I lived in Tanzania (based in Dar es Salaam) for 5 months in 2008, and returned for one month in 2010. During both of these times, I was able to take numerous trips around the country.
Lions (and zebras, giraffes, buffalo…). Kilimanjaro. The Maasai. Poverty. The Serengeti.
Beyond the Stereotypes
For good or bad, most of the stereotypes Westerners have of Africa actually fit Tanzania well. The Maasai do actually live in Tanzania. It is the where the Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and all Big 5 African animals all reside. It is important to remember also that Tanzania is simply one small part of the culture and geography of Africa.
Beside the common savannah animals, there is an abundance of ocean life along the coast with the Indian Ocean, and chimpanzees (include the group at Gombe Stream which are the subject of the continuing work of Dr. Jane Goodall) in the jungles of eastern Tanzania. Tanzania also includes the islands of Zanzibar, which is prominently Muslim and used to be part of the Omani Empire. The countries of Tanganyika and Zanzibar formed Tanzania in 1964.
Ten Things You Might Not Know About Tanzania (and that might surprise you):
- Olduvai Gorge, in northern Tanzania, is called the “Cradle of Humankind,” and many different humanoid descendents have occupied the site from Homo habilis 1.9 million years ago to Homo sapiens 17,000 years ago.
- Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere, was the first African president to decide not to run again in 1985 in favor of democratic (though single-party) elections.
- There are over 260 tribes speaking 100 languages, but the official languages are Swahili and English.
- The socialist ujamaa policy in the 1960’s to 1980’s displaced thousands of families but also lead to the intermixing of tribes and most Tanzanians identify with their country first, and tribe second.
- “Hakuna matata” literally means “there are no things,” but the more common way to say “no worries,” is “hamna shida.”
- Mainland Tanzania was passed from Belgian to German control in the mid 1880s, but the territory known as German East Africa was ceded to the United Kingdom after Germany’s loss in World War I.
- Around one third of Tanzanians are Christian, one third are Muslim, and one third practice traditional beliefs, yet there is remarkable little tension between religious groups.
- The origin of the Nile is Lake Victoria, which forms the border between Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi.
- The famous meeting of Stanley and Livingstone in 1871 took place near the shores of Lake Tanganyika at the small town of Ujiji.
- Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest-free standing mountain in the world and the highest point on the continent of Africa, rising 19,341 feet (5,895 m).
My favorite city
Dar es Salaam, closely followed by Stone Town, Zanzibar.
My favorite destination
The area between Arusha and Moshi (including Marangu), for cooler weather, beautiful hills and mountains (including Kilimanjaro), and great wildlife spotting.
Favorite foods (or meal) that defines Tanzania for me
Nyama choma (grilled meat), served with ugali (thick polenta eaten with your hands) and hot sauce. Grilled plantains, and an omelet plus French fries known as chipsi maayai are also classics.
Song that defines Tanzania for me
Almost stereotypically: “Tanzania Tanzania,” which is best sung by schoolchildren. Traditional music as well as the hip-hop Bongo Flava styles also are favorites.
To view photos of scenery, wildlife, people, and more, click the above link.
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