People-Watching in Moshi, Tanzania // FrameAmbition

Moshi, Tanzania is the little town at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro where virtually every climber begins and ends their mission to the rooftop of Africa.

With the mountain and some stunning hikes, waterfalls and hot springs nearby, the town itself seems to be completely ignored. So I set out to do some walking and people-watching on a slow (and broke) day.



Guy at the old train station

Moshi train station must have been a great one to pull into once, with the panoramic mountain and hillside views and the fresh air. Now it sees as much action as I imagine it always did, just with people instead of train cars moving up, down and across the tracks in and out of the city, selling second hand shoes and toys or people-watching on their lunch break. I joined the latter group one day, sitting on a bench half its original width to escape the heat.

I might have done as the Romans and put my head down for a nap too, were it not for my self-consciousness.


A harassed-looking man crossed the row of men shielded by newspapers and sat down between myself and a homeless man on the half-bench. He mumbled something, I asked him to repeat it; it was a greeting. I greeted him back and asked why he seemed annoyed. He said he wasn’t. He then invited me to his house. Sketchy or small-town friendliness? I can never tell. I asked what was at his house and what would I do there. He said just say hello to his parents. I politely declined. Homeless guy smirked at his end of the bench.

Street-dwellers are often the most interesting people to me almost anywhere merely because of how much I imagine they see almost without being seen themselves, so I took the almost-smile as a compliment of sorts.

He then invited me to his house. Sketchy or small-town friendliness? I can never tell.

White guy dodging the hustle from Union Coffee

I finally found the famous Union Coffee shop on the second attempt. While I was readying myself for a cool look-out spot to people-watch from the terrace, I didn’t think much of the vibe of the area. The interior and the coffee though, top knotch.


I got lucky after a little scanning from the terrace and down the road I spotted a white guy get stopped by a local dude who looked like he was trying to convince every third person he passed on the street of something. Probably trying to sell him something or just ask for money, I thought. White guy starts counting something on his fingers while talking to the guy. Recalling the number of people who’ve asked him for money this morning? Lamenting how he’s looked everywhere for something and no stores have it?

He’s laughing though so maybe they’re friendly or at least acquainted. He points up the street and leaves the stage walking in the opposite direction rubbing his head. Local dude doesn’t seem bothered, returns to the corner where 3 other guys are. They chat and point in a different direction.

Recalling the number of people who’ve asked him for money this morning? Lamenting how he’s looked everywhere for something and no stores have it?

Boda-Boda Riders With a Cause

At the end of a day roaming around Moshi I hopped in a bajai (tuktuk) back to the foot of the hills where I was staying and got off early to take in the sunset. It had been a cloudy day so views of KIlimanjaro were non-existent to fleeting but the streets in the bronze light contained something to observe at every turn.


An arch near the three-way junction that led home caught my eye with the way there was so much going on around it but it framed the road I had just turned off perfectly. Failed attempts at capturing a mountain sunset on my camera, I turned around and aimed at the arch. Interrupted by a sharp “you can’t take pictures of people!” to my side by 4 or 5 boda boda guys who barely hid their disappointment in my walking towards them and passing them to get my mountain photos.

I dismissed them, telling them I didn’t see any people in the direction I was facing. As I carried on trying to get my dream shot they went on and on about the law this and you have to pay people that and things moved on to that wall is private property and it’s mine until I finally showed one of them the photos I had taken and asked him to identify the people I was apparently photographing without consent.

He squinted and searched and finally let it go with a mumble. At least I think he did, I had started to walk away. Half irritated, half amused and glad they could be vocal against an outsider who might be making a profit from photographing people for free without consent. Except I wasn’t, so probably idle. Either way. Power to the people.

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