Luckily, on that first foray into hectic Kariakoo, I was pleasantly shielded from the chaos because I was in an air-conditioned car.
I really wasn’t paying much attention—my main goal that day was to hang out with my mother—but when we passed a street with HOT clothes hanging from every storefront, my attention was aroused.
I made a note of the street’s name—Congo Street—and decided I’d have to come back and check it out in greater detail some day.
Kariakoo & Kariakoo Market
In case you’ve never heard of it, Kariakoo is a high-density commercial and residential area in downtown Dar es Salaam that contains one of the city’s largest markets, Kariakoo Market.
It’s even been said that “if what you’re looking for is not in Kariakoo, then it doesn’t [exist] in Dar es Salaam!
It took me a while to make my way back to Congo Street because I am generally a little overwhelmed by Kariakoo.
As a Tanzanian who is usually mistaken for a foreigner (most people think I am either Kenyan or Rwandan) due to my poor Swahili and general demeanor, being in areas like Kariakoo can be quite uncomfortable for me.
Still, needing to do some emergency shopping one day, I conscripted my youngest brother (who’s lived in Dar es Salaam longer than me) to take me shopping in Kariakoo.
Where else did we end up but on…Congo Street?
Exploring the Dar es Salaam Clothing Market
My brother tells me (as I figured out that first day) that Congo Street is the main street in Kariakoo for apparel shopping.
Well the truth is, it’s not just Congo Street, but also the many smaller streets that intersect Congo Street.
To tell you the truth though, after a whole afternoon of shopping, I was not very impressed.
Although things were inexpensive like I expected, most of what I saw was also of very poor quality.
For the most part, the clothes I saw were cheap synthetic Chinese knock-offs that weren’t even particularly beautiful.
Where I did stop and try on clothes, I was unhappy that I rarely had anywhere decent to try them on (and I have shopped in places like Sunbeam and Toi Market in Nairobi, Owino Market in Kampala, etc. and not had this problem), as well as no proper mirror to see how the clothes looked on me (who cares how inexpensive clothes are if all they’ll do is sit in your closet?).
Anyhow, I returned from Congo Street that day a little disappointed, having purchased less than I had intended to.
Not to form a judgment from one visit, I decided I’d visit Congo Street again one day, when I could browse in a more leisurely manner, which is what I finally did a few days ago.
My opinion of Congo Street (and what Kariakoo generally has to offer in terms of apparel) didn’t change for the better.
Rather, my conclusions were just more strongly reinforced.
In fact, I came home a bit more irritated by all the imitation beauty products that I found on sale there trying to be passed off for the real thing.
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That said, given the number of people who I know shop in Kariakoo (and I am going to assume that they shop in the area around Congo Street), it can’t be all bad.
I guess it might be a question of knowing which particular shops to go to (like Blue Corner for me) or keeping a keen eye out for that special find (which I often find is too much energy for everyday shopping).
But…all this is just my novice opinion. What do you think? Can you tell me more about shopping on and around Kariakoo’s Congo Street? What did I miss?
Let me know by leaving a comment below.
As always, I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Until the next time,
Photo Credit: Tulonge.com