Iringa looked interesting on the map: a small orange square, meaning small town. Next to the square it said colonial buildings, Mkwawa Memorial Museum, and Isimila Stone Age Site and Gorge. Two excellent reasons to go to Iringa, although at that point I did not know what to expect. Another recommendation was its altitude of 1,600m. Coastal regions in Tanzania can be quite hot.
Iringa is a regional capital, a charming town with attractive European colonial architecture. The town was built by the Germans as a stronghold against the Hehe, one of the most powerful tribes in central Tanzania during the late 19th century. Colonial houses are grouped together in Jamat Street and surroundings, just west of the market.
I liked wandering around the streets and in particular the market. It is between Jamat and Jamhuri Streets and south of the bus station. It is a vibrant place – a cacophony of colour, sound and smell. A whirring of sewing machines filled the streets and tailors, both men and women, produced garments one after the other. Colourful and non-western styles with frills and puffed sleeves waited on coat hangers suspended on doors and windows, ready for anyone to buy.
The pungent smell of dried fish mixed with the sweet smell of mangoes. A man biked past, steadying a tower of egg boxes with one hand. Women with swaying hips carried large baskets on their heads. Traditional medicine, khanga wraps, Maasai jewellery, the streets buzz with exitement, colour and sound.
Best of all I liked the shop that sold leather sandals and bicycle saddles – pink, green, red, and yellow with streamers as adornments. They would look perfect on my bike at home, but I carry a minimum of luggage. A saddle would not possibly fit.
There are so many good reasons to visit Tanzania and in particular Iringa – it is a town with a past, street scenes are exotic lively and cheerful. My fondest memory is the bike shop and I still regret that I could not buy a saddle saddle.