With a population of nearly 4.4 million as of 2012, with a current estimate of 4.7 million, Dar es Salaam holds the title as Tanzania's biggest city, while being in the top 10 largest cities in the whole of Africa. Founded in only 1862 by Sultan Majid of Zanzibar, the city quickly grew to become a prominent center for business and trade. Throughout much of its early history, Dar es Salaam was influenced by the forces of international politics and colonization, with its Arab leaders overthrown by the German East African Company in 1887, and its German occupation replaced by British rule during WW1. The myriad of cultures have all left influences on the city, leading to a diverse and unique city that flourishes to this day. Today, much of Dar es Salaam’s downtown area is comparable to that of many other large cities. For National Tourism and Travel Week, we will be highlighting what makes Dar es Salaam a Tanzanian getaway unlike the rest.
Being such a large city, Dar es Salaam offers many of the typical attractions one would expect to find in any other large metropolis. One of the reasons many make the trip into the city is for its various water and theme parks, spread throughout the downtown area and its Eastern coastline. Water slides, lazy rivers, roller coasters and all of your favorite classic fairground rides can be found, giving you the fun you are used to mixed with an environment you aren’t. Popular parks include the Kunduchi Wet ‘N’ Wild Water Park and Fun City. Both of these water parks offer reasonably priced tickets and amenities, so you definitely won’t break your wallet having some fun. If roller coasters and lazy rivers aren’t exactly what you would call fun, a number of zoos are located here, housing a variety of local and foreign animals. The most popular zoo is the aptly named Dar es Salaam Zoo, which is covered by a variety of local plants, providing a unique experience that differs from the standard metal cages and fences that you are likely to find in the U.S.
Photo Credit: Flickr user Lucianf
Getting away from the classic attractions you are used to isn’t hard, however, as the Kariakoo market lies in the center of Dar es Salaam and will be sure to make you question what you are seeing, even when you decide to pass up on a purchase. Open for business all day and all night, the market is lined with fresh, local, and bizarre produce and game, offering a fun guessing game for those too scared to ask. You can’t say you have really experienced a new country until you’ve tried something that at first scares you, be it goat stomach or roasted fruit bat. Locals often visit the market for a quick bite to eat or for ingredients for that night's dinner, so there's bound to be something that piques your interest. Rainbows of spices reaching multiple feet high will constantly make you drift towards their smell, and handmade trinkets that make great souvenirs can be found in abundance. Nothing says “I love you” like a piece of handcrafted jewelry of unknown content. Dotting the busy roads lie street performers, offering exciting entertainment for a small token of gratuity. However, due to the nature of big cities across the world, it is ill-advised to bring valuables such as jewelry and expensive cameras, for no matter what country you visit, there is always someone looking to make a quick, unethical buck off an unsuspecting tourist.
Photo Credit: Marco Zanferrari
Given that Dar es Salaam lies just off the coast of the Indian Ocean, maritime activities range from high-end Jet Ski tours to lazy days in a rented canoe. The local fishing economy means that the water is always busy from sunup until sundown, providing a perfect opportunity to simply sit and watch the normal hustle and bustle. Its close proximity to the water makes the land surrounding the city full of life, and local businesses have capitalized on this opportunity with a myriad of opportunities. All in all, a visit to Dar es Salaam will offer you the experience of any large American city, yet while at the same time encouraging you to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.