In literality, if not in status, Tanzania’s main city is as diverse as it is nationally significant in presenting a blend of business bustle and paradise pleasures.Writer: Matthew Staff
It may not be the capital city, but Tanzania’s largest business, cultural and trade hub is certainly the most enigmatic, and the country’s so-called ‘abode of peace’ has firmly established itself among the regional elite on the tourism and business development attractiveness scale.
Transforming from a humble fishing village to a thriving melting pot of industry comprising more than four million people, its location on the coast instils both international accessibility and picturesque aesthetics, while its positioning as the most populous Swahili-speaking city in the world affirms a cultural diversity which is proving more and more of a lure to western enterprises and travellers with each passing year.
It is this mix and antithesis of lifestyles that best encompasses Dar es Salaam on a daily basis too; hosting a cacophony of noise and business bustle within its CBD by day, before transcending into a sleepy, relaxed, almost suburban-like paradise come sunset.
Ironically, it is the sprawling suburbs themselves that are ingraining the city further into the Tanzanian landscape as a result of the growing expatriate community, the rise in tourists drawn to the area’s natural beauty, and the subsequent economic prosperity that is emanating out of Tanzania’s most prized asset.
And upon your arrival to the country’s shores, what greets you is a far more cultural, artistic, musical, flamboyant and beautiful blend of attractions than might be expected of any nation’s primary economic domain.
And it’s not like the journey to Dar es Salaam is any more strenuous. As the country’s leading arrival and departure point for visitors looking to indulge in what both the city, and the wider natural parks and islands, have to offer; its positioning in the country is the foremost reason for its evolution over the centuries.
Incorporating a natural harbour backing on to the Indian Ocean, its leading role in the cast of rail, road, sea and air productions is complemented by a comprehensive – although admittedly busy and not the most enjoyable – internal transport system.
The dala dala minibus and Dar es Salaam commuter rail systems help to counteract any possible stress caused in making your own way around the city, and are complemented by the bus rapid transit system which only opened its doors in May, 2016.
Issues surrounding safety and overcrowding in each of these cases can be made up for in the amount of money you have to – or don’t have to – pay across the city’s internal transit setup, but to maintain the executive lifestyle; taxis, a motorcycle transit business known as Bodaboda, or car hires may be the better routes to go down.
On a more holistic scale, the Julius Nyerere International Airport is complemented by Tanzania Railways, its thriving port and the TAZARA Railways which connects the city to neighbouring Zambia as well.
All-told, there are more ways to enter Tanzania via Dar es Salaam than via any other city, but – if based centrally – you certainly won’t feel like you’re missing out on the ‘fun’ down on the high street during daytime boardroom meetings; rather you’ll be looking forward to the quieter alter-ego of the city to arrive once business is closed for the day.
Fact & Figures
Languages: Swahili, English
Area: 1,590 square kilometres
Population (2014): 4.4 million
Currency: Tanzanian shilling
Time zone: GMT+3
Dialling code: +255
Internet TLD: .tz
Climate: Tropical savannah
The business end
That being said, Dar es Salaam’s relatively new status on a par with Nairobi and Addis Ababa as a leading economic hub to the east of the continent can make it seem like business is never closed.
Since the turn of the millennium, it has become one of Africa’s fastest areas of urbanisation; thriving upon the country’s general upturn in the continental stakes and from its already established housing of Tanzania’s leading banks and indeed its Stock Exchange.
The city’s harbour has also facilitated vast amounts of trade potential to the Middle East, and also acts as a middle man for landlocked countries including the DRC, Rwanda and Zambia.
Ultimately, the mix when entering the city from above is startling as a look to the right blesses you with savannahs and beaches, before a turn of the head to the left greets you with a CBD skyline fit to grace any major business and governmental core.
Again, the suburbs tell a slightly different story to maintain a comforting indigenous and localised feel around its small independent businesses, but a major construction boom in recent years has largely epitomised the sprawl and development that the city is having to enjoy or endure – depending on which way you look at it – to cope with such a rapid rise in demand.
For the business traveller of course, there are massive benefits to this evolution, namely in regards to accommodation. When the biggest international brands are expected in town, you need the biggest international brands ready to welcome you; a notion which the likes of Hyatt and Protea have taken responsibility for.
A balance of executive suites along the coastline and a host of more humble hotels, hostels, motels and guest houses ensure that all bases and requirements are accounted for, and ultimately go a long way in making up for the city’s transport shortcomings.
“Many travellers bypass ‘Dar’ completely; those that stick around will be
rewarded by the city’s eclectic cultural mix and down-to-earth vibe.”
- Lonely Planet
‘The flying safari company’ will transport you to some of the most incredible, remote and protected areas in the world via its ever-broadening fleet and network
Restaurants and cafes
Kivukoni Fish Market
Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve
The Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve System (DMRS) comprises some of the most stunning marine wildlife reserves the country has to offer, made up of nine uninhabited islands and acting as the perfect taste of paradise away from the hustle of inner-city life. Providing protection for several ecosystems, coral reefs and seagrass beds, each and all of the reserves within the System are recommended to fully experience the natural side of Tanzania.
Chief among the DMRS is Bongoyo Island Marine Reserve, around a 30 minute boat ride from the mainland. Numerous marine species’, plant life, birds, caves and lagoons make the trip worthwhile, while there is also the option to either hike around the island if you feel like exploring, or to simply relax on the beach if you’re happy with the view sat down.
Although it has a slightly tarnished reputation as a result of street touts, the bronze statue dedicated to Africans killed in WWI offers a more cultural and poignant landmark while in Dar es Salaam, away from the noise of the CBD and the splendour of the natural world. Located centrally since its unveiling in 1927, it is the third in a group of three Askari Monuments all introduced at the same time; the other two situated in Mombasa and Nairobi, in Kenya.
Kipepeo Beach & Village
“Much has been written about this beautiful safari country... However, there is one exceptional beauty that is often overlooked. Miles and miles of unspoilt and undeveloped white sandy beaches on the south coast (or beach) of Dar es Salaam. At Kipepeo Beach & Village the tropical turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean entice you in at all times. Kipepeo Beach Village is the ideal place to unwind, relax and forget about all hassles in life.” - Kipepeobeach.com
The main events
Bagamayo Arts Festival
“Visitors from all over the world converge on Bagamoyo in October for the annual Bagamoyo Arts Festival. Bagamoyo is Tanzania's arts capital, home to the Chuo cha Sanaa, the Bagamoyo College of Arts, sculpture, crafts and arts centres, and artist cooperative groups.
“For five days in October, Bagamoyo is buzzing with activity, with traditional dance and music performances, acrobatics displays, hip hop, reggae and bongo-flava stars rocking the house, drama, art and sculpture exhibitions, workshops and more. It's a time for Tanzanians to showcase their creativity and celebrate their culture.” - Tanzania Travel & Tourism
Date: October, 2016
International Trade Fair
“7 July is a national holiday across Tanzania. Saba Saba, meaning seven seven for the seventh day of the seventh month, is Workers Day. While the country enjoys a well-earned break, Dar es Salaam is a hive of activity with the International Trade Fair. Taking place at the Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere Trade Fair grounds, more than 1,500 exhibitors from more than 18 different countries attend the fair, establishing global partnerships and developing trade in Tanzania.” - Tanzania Travel & Tourism
Date: 7 July
Venue: Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere Trade Fair grounds, Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam Annual Charity Goat Races
“Since the first goats raced in 2001, the Dar es Salaam Charity Goat Races have quickly grown to become Dar’s premier charity event. Each year the Dar es Salaam Charity Goat Races raise millions of shillings to support small local organisations and charities to carry out their work, and support their local community”; making a significant and sustainable impact on people based in these areas. - http://www.goatraces.com/
Date: September, 2017
Venue: Kenyatta Grounds, Dar es Salaam