A Trip to "Hobby Lobby"

I needed to pick up a few items for my sewing projects, however, I was not having any success finding what I needed. After asking around I was told of a market that would likely have what I needed. Kariakoo. Not knowing much about this newfound market other than that it is big and in the general direction of downtown, I debated how to go about a trip to "Hobby Lobby".

Feeling as if going solo on this expedition was not the best idea, I had been contemplating on who would come with me. It so happened that the day before I was to go I met a lady at a used clothing market while I was looking for the next size for the girls. She helped me find a few items that were tucked away in an obscure corner of the market, walked me through the back neighbourhood, and helped me to the bus stop before going home. In the process of talking, I asked her if she had any plans for the following day. As she did not, I asked if she would like to go with me to Kariakoo. She agreed and we sorted out a place and time to meet.

What followed was quite an experience! We met at the bus stop a little after 10 am and waited for the right bus. They were all full and we had to wait a while before catching a bus with enough standing room. I have often taken public transportation here in Tanzania and the Philippines, but this definitely topped them all. For an hour I stood on my toes on the edge of the step by the door while holding onto the ceiling bar. I could not even turn around with so many people packed together! There I was, just another sardine in the can.

An hour and a half later we arrived at the market. It was much bigger than I had anticipated. I was immediately thankful for my newfound Tanzanian friend. Sprawled out before me, as far as I could see, people, cars, buses, little roadside stands, and shops were crammed between the concrete buildings! Literally thousands of people milling around in a maze amongst multiple city blocks.

At one point, in the middle of this crowded market, a large military transport vehicle came barrelling down the street with it horn blaring at people as they scrambled to get out of the way in time. Later on, I almost got pinned between a parked car and bus that decided to back up. Needless to say, I had to be very aware of my surroundings to prevent being run over or robbed.

After two hours of walking and checking out shops, I had secured fabric, zippers, buttons, ribbon, and a dress with a matching scarf.

Waiting for the bus home was another experience. Due to the sheer amount of people crowding the streets, the buses have a difficult time getting in and out of Kariakoo. As such not many come through and the ones that do are in very high demand! As the bus pulled up, my friend tightly grabbed my hand and started pulling me towards the arriving bus. Momentarily, I wondered at her action but soon understood as the crowd flooded towards the bus. What followed was a mad scramble to secure a spot. People threw their bags in the window to make sure they had a seat and one young guy even climbed up the side of the bus and in through the window! One man aggressively reached over the shoulders of 5-6 ladies, grabbed the door jam, and forced himself and the women ahead of him into the bus as he was concerned that he might get pushed out of the way losing his spot.

My friend, seeing the surprise and minor concern on my face asked if I wanted to wait for the next bus. I asked if this was normal. When she said yes, I said, "well let's just do it now rather than later". And so we allowed ourselves to be swept up and into the bus to be once again packed in like sardines.

For the next two and a half hours the bus crawled through the mass of traffic at an average of 3.5 mph. I was crammed so tightly inside the bus I couldn't even move. Sweat poured down the faces of everyone on the bus and the absence of air movement created an intense aroma of sticky sweat and body odor. My friend asked if I had seen a crowded bus before. I tried to explain (in Swahili) that I had been on a full bus with only standing room, but never on one where you are pressed against someone on every side. The man behind her laughed and said, "This is Africa!" Yes, this is a side of Tanzania that I had not yet experienced. Definitely a good one which opened my eyes to a part of their world.

This is what a trip to Hobby Lobby looks like here in Tanzania. 5.5hrs of standing packed in a hot bus in order to accomplish two hours of elbow to elbow shopping! Karibu!


  1. You are one brave soul, Lady! God bless you abundantly :a) Rebecca - Idaho<")))><

    1. The dress and matching scarf are gorgeous!! The word picture of your experience put me right there with you!

  2. We take so much for granted here in the United States. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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