Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city is a vibrant seaside city that blends Indian, Arab and African influences to combine an authentic and unique culture that has metamorphosed chaotically in all directions in recent years but still has retained its original allure and plenty of charm.
While the city centre is adorned with attractive colonial buildings, bougainvillea-lined avenues and an array of palm-fringed beaches, the city has a laid-back feel that makes it impossible to grasp that its population is now more than 4 million people. What began as a small fishing village has grown into a bustling modern city, a business hub, a major port in Eastern Africa and a cultural centre. Here’s a town where you’ll find a myriad of influences, including a heavy Islamic influence, native Tanzanian tradition, and South Asian elements.
From discovering astounding street food to enjoying the expansive harbour and watching the famed Sukuma dancers, there’s a great deal to explore in Dar es Salaam.
While most pleasure-seeking visitors tend to stay briefly while en route to Serengeti, Zanzibar or Mount Kilimanjaro, there’s still plenty on offer to make you linger in Dar. Here are six things to do while in the city:
Any visitor to a new city will first of all want to have a glimpse into the country’s culture and Dar es Salaam is a well-known bastion of Tanzanian culture as it hosts the National Museum of Tanzania. Established by the colonial-era governor, Harold MacMichael in 1934, this is a consortium of 5 museums, which was created to show and preserve the history and national environment of Tanzania. The other museums include; Dar es Salaams’s own Village Museum, the Arusha Declaration Museum, the National History Museum and the Julius Nyerere Museum.
Located in the heart of the city, Mwenge Woodcarvers is crowded with artisans busy creating beautiful and unique curios. Wooden masks are a huge attraction, but you can also get treasures in other craft shops selling an array of goods from sandals to fabrics. The sellers are polite and welcoming and hardly harass customers unlike some curio sellers in some East African cities. Mwenge is a haven for deal seekers, and you’re welcome to bargain and shop as prices are negotiable and if you’re lucky, you may get some exotic artefacts found nowhere else in the world.
This large market hosts over 300 carvers who specialize in Makonde Art and the famous Tinga Tinga paintings.
Coco Beach or Oyster Bay happens to be one of the best beaches in Dar. This is a sandy beach located on the Msasani Peninsula touching on the Indian Ocean. If you’re looking for a spot to sunbathe, swim or snorkel during the weekend, then Oyster Bay is for you. There are plenty of entertainment spots along the beach including an open area for live music, beer vendors, and traditional dancers.
A visit to the Mikumi National Park is an astonishing opportunity to experience Tanzanian wildlife at close range. This is the country’s fourth-largest national park and closest to the city. On a day trip to the park, you’ll get a chance to see a variety of animals including buffaloes, giraffes, lions, elephants, zebras, crocodiles and an assortment of snakes. You can spend an entire day at the park as it closes at 3 pm. If nothing else pleases you in Dar, this tour will.
If you’re looking for an authentic Dar es Salaam experience, then a visit to the Kivukoni Fish Market is a good option, Experience the blending of cultures and business in a traditional Tanzanian platform, and you can capture videos of fishermen uploading their catches along the docks. Just come well prepared for an overpowering stench as the place is not for the weak-hearted.
Situated 2.5 km away, this is an uninhabited island in northern Dar es Salaam. It is the most frequented spot among the four enclaves comprising the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserves. It is famous for sunbathing and snorkelling.
To reach Bongoyo, one has to take a boat from Slipway Center after paying a small fee for the day. Then you get into a boat and get delivered to the island. The cost is $20 per person, and the trip takes about 30 minutes. You may need to be patient as the boat doesn’t depart until it’s full.
Also have a look at our article Best Of Dar es salaam for more information