Tanzania Facts

© Dar es Salaam

Despite some of Africa's most recognizable names Tanzania has long lived in the shadow of Kenya but is now opening to the world as never before. Tanzania Facts explores some of what makes the country what it is today.

Capital: Dodoma [although many still consider Dar es Salaam (above), to be the capital. There are no nice images of Dodoma.]

Languages: Kiswahili and English are the official languages of Tanzania although English is used in business and education.

Best time to visit: Tanzania can be visited year round but there are certain areas that are closed during the rains. March/April and November.

Currency: Tanzania shilling [Tsh]

Attractions

Tanzania is one of the most appealing countries on the continent, boasting four of Africa's most iconic names in Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. The legendary Great Wildebeest Migrations occur on the Serengeti Plains.

Tanzania is also blessed with spectacular landscapes that host some of the continent's most amazing creatures, including chimpanzees and one of the largest bird checklists, making it ideal for an African Safari.

The history of Tanzania is also fascinating, in particular the human history of the last 400 years. Trading along the coast, slavery and colonialism are all dramatically illustrated in the many ruins and monuments in the country.

Date of Independence

19 December 1961 was the independence of Tanganyika from British control and on 19 December 1963 Tanzania came into being through the coming together of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

Dar Es Salaam - The Capital

Little more than a century old, Dar Es Salaam is a relatively modern city that has an old world charm. It shows none of the overwhelming bustle that capital cities often possess, and the name that the founding Sultan of Zanzibar gave it in 1857 still applies: 'Haven of Peace.' One of the most attractive features of Dar Es Salaam is its harbor. The crescent bay is fringed with palm trees, and gorgeously wrought sailing craft often waft into port.

From December to March, Asian bateels and badane set sail from India, Arabia, and the Persian Gulf, their holds bursting with carpets, silver, and brass to trade at the Indian bazaar. Johazi and Mashua, Dar Es Salaam's traditional small sailboats, come and go all day from Mafia Islands and Lamu.

Another facinating attraction of the city is its National Museum. Some of Dr. Leakey's first finds can be found in the musuem, including Nut-cracker Man and Zinjanthropus Bosei, proto-humans who roamed the Rift Valley over a million years ago. There are also detailed displays that track humanity's evolution over the eons.

Geography of Tanzania

In the northeast of Tanzania is a mountainous region that includes Mt. Meru (4 566 metres) and Mount Kilimanjaro (5 895 metres) which is the highest point in Africa and possibly the most breathtaking mountain imaginable. West of these peaks is Serengeti National Park, which has the greatest concentration of migratory game animals in the world (200 000 Zebra, for example).

Within the Serengeti is Olduvai Gorge, the site of the famous discoveries by the Leakeys of fossil fragments of the very earliest ancestors of Homo sapiens. The Serengeti also contains the marvelous Eden of Ngorongoro, a 20-mile-wide volcanic crater that is home to an extraordinary concentration and diversity of wildlife.

Tanzania is bordered on the south by Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia; on the west by Zaire, Burundi, and Rwanda; on the north by Uganda and Kenya; and on the east by the Indian Ocean. Tanzania is the largest of the East African nations, and it possesses a geography as mythic as it is spectacular.

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