Dar Es Salaam Overview
Officially Tanzania's second city, although also its the de facto seat of government, the coastal city of Dar Es Salaam enjoys international prominence. With a name that translates as "home of peace", this port city was once a centre of slavery. However, today visitors can admire the picturesque dhows, traditional Arab sailing ships, with impunity.
In its present state, Tanzania dates back only as far as 1964, when Zanzibar and Tanzania merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Perhaps the recent memory of this is why the country, and particularly Dar Es Salaam, celebrates its independence day with such gusto and verve. Equal importance is placed on Tanzania's older past and the many tribal groups who have come together as citizens of the same country. Institutions such as the National Museum and House of Culture, which showcases the country's history from as far back as prehistoric times, offer visitors an intriguing glimpse into some of this history.
As one would expect from a city built next to the Indian Ocean, the beach is a very important part of day-to-day life. Several offshore islands, including Mbudya, offer popular day trip escapes.
Things to Do
Although today's Dar Es Salaam is a city that is proud of its towering skyscrapers, it has not forgotten its past. Many of its most interesting activities involve exploring that history. However, when one is satiated with culture and learning, its beautiful blue sea and sandy beaches are only a stroll away.
Journey to the past
The National Museum and House of Culture explores Tanzanian history from prehistoric times to the modern day. Highlights include several early human fossils excavated at Olduvai Gorge and an exhibition on the slave trade. The museum is also situated in pleasant gardens.
Visit the village
Located a few miles out of the centre city, the Village Museum is the perfect place for anyone wanting to know more about Tanzania's different ethnic groups. Visitors can wander across several acres of land, which are home to replica traditional dwellings, and watch tribal dances and demonstrations of carving, weaving and painting.
Get away from it all
Ten minutes by motorboat from the city is Mbudya Island. Situated in a marine reserve and with white-sand beaches, superb snorkelling and freshly barbecued seafood for sale, it is an easy-to-reach little idyll.
Calendar of Events
Tanzanian pride within the country, and the various tribal groups that comprise its citizens, are clearly evident in the festivals and celebrations of Dar Es Salaam.
Wanyambo Festival. Held in early January, in the north of Dar Es Salaam, this festival showcases the music, dances, food, costumes and culture of the Wanyambo people.
Mzalendo Halisi Music Festival. This two-day June festival, held in the Kigitonyama area of the city, is a lively celebration of Tanzanian music, culture and art. Local performers take central stage.
Unification Day. The anniversary of Tanzania's unification with Zanzibar is celebrated every April across the country. Dar Es Salaam puts on parades and waves flags with enthusiasm during this annual public holiday.