: 3435
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