Wondering what’s so great about Tanzania? Here are 10 reasons you should consider a trip to the nation of freedom and unity:
The Tanzanian people are some of the most hospitable people you will ever meet - and I don't just mean those working in the hospitality sector. Nearly everyone you encounter will welcome you with open arms, making sure to ask if you're thirsty or tired, or just offer you a bite to eat. Often after just one interaction, Tanzanians will act like you’re old friends when they see you in town, and in many instances go out of their way to help you. While this hospitality is sometimes extended in the hope of receiving some cash, most Tanzanians are genuinely generous people just trying to give you a hand.
Not only is traditional east African food delicious, but it has been heavily influenced by Indian and middle eastern cuisine, resulting in wondrous variety. Depending on where you are in the country, these influences may be more or less prevalent; for example, on areas along the coast, spicy foods are a favorite, and further inland more traditional African staples like ugali, a type of porridge, become more common. Be sure to sample favorites like chapati, coconut rice, kachumbari, and mandazi, and don’t forget to have a cup of chai!
Tanzania is home to some of the best safari country in the world, the Serengeti. Tourists flock to Tanzania between July and October to catch a glimpse of wild elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, and of course the wildebeest migration. Nothing compares to seeing a large predators up close and personal. If you happen to safari off peak, it's still a wonderful way to enjoy the fantastic scenery of east Africa.
The city of Stone Town, Zanzibar, is overflowing with beautiful architectural wonders. Here, Arab, Persian, Indian and European influences meld together with more traditional African architectural styles. With such gorgeous doors, arches, and spires, it's hard to walk through the city without stopping to admire the buildings.
Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most climbable mountains. As many as 35,000 people flock to Tanzania each year to experience this amazing trek. An average climb takes about a week, depending on your physical ability. The summit is known as Uhuru Peak, and offers some amazing views, especially when you get to watch the sun rise. If you don't have time for a full climb, you can always go on a one day base-hike and experience all of the lush flora surrounding the mountain.
So often vacations get bogged down by sight seeing and itineraries you forget to relax, so caught up in getting everywhere on time. Not so in Tanzania. Generally speaking, most locals operate on “Africa time,” preferring to take their time getting from place to place. This comes from the tradition to greeting and making small talk with neighbors and acquaintances you encounter in your travels throughout the day; to skimp on the small talk is considered extremely rude. While it can be frustrating at first, Westerners quickly adapt and often enjoy operating on Africa time - you might even bring it back with you!
Anyone who drinks beer should try Tusker at least once. Tusker beer is available at pretty much any corner store or bar you visit in Tanzania, and EVERYONE drinks it. Although it does come from Kenya, you can’t ignore its ubiquitous presence.
Tanzania has a huge variety of ethnic groups, and as such, numerous cultural traditions. One of the best known groups in Tanzania is the Maasai, a nomadic herding people. In many areas of northern Tanzania, you can visit the Maasai people and learn about their heritage, partaking in such traditions as branding or the adumu jumping ritual.
Tanzania knows how to party! Whether you’re in Arusha or Dar, you can find a trendy club (or two or three!) to hit up at night. You’ll dance to Bongo Flava, east Africa’s own derivative of American hip hop music.
Swahili... and many other beautiful languages
While most of us grew up learning French or Spanish as a second language in school, I think it's time to recognize the beauty of east African languages. Swahili is the most widely spoken Bantu language, as well as the national language of Tanzania, although over 120 separate languages are spoken within the country. Because of the trading history of Tanzania, the Swahili language is peppered with loan words, many of them Arabic in origin. In fact, until quite recently, written Swahili utilized the Arabic alphabet. Not only is Swahili a beautiful language to listen to, it's also a fun language to learn!