Even though Dodoma, which is situated in the middle of Tanzania, is acknowledged as the country’s capital, Dar es Salaam is still the heart of this African country. It’s recognized as Tanzania’s commercial and social core, being the home to the largest airport and primary port. While the city may not be on your top visiting list, as people tend to convey it as a necessary stop between safaris and reaching home, Dar es Salaam has a distinct, vibrant atmosphere, with a definite, characteristic charm. It’s an illustrative corner of modern Africa, a mirror of its vibrant life, an insight into the Tanzanian cultural life. Dar is a lively city that combines Indian, African and Arab influences into shaping a self-standing urban culture. Concurrently, Dar es Salaam is a good base for visiting a range of unique nearby locations.
- +A visit to the National Museum and House of Culture
- +The Village Museum
- +Askari Monument
- +Botanical gardens
- +Msasani Peninsula
- +The fish market
- +Dar es Salaam’s beaches
- +Dar es Salaam harbor
- +Nyerere Cultural Centre
About Dar es Salaam
The decades have witnessed the transformation of Dar es Salaam from a leisurely fishing village into a thriving metropolis that is home to nearly four million people. Dar es Salaam is a cultural and commercial hub, and it provides each eager traveler with a unique experience, as long as one keeps his/her eyes open.
The sounds and vibrant life of this authentic tropical city are everything you could ask for an accurate introduction into the African continent. Wandering along the paved streets, appreciating the Muslim dress, which is typical for the locals, enjoying the scents of the tropical plants, and exploring the city at your pace accounts for a memorable outing.
The city center encompasses a mixture of colonial buildings, and the palm-fringed beaches in the proximity determine a precise laid back feel that makes you doubt the fact that Dar has a population surpassing four million. The unique combo of old-town charm and the particular modern city chaos makes a trip to Dar an enjoyable experience.
The city’s architecture accounts as a major attraction as well, being an interesting combination of German, Indian, Arab and African. While many travelers will pass Dar es Salaam without having any second thoughts, those who linger here for a while will be rewarded by the unique combo of down-to-earth vibe and diversified cultural mix. The bottom-line is that if you give Dar a chance, you’ll imminently fall in love with it.
- National Museum and House of Culture
Known as the National Museum, this attraction is located in the proximity of the Botanic Gardens, and consists of accurate snapshots of Tanzania’s impressive cultural heritage. It preserves significant fossil discoveries that were made by the archeologist and paleontologist – Louis Leakey. The historical displays are related to the regional civilizations, pinpointing the influence the British and the German had in Tanzania. One can grasp all these distinct features at the museum. The exhibits vary a lot, and they include prehistoric skulls, historic craft, and many others. All in all, it’s definitely worth a visit, being an excellent introduction to Tanzania’s culture.
- Village Museum
If your time is rather limited, and you cannot visit rural Tanzania, the Village Museum provides you with an accurate insight into the real Tanzanian village life. You’ll get the chance to observe the specific features of village architecture, as the open-air museum encompasses 19 dwellings. They were authentically reconstructed for showing tourists the traditional living conditions of distinct ethnic groups around Tanzania. This way of life is currently enduring in some portions of the country, in this fast-paced 21st-century world.
The museum is located 10 km away from the north of the city center. To make the visit more memorable, there are various dance and music live performances in the afternoons. The aim of these performances is to teach the urban Tanzanian children of their ancestors’ traditions.
- Kivukoni Fish Market – a memorable outing
Kivukoni, located at the northern end of the harbor, is the place where one can witness the concrete hustle and bustle of an authentic fish market. If you genuinely wish to submerge in the real identity of Dar, there’s one way of doing that – by planning a visit to Kivukoni Fish market. The ideal timing for observing the fishermen drawing their nets filled with fish is at dawn. Think about experiencing the real hustle and bustle of the fisher market in the diffuse, vibrant morning light – sounds like the perfect outing, doesn’t it? It is!
- Botanical Gardens
Nearby the National Museum, these tranquil, unperturbed gardens have suffered immeasurable damage at the end of the 19th century. Nonetheless, the place has maintained part of its charm, remaining an enchanting, lovely spot till today. The pathways defined by scarlet-blossomed flame trees, bougainvillea, and Jacaranda, are, indeed, marvelous. A proud selection of trees and plants originate here, as well as free-roaming peacocks, which play a decorative role.
- Msasani Peninsula
Once you reach Dar es Salaam, you can’t miss visiting Msasani Peninsula. Being located north from the city center, this lush, beach-fringed foreland cutting into the ocean is recognized as the wealthiest area in the city. It’s contrasting with the heart of the city. The collection of sprawling villas and embassies inevitably make the setting feel luxurious. Many of Dar’s best bars and restaurants can be found here. You’ll notice the sheer contrast between Dar’s hectic city center and the peninsula, which has a particular leisurely charm.
- Nyerere Cultural Centre
Being established in 1972, this center is also referred to as the “House of Arts.” Mainly, the center is a handicrafts hub, where talented artisans assemble to work and display their products. These can range from textiles, jewelry, pottery, carvings, paintings, and others – all of which being reasonably priced. Visitors may also choose to participate in producing the crafts, which is always an interesting experiment. During the weekends, the place holds traditional dance performances.
- Diving along Jangwani Beach
It’s true that diving enthusiasts would rather go to Zanzibar for this activity, but the beaches nearby Dar still have plenty to offer. One of these beaches is Jangwani Beach, which is located at about 25 km away from the city.
- Witness real-time wood carving at Mwenge Carvers’ Market
Mwenge Carvers’ Market is an authentic, colorful place with multiple woodcarvers, who would carve next to anything – whether we’re talking about traditional masks or other wooden crafts. Haggling here is commonly met, so prepare yourself.
As the main airport in Tanzania is based in Dar es Salaam, you don’t need to worry about further connections. The airport is located 10 km away from the city center. You can choose from picking up a cab or car rental, depending on your interests and the amount of time you intend on spending here. Drivers should be over 18 years old and should have their driving license with them, at all times.
When to Go & Weather
- March – May; November – December – these months are typically recognized as the rainy season in Tanzania. During these months, tropical afternoon downpours are part of the day, and they tend to become slightly unpredictable on the islands mainly. As the humidity is high, the temperatures may reach 30 Celsius degrees.
- June – October; January – February – during the dry season, rainfall is rather unusual, on the islands included. However, temperatures may range a lot, depending on location and altitude. Still, the weather should be overall pleasant and sunny.
All in all, it’s recommendable to visit Dar es Salaam during the dry months, when the amount of rainfall is rather limited. The pleasant weather facilitates a lot of exploring, as opposed to the rainy season which may make outdoor activities somewhat unpleasant. During the rainy season, the air is humid, and the temperatures are also high, making traveling rather uncomfortable. Another thing you should consider is the month of Ramadan. As the greater majority of locals are Muslim, a lot of restaurants are closed during this month.
The weather climate in the city is overall humid, with relatively stable annual temperatures, both in winter and summer. The driest, yet coolest season lasts from June through October. Short rains usually occur during November and February; December is particularly acknowledged as a rainy month. Long rains also occur from March until May, and the monsoon season peak is in April. The increased humidity may cause discomfort. Moreover, in the dry season, the temperatures may quickly reach mid-30 Celsius degrees. Find out more accurate information concerning the weather here: https://weather.com/weather/today/l/-6.79,39.21.
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Back in the 19th century, Mzizima was a fishing village, located on the periphery of the Indian Ocean’s trade routes. In 1865 or 1866, the construction of the city that was given the name Dar es Salaam commenced, at the initiative of Sultan Majid bin Said of Zanzibar. The development of the town was directly influenced by the role it played as a commercial and administrative center of German East Africa, in the early 1900s, upon the construction of the Central Railway Line.
During World War I, German East Africa was ruled by the British and became Tanganyika, Dar es Salaam being acknowledged as an administrative and commercial center. After the Second World War, the city flourished, experiencing a time of development. Political movements such as the formation of the Tanganyika African National Union determined Tanganyika to attain its independence from the colonial rule. Dar es Salaam was still recognized as the capital.
In 1967, Tanzania adopted the socialist plan, through the declaration of Ujamaa policy. This movement had diminished the growth potential of the city because the government suggested the people to remain in the socialist villages. As the policy was, by far, ineffective, in 1980, the liberalization policy put an end to socialism. However, until the 1990s, Dar es Salaam wasn’t classified as one of the most important African cities. However, the 21st century was the turning point that facilitated the exuberant growth of the city.
- The name of the city – Dar es Salaam, has an interesting translation. The standard translation is “home of peace”. In Arabian, “Dar” means house, and “es Salaam” means “of peace.”
- Mzizima’s history goes back a long way – dating back to the time when the people there, known as the Barawa, cultivated the region surrounding Magogoni, Mbwa Maji, Mjimwema, and Gezaulole.
- The present vibe of the town has been strongly influenced by the British, Germans and many sultans – all these accounting for the city’s unique charm.