Upanga number 1

16 Mar


Port cities just have their own rhythm, a flow and ebb created by different cultures rising and falling with the ocean tides that bring them there. Dar es Salaam is a healthy melting pot of African, Middle Eastern, Asian and European people and Swahili is part of the glue that binds them all together.


Tanzanian teacher and author, Epaphra P.M. Ngowi, calls language a free currency, an asset you can use to express yourself in the society you are in. And pretty much like anywhere, if you have some linguistic currency it’s a good start to good relations you’re your hosts. For Tanzania the small change is Mambo, Asante and Karibu; or Wussup, Thank you and Welcome in that order. Ngowi is uniquely appropriate as he has authored a book (Traveller Highlights) that pairs Swahili and Setswana vocabulary, and uses English as the scenic route for aiding understanding of the two languages. The book is organic and is split into sections that give you situations and the words and phrases you might use in said situations. In Dar es Salaam Swahili is your best asset in nearly any given situation.



Bingo and curry at Upanga Club, where you will find a very laid back Indian society relaxing with their children as the bingo draw master rattles off numbers and comical asides in English and Swahili. “They call it amane smane – opposite each other – 69; single numbers – Upanga number one; tano pake ake number five.” and so on. Upanga is a great place to get a sense of how the different cultures have grown together in Dar, and to catch up on local Indian gossip… Such as the man who lost his job because of a Ferrari guy. What happened was that the son of the Fired Guy took the daughter of Ferrari Guy out to Runway, a popular night Club owned by an Italian family. Ferrari Guy got a call and drove right over to Runway, slapped the boy he found kissing with his daughter and got the boy’s father fired… Exciting, no?


We sat in a courtyard between the Late Mrs Amratben Manilal Mandalia Squash Court, and the Late Maganlal Lavingia Memorial Hall.  At the plastic tables and chairs are people in the mood for inexpensive curries with friends and their children.  You might even get a chance to win a token some of money at the most benign bit of gambling that Bingo is. At my table was a Dutchy, a South African and a Tanzanian, they had all been to school together in Dar.  An old school friend of their briefly stops by the table. He catches up with his three friends with an America-English streaming out of his nose. The accent is explained away by his revelation that he is studying at Stanford, and was in town to get some work experience in the Kenyan Elections.



According to our Tanzanian host, her grandparents first came to Dar as slaves. In 2013 she now lives in the Peninsula part of Dar and still goes to the Upanga Club bingo nights were where her own parents used to socialise 30 years ago. Never mind the internal relationships that societies might have, Upanga just says anyone who goes there is welcome, after all bingo is about the luck of the draw not your social standing. Unfortunately luck wasn’t on the Monsieur’s side as two little boys, a middle aged man and an elder Indian man and a tipsy South African all claimed Bingo. “The claim is confirmed, and a winner is confirmed. Please concentrate and be quite,” says the business like Draw master as they started another round of Bingo.



A quick stop for dessert at Nima’s closed off the night. Nima’s is an ice cream parlour where families come for an ice cream even after 10 at night, its yet another Indian institution that our night tour took us too. At Nima’s you get some homemade ice-cream as well as an opportunity to buy pirated DVD’s from a side walk retailer. However the really impressive salesman dealt in death. He came round with truncheons, big knives, curved machetes and a catapult. The offer was mildly tempting as many of Dar es Salaam’s streets are not well lit after dark, and there is apparently some incidences of enterprising thieves who drive by and snatch your bag if you aren’t weary. A good curved machete might be just the deterrent that the doctor ordered. This you must try by the way, Meetha paan… and ask for the tobacco free version. It will knock your taste buds right into the middle of nirvana.








One Response to “Upanga number 1”


  1. Bingo Night at Upanga Club, Dar es Salaam • ChickAboutTown - February 26, 2015

    […] Credit: monsieurpolk.wordpress.com, zarana.co.uk, […]

Say what you are thinking.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: