Dar es Salaam is one of the most favoured destinations in East Africa. Although it may not be as attractive as other cities in Africa regarding glamour and prestige, like say Cape Town, it has its unique attractions that suit all and sundry.
Even though the majority of tourists who visit Tanzania skip Dar es Salaam altogether and head to Zanzibar or the game reserves of Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the most iconic places to visit is the Village Museum.
When it comes to Tanzania’s larger communities and their traditional lifestyles, the Dar es Salaam Village Museum features a rich collection of original and authentically constructed dwellings that illuminate the traditional aspects of the village lifestyle vividly.
Every dwelling is furnished with typical artefacts and is surrounded with small plots of cultivable land where crops such as maize, beans, cassava, and potatoes are grown.
On other colourful murals, you will notice villagers demonstrating traditional skills such as carving, weaving, and pottery. On a lighter note, other exhibits include villagers clad in elaborate traditional attire dancing vigorously to Ngoma drums. These traditional tribal dances take place and are a hugely favourite evening pastime.
The village museum is located 10 km to the north of Dar es Salaam and can be reached by the city Dala Dalas on the Mwenge circuit. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the main terminal called Makumbusho.
The museum is quite extensive, and it showcases at least 20 traditional dwellings.
You can walk from hut to hut while peeping inside and then checking out the inscriptions on the sign outside the hut. One of the tiniest huts belongs to the Waha tribes’ people. The huts are not constructed to showcase luxury and class, but for sleeping and storing possessions. Most Tanzanian villagers spend their time outdoors either farming or hunting. So there is little time to seek convenience inside their huts. Some of the huts are heaps of grass and can frighten off the uninitiated.
The most exciting part of the tour is the chance to venture into the huts and experience how they live. The interior of the huts is adorned with decorations and furnishings of each tribe’s rich culture. There is little furniture and only a wooden bed is placed alongside the wall.
Most of the huts lack natural light and the only light is from the entrance. There are no visible windows, and the only reason to explain this is that the huts are only entered after dark.
Quite a bit of skill is employed when constructing the huts. There are two main types of designs, some being made of mud mixed with dung and others being made of grass and thatch walls, these follow after a wooden frame has already been robustly planted and assembled using bark to hold the beams together. There are details of each tribe employing their traditional ways of setting up homes and villages.
The Maasai Manyatta architecture is one of the crowd pulling huts. Made of mud-walls and a mixture of dung and mud, they make an attractive choice for photographers as Tanzania has a vibrant tribal culture as most people still live in the rural areas.
The Dar es Salaam Village Museum offers visitors a chance to view village life in Tanzania and to see how homes are constructed all in one place.
See previous article Best places to visit in dar es salaam