Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania’s and the country’s capital, but it feels more like a quaint village. The down-to-earth city is home to many historic buildings, a friendly population, interesting shops and intimate restaurants in addition to a picturesque seaport. The mix of Indian, African and Arabic roots is charming, and visitors soon feel at home in the Tanzanian capital.
Head to the National Museum to get a good understanding of the country’s history and culture. The highlights of the collection are the famous fossils from Olduvai Gorge, but other exhibits detail the German and British colonial periods, the Kilwa Shirazi civilization and the Zanzibar slave trade. Vintage car lovers will be taken by the special collection of antique autos in the plaza that connects the two main buildings. On display are the British colonial government’s Rolls Royce and the Mercedes Benz driven by Julius Nyerere. The back building contains a small collection of antique wooden bicycles.
The nearby National Botanical Gardens date back to the German colonial era and, although small, contain a stunning collection of native flora.
Dar es Salaam is home to a number of religious sights worth visiting. St. Joseph’s Cathedral was built by German missionaries and still holds Sunday services. The spired cathedral boasts beautiful stained-glass windows, a detailed carved relief and many of the original artwork and inscriptions made by the Germans.
The Azania Front Lutheran Church is also notable for its striking edifice. The red-topped belfry looks out over the water, and the interior is a fine example of Gothic architecture. Built at the start of the 20th century by missionaries from Germany, the church is still active. Visit during the choir rehearsals for a real treat.
One of the best ways to experience the city is simply to spend an afternoon strolling. The Kivukoni Front is one of the most lovely places to soak in the spirit of Dar es Salaam. The waterfront area is lined with colonial government buildings, and colorful street-side vendors sell delicious treats like maize porridge, chapati bread, fried plantains and mandazi, a fluffy bread roll often coated with cinnamon sugar.
The overgrown Kunduchi ruins are also worth a visit. Visitors can explore the remains of a late 15th-century mosque and walk between Arabic graves dating from the 18th century. Guides can be hired from the city center, and they are recommended because most of the ruins are unmarked.
The open-air Village Museum is another must-see. The centerpiece of the sprawling museum is a collection of authentic dwellings that offer visitors a glimpse into traditional life around the country. Each weekend, drummers and dancers put on an electrifying show, and afternoon special programs showcase the unique dance traditions of individual tribes.
Other sights worth exploring in Dar es Salaam include the colonial Forodhani Hotel Training Institute Building, the domed Ocean Road Hospital, the stately Karimjee Hall, the White Fathers’ Mission House, the imposing State House and the Askari Monument to the African soldiers killed during the Second World War.
Dar es Salaam Geographical Location
Dar es Salaam is located on the central eastern coast of Tanzania facing the Dar es Salaam Bay.
Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania and has a population of 2,500,000 in the metropolitan area.
Dar es Salaam Language
English and Swahili are the two official languages of Tanzania although Arab is widely spoken in Zanzibar.
Dar es Salaam Predominant Religion
- 35% Muslim
- 35% Indigenous Beliefs
- 30% Christian
In Zanzibar more than 99% of the population is Muslim.
Dar es Salaam Currency
The Tanzanian Shilling is the official currency of Tanzania.
Dar es Salaam Climate
It is generally hot and humid throughout the year in Dar es Salaam with the most rain occurring between March and May.
Dar es Salaam Main Attractions
- Makumbusho Village Museum
- National Museum
- Pugu Hill Forest Reserve
Other Attractions in Dar es Salaam
- State House
- Karimjee Hall
- Botanical Gardens