Tanzania is a peaceful nation of more than 120 ethnic tribes with varying languages, beliefs and cultures all United with the national language Kiswahili. Within its borders Tanzania encompasses the continent’s largest and deepest lakes, the highest mountain and the source of the River Nile.
Here you can discover the wild romantic Africa of your dreams. The land of wide open spaces abundant with wildlife, history dating back to the evolution of man, beautiful sandy beaches and warm and hospitable people, Tanzania is a land waiting to be discovered.
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Dar es Salaam
During German occupation in the early 20th century, Dar es Salaam was the centre of colonial administration and the main contact point between the agricultural mainland and the world of trade and commerce in the Indian Ocean and Swahili coast. Remnants of colonial presence, both German and British, can still be seen in the landmarks and architecture around the city. The National Museum, the Village Museum, and many colourful markets are well worth a visit. Numerous historical landmarks, including St Joseph’s Cathedral, the White Father’s Mission House, the Botanical Gardens, and the old State House make for an interesting walking tour around the waterfront and city centre
Located in the northern highlands of Tanzania, beneath the twin peaks of Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro, Arusha is the safari capital of the country. Guests embarking on the popular northern safari circuit all stop in the “Geneva of Africa” to prepare for their journeys into the African bush. From its two-lane streets, the dramatic crater of Mt Meru stands over the town like a majestic sentinel, its crater strewn with thick clouds, its slopes dark with verdant forest. Arusha’s ideal location near the major national parks and its highland setting make it a peaceful idyll of relaxation before the start of an exciting journey.
Built by the Germans as a centre for colonial administration in the early 20th century, Arusha was a sleepy town with a garrison stationed at the old boma and a few shops around a grassy roundabout. From its backwater status amidst the farmlands and plantations of northern Tanzania, today Arusha is one of the country’s most prosperous towns. The site for the United Nations Criminal Tribunal on the Rwandan genocide and the headquarters for the Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation, Arusha is a major centre of Tanzanian diplomacy and international relations.
These days, Bagamoyo is a centre for dhow sailboat building on the Tanzanian coast. A quiet village with a few German colonial buildings still standing, it was once one of the most important trading ports on the East African coast, and the penultimate stop of slave and ivory caravans travelling on foot from Lake Tanganyika on their way to Zanzibar. Missionaries active in abolishing the slave trade made Bagamoyo a centre of their activities. The name “Bagamoyo” means “lay down your heart” in Kiswahili, and this is particularly poignant given that the town was the last stop on the mainland before captured slaves were sent to destinations unknown from Zanzibar, never to return.
Located in the heartland of Tanzania, Dodoma is the nation’s official political capital and the seat of government in the country. Comparably much smaller and less developed than the country’s commercial centre Dar es Salaam, Dodoma remains a centre for national politics. Situated on the eastern edge of the southern highlands, the city is surrounded by a rich agricultural area and pleasant scenery. It is the centre of Tanzania’s growing wine industry and the Tanganyika Vineyards Company is actively promoting its products.
Historically, Dodoma was a stopover on the overland caravan route that travelled from the Swahili Coast inland towards Lake Tanganyika. Early in the 20th century, the city became a major point on the Central Line Railway, which carried agricultural crops for export to the harbour in Dar es Salaam. In recent times, the town’s economic base has declined in favour of the coastal city, but in the early days of Tanzanian independence, there was a popular political motion to move the entire government to the town in the southern highlands. These days, the government divides its time between the two cities.
Located in the southern highlands of Tanzania, near the country’s legislative capital of Dodoma and the agricultural centre of Morogoro, Iringa is a pleasant small town and a focus of regional agriculture and production. Its streets are quiet and peaceful, and the market offers a colourful scene of traditional African culture. Iringa overlooks the Little Ruaha River and is a popular stopping point for visitors to Ruaha National Park.
Historically, Iringa was a centre of colonial administration. During German occupation, the German military constructed the town as a fortified defence against marauding Hehe tribal warriors intent on driving them out of the region. Gangilonga Rock, a site just outside of the town, is a legendary spot where the Hehe chief at that time, Chief Mkwawa, met with his people and decided how to fight the Germans. Iringa was also the site of several battles during the First and Second World Wars, and Commonwealth War Graves are located just outside of town.
The bustling town of Kigoma is the regional capital of western Tanzania and a central port in the area. Located on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, Kigoma is surrounded by rugged mountains and forests that make it a pleasing and beautiful location. In the past, Kigoma has been in competition with nearby Ujiji, but over the last decades Kigoma has gained a strong economic foothold in the region and its port is of central importance to the activities of the area.
Historically, the town was the final stop of the Central Line Railway, built in the 20th century to transport agricultural goods from the African hinterland to the East African Coast. The town makes a good overland base for visits and chimpanzee safaris to both Gombe Stream National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park.
Near the Zambian border deep in the southern highlands, the city of Mbeya is the major agricultural capital in the country’s southwest region. The Mbeya Mountain Range lies to the north, and the Poroto Mountain Range lies to the southeast. Coffee, tea, bananas and cocoa, all of which are grown in the region, are sent to Mbeya for packaging and transport. Mbeya’s location also makes it an idea transit point with good travelling by road and rail between Tanzania and neighbouring Zambia and Malawi.
In addition to its agricultural prosperity, Mbeya’s mineral wealth has attracted investment and provides the country with a good source of income. The town was originally founded in the 1930s, when gold was discovered and a “gold rush” ensued. But instead of the supply running out and Mbeya becoming a ghost town, the city has continued to supply the country with a regular amount of gold. Its mountain views and pleasant weather make it a good stopover point for over land travellers heading south.
Nestled at the base of Mt Kilimanjaro, Moshi is the coffee-producing centre of the country. All around the town, and on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, vast plantations of coffee blanket the area. Coffee is a mainstay of life in Moshi, and the seasonal coffee auctions, where international buyers bid for wholesale coffee, is an event not to be missed if you’re in town. Sugar plantations are also of central importance to the region’s economy, and can be seen outside the town. Cultural tourism programmes can arrange short hikes and day-trips to tribes and villages, and also tours of nearby coffee farms.
But the main reason visitors come to Moshi is to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, the mountain whose thick clouds and snow-capped peak tower over the agricultural town. Climbing expeditions depart for Kilimanjaro National Park early in the morning, before the clouds that cluster daily around the mountaintop have risen, and when the air is fresh and cool. Whether you’re in Moshi to scale to the top of Africa or learn more about coffee growing and production, Moshi is a quiet haven of tranquil peace, its sedate streets offering a warm welcome in a beautiful setting
The city of Mwanza is the major Tanzanian port on Lake Victoria and a centre of economic importance in the region. The lake borders Uganda to the north-west, and Kenya to the north east, and export and transport between the countries is a foundation of Mwanza’s economy. Around the city of Mwanza, the land is primarily devoted to agricultural enterprise. Tea, cotton, and coffee plantations throughout the area produce large volumes of cash crops that pass though Mwanza on their way to market.
For visitors, the city makes a good base from which to explore nearby Rubondo Island National Park and the western parts of the Serengeti. Rubondo Island National Park offers pleasant day-hikes and bird watching around the lakeshore. Mwanza’s proximity to the western Serengeti makes it a necessary stop for visitors who want to experience a less busy part of the park and see the magic of the Serengeti without the parade of safari vehicles and seasonal crowds. Mwanza is also the centre of the Sukuma tribe, the largest tribe in Tanzania, who have inhabited and farmed the region for centuries. Cultural tourism programmes to their local villages and farms can be arranged through the local cultural centre.
Once a centre of Swahili trade with the African mainland, the town of Pangani is now a sleepy backwater that little remembers its days of splendour. An old German administrative boma still stands behind a colonnade of tall shade trees and the former prison, painted a fading ochre red, looks over the river’s lazy waters. Old houses along the main road offer lived-in examples of colonial and traditional Swahili architecture, the buildings slowly crumbling against the monsoon winds. Visitors passing through the area would do well to explore what remains of the old town on foot. Even a short walk rewards visitors with a glimpse of quiet life in the old trading towns along the Swahili Coast.
Zanzibar Stone Town
Zanzibar’s old quarter, also known as Zanzibar Town, is a fascinating maze of narrow streets and alleyways which lead past numerous old houses and mosques, ornate palaces, shops and bazaars. Many buildings in Stone Town date from the 19th-century slave boom. Highlights include the magnificent House of Wonders, the Palace Museum and the seafront fish market in Forodhani Gardens. The town is situated along the waterfront, and has a number of wonderful cafes and restaurants that overlook the sea and magnificent sunsets.
The sleepy town of Tabora, in the hinterland of western Tanzania, remains a key transit point in the country. The Central Line railway branches at Tabora to both Kigoma and Mwanza, and visitors travelling by train often use Tabora as a stopover point during their journeys. The regions around Tabora are famous for the honey they produce, and large jerry cans and bottles of the famous nectar can be bought in the village market.
Historically, Tabora was once a major trading point and stopover for caravans that connected Lake Tanganyika and Central Africa with the coastal town of Bagamoyo to the northeast. Its former importance is illustrated by the fact that the infamous slave and ivory trader Tippu Tip, who lived during the 19th century, made Tabora the centre of his vast trading empire. The town was also an important mission station during early European exploration of Tanzania. Stanley and Livingstone both stopped here on their journeys. During the German occupation, Tabora was one of the most populated and prosperous towns in the whole of East Africa.
The bustling port of Tanga is Tanzania’s secondary port after the urban centre of Dar es Salaam. Although the port is a centre of marine export, import, and trade, the town of Tanga still has a quiet, laid-back feel to it, as if not much has changed over the decades. Indeed, along the older sections of the town, examples of old colonial architecture and a few Arab houses still give testament to the area’s importance during the heyday of Indian Ocean trade. The fish market and beaches make a pleasant stop during a day trip, and the city is a good place for buying supplies if you’re headed to one of the more remote areas of beaches on the northern coast.
Tanzania has a long history of human habitation stretching back to our most distant ancestors. The so-called “Bantu migrations”, occurring between 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, brought agricultural and pastoral knowledge to the area as competing groups spread over the country in search of fertile soil and plentiful grazing for their herds.
European missionaries and explorers mapped the interior of the country by following well-worn caravan routes, including Burton and Speke who in 1857 journeyed to find the source of the Nile. Traditional ways of life remained largely intact until the arrival of German colonisers in the late 19th century.
On the Swahili Coast, Indian Ocean trade began as early as 400BCE between Greece and Azania, as the area was commonly known. Around the 4th century AD, coastal towns and trading settlements attracted Bantu-speaking peoples from the African hinterland. They settled around mercantile areas and often facilitated trading with the Arabs and Persians, who bartered for slaves, gold, ivory, and spices, sailing north with the monsoon wind.
Between the 13th and 15th centuries, the settlements of Kilwa Kisiwani and the Zanzibar Archipelago reached their peak, with a highly cosmopolitan population of Indian, Arab and African merchants trading in luxury goods that reached as far as China. The completion of Portuguese domination in 1525 meant that trade, for a short time, was lessened, but rival Omani Arab influences soon took control of the caravan routes and regained complete control of the islands, even going so far as to make Zanzibar the capital of Oman in the 1840s.
In the late 19th century, British influence in the Zanzibar Archipelago, in contrast to German influence on the Tanzanian mainland, slowly suppressed the slave trade and brought the area under the influence of the Empire. Local rebellions in German East Africa, most notably the Maji Maji rebellion from 1905 to 1907, slowly weakened the coloniser’s grip on the nation and at the end of the First World War Germany ceded Tanganyika to English administration. Under the leadership of Julius Nyerere of TANU, popularly referred to as Mwalimu, or “teacher,” Tanganyika achieved full independence in 1962. Meanwhile, a violent revolution in Zanzibar ousted the Omani sultancy and established a one-party state under the Afro-Shirazi Party in 1963. A year later, the United Republic of Tanzania was formed, unifying the Tanganyika mainland with the semi-autonomous islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago, and merging TANU and the ASP to form CCM, Chama cha Mapinduzi, the Party of the Revolution which rules Tanzania to the present day.
The soda lakes are alkaline and brackish, home to large populations of flamingos, storks, and herons. Bird-watching and game viewing are popular activities, but must be done from a distance as the soda flats along the lake shore are difficult to walk or drive upon. Still, a visit to the soda lakes of Tanzania is an unforgettable experience. Game still thrive along their unpopulated shores and the sheer ethereal beauty of the water, coloured silver and white by the mineral deposits, is an unforgettable part of the African experience.
Towns and industry take full advantage of the freshwater lakes in the region, the largest of which is Lake Victoria in the northwest of the country. Fishing has long been a mainstay of residents who live around the natural resources, and transport across Tanzania’s many African borders is also an economically profitable activity. Because of the easy supply of freshwater irrigation, Tanzanians also farm the areas around freshwater lakes extensively, and both subsistence and cash crops are grown around their shores. Visitors to the freshwater lakes can embark on fishing trips, hikes and swimming, and enjoy the rich bird and fish life that surrounds the water. In many populated areas, cultural tourism programs are also popular.
A salt lake situated between the Rift Valley’s Eyasi escarpment and the Kidero Mountains, the area around Lake Eyasi is home to the Hadzabe bushmen, some of the last remaining hunter-gatherers on the continent. The Hadzabe have inhabited the acacia forests and scrubland around Eyasi for over 10,000 years and visits to nearby clans can be arranged through local guides in the area.
For visitors, attractions include trips to Rubondo Island National Park and participating in various cultural tourism programmes on offer around the area. The lake has some spectacular varieties of freshwater tropical fish, many of which are exported to aquariums all over the world. Its shores are peaceful and pristine, and offer a quiet alternative to the constant movement and bustle of a safari itinerary. Gently sloping hills lead to the soft blue waters of the lake, as fish eagles swoop at dawn and dusk eager for the small fish that swim in Victoria’s rich waters. Bird watching and fishing trips make popular excursions and boating trips and hikes can be arranged
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