Karimah Gheddai is one of our current CIDA IYIP interns based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Her work over 6 months will focus on tourism development. The Sustainable Cities International Network Africa Program (SCINAP) works closely with Tourism related organizations in Dar es Salaam such as Investours and DarTourism.
A few months ago at a tourism exhibition I attended as part of promoting DarTourism (a destination marketing organization that promotes Dar es Salaam as a Tourist destination), an older ex-patriot gentleman approached our booth and asked me “ What is so appealing about sitting in traffic all day?” At the time I answered that every city has its problems and that Dar es Salaam had much more to offer than meets the eye, but after giving some thought to this, I realized that this negative impression of the city is something that would need to change in order to convince people that Dar es Salaam is a worthy tourist destination.
Imagining a Dar es Salaam without the dreaded traffic that the city is associated with may seem like wishful thinking, but on November 26th, 2011, The First Dar es Salaam Pedestrian Festival became a reality in a small section of the city center. One side of Lumumba Street (adjacent to the popular Mnazi Mmoja grounds) was shut down to cars and opened to pedestrians and other forms of non-motorized transportation. Pedestrians and operators of motorized vehicles alike were surprised and intrigued by the concept.
Previous SCI Intern Ryan Whitney first initiated the idea for the First Dar es Salaam Pedestrian Festival back in 2010. The festival that took place this year was implemented in partnership with DarTourism, The Dar es Salaam City Council (DCC) and the One Stop Youth center. The event was also made possible through financial contributions from DarTourism, The French and Danish Embassies, New Africa Hotel, Coastal Aviation, Afriroots, and the Kesho Trust.
The main objective of the festival was to provide temporary public space that was free of traffic and safe for the community to use at their leisure. The event also served to promote tourism in the city of Dar es Salaam through the celebration of local culture, as well as provide an income-generating opportunity for local vendors, artists and performers. Additionally, the event brought together numerous stakeholders who share similar convictions about pedestrianization and public spaces in Dar es Salaam.
The day began with an official ribbon cutting ceremony and an “Opening Walk”, which was attended by the Mayor of Illala Municipality Mr. Jerry Slaa, the City director Mr. Bakari Kingobe and representatives from DarTourism and the Danish Embassy. The opening walk was accompanied by a performance from the exceptionally talented Jembe group. It was a pleasant sight to see such an n enthusiastic group of people walking down what is normally a busy street over-crowded by motorized vehicles.
Other performances featured a local traditional dance group known as AMKA Productions; an acrobatics group from the Kigamboni area; as well as the Afrikats of the well-known Tanzania House of Talent (THT), who performed modern and local dances as well as an entertaining play on issues related to pedestrianization and public space in Dar es Salaam. This play was appropriately titled “Space” and was the springboard for a discussion amongst festival goers on issues faced by pedestrians in Dar es Salaam.
The festival also included a special artist exhibition by two groups of Painting Artists, 16Sanaa and the Shamba boys who both created special works of art based on the themes of pedestrianization and public space. Sir Alora of the 16Sanaa group created a remarkable painting piece that truly embodied the day.
Additionally, there were a number of vendors who attended the festival to promote their products and services. These included Wonder Welders (a group of polio victims who create jewellery and art using recycled products) and Afriroots (a tour company that offers cycling and walking tours of the city), Some of the groups were also organizations that have worked closely with Sustainable Cities in Dar es Salaam. These are Investours (an organization offering microfinance tours (the festival included woodcarvers who have been part of their loan program)), and Fasta Cycle messengers (a messenger service delivering parcels by cycling). Many of the groups that took part in the festival have created unique income generating opportunities for locals in the city and all embody the spirit of the pedestrian festival. It is hoped that with future festivals we will be able to identify more groups around the city that are involved in income generating projects and provide them with a space to sell their goods.
In conclusion, the First Dar es Salaam Pedestrian Festival was a great success and based on the positive responses of those who participated, efforts will be taken to ensure that the event becomes a regular occurrence so that tourists and locals alike can see that there is much more to Dar es Salaam than sitting in traffic all day. If you would like to find out more about this year’s festival you can take a look at the festival’s website at http://darpedestrianfestival.yolasite.com/