What would you say then if I told you that there is a super-fun bingo night every Friday at a very unexpected place?
That’s what I’d like to tell you about today.
I first heard of this bingo night while working as a community coordinator at one of Dar es Salaam’s foreign missions.
As community coordinator, I organized activities that would enable newly arrived diplomats to discover the city and to rub shoulders with local communities.
I decided to check it out.
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Bingo Night the First Time
I arrived at Upanga Club alone (because I couldn’t convince any of my friends to spend a weekend night playing bingo) at around 8 p.m. on a Friday night.
My preliminary research had told me that this would be the time around which the event would begin.
Because the club is members only, catering to a very select community, I was a bit apprehensive at how I’d be received.
Feigning confidence, I walked up to the door of the club where I found a man seated behind a small table. I told him that I was there for bingo.
He must have seen through my facade because in an unusually warm and welcoming manner, he explained what was required to enter the club that night and told me more about how the evening would unfold.
Most importantly, he told me that the entrance charge was Tsh. 2,000 for an initial bingo card (cards for subsequent rounds would be sold before each round began with the price increasing as the night proceeded) and that the game would begin at 9:30 p.m.
In the meantime, he continued in his friendly manner, I could go in and have food and drinks while I waited for the game to start.
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I was pleased by the warm reception—it sure made me feel a lot more comfortable.
Following his guidance, I headed to the bingo area.
In the foyer, since I had a lot of time to kill, I scanned the notices and the cricket pictures on the wall to get a better sense of what Upanga Club was all about.
Upanga Club is a social sports club that caters mainly to Dar es Salaam’s Indo-Tanzanian community.
It was no surprise to me, therefore, that once I entered its courtyard, I saw multi-generational Indo-Tanzanian families having leisurely Friday dinner.
I have been to Upanga Club’s bingo night a couple of times now, and that’s something that I have always noticed: the service is both fast and friendly.
A quick glance at the menu told me that I could pick from not only a wide selection of Indian food but also burgers, pizzas, and other fast foods.
Meanwhile, I took advantage of the time I had before the game began to people watch and to examine the scene around me more closely.
As I said, there were multi-generational Indo-Tanzanian families with young kids in tow having a leisurely Friday evening out.
There were young men at a few tables taking full advantage of the well-stocked bar.
As it got closer to game time, tables of white expatriates—young and old—begin to show up too.
It was an easy, relaxed atmosphere.
Or at least it was before the game began.
The Rules of the Game
I had last played bingo in kindergarten, so I was a bit unsure of the rules of the game.
If you, like I was, are not familiar with bingo, here’s a quick primer.
For starters, the bingo played at Upanga Club is the version of the game played in the Commonwealth—not American bingo.
In essence, each player has a card with the numbers 1 to 90 on it, arranged in six 9×3 grids (these grids have empty boxes but all the numbers 1 to 90 appear once on each card).
A caller then calls out random numbers between 1 and 90, and the players mark off these numbers on their cards as they are called out.
The first person to achieve the specific configuration mentioned at the beginning of the round wins a prize.
That’s basically it but you can find more details here.
As the caller called out numbers, I crossed them out on my sheet.
First game–I won nothing.
Second game–nothing still.
Instead of being discouraged, by the third game, I was completely engrossed, so much so that I was in complete agreement when the caller threatened to throw some rowdy guys out of the club for disrupting the game.
We had to be able to hear the caller; there was money at stake after all! ;-p
My First Win
Finally, in the third game, I won something (and boy was it a rush!): Tsh. 50,000 for a full house (all the numbers in a 9×3 grid marked off).
I was ecstatic!
I quickly yelled “Bingo!", went to get my card verified, and walked out of the club before I could be tempted to gamble my winnings in yet another round.
I finally understood that day how gambling can be so addictive!
I had lots of fun that first night—and I have had fun every time I’ve been to Upanga Club to play bingo, now even being able to play multiple bingo cards at a time. (What can I say? It’s addictive. *shrugs*)
If you are interested in doing something new and unusual in Dar es Salaam, in an easy and relaxed atmosphere, while eating great inexpensive Indian food and sipping on drinks, then I wholeheartedly recommend the Friday night bingo at Upanga Club.
If you go, let me know what you think.
The Upanga Club is located on Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road near the Commonwealth Dar es Salaam (Upanga Road) War Cemetery.
Bingo begins at 9:30 p.m., but no food is served during the game.
If you would like to take advantage of the wide selection of delicious, authentic, well-priced Indian food, then be sure to get there early.
Until the next time,
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Photo Credit: monsieurpolk.wordpress.com, zarana.co.uk