Home to over 4 million people, Dar es Salaam is a fusion of African, Arab and European influences and worth a long stopover, at the very least.
It is a lively, cosmopolitan port city, set on the east coast of Tanzania, with Zanzibar to its north. It’s Tanzania’s largest city, but it’s no longer its capital, which is Dodoma further west inland.
A spot of culture
The National Museum of Tanzania in the city is your first stop, to really get to grips with the earliest history of the country. From finds of early man in the world famous Olduvai Gorge (and, at nearly 2 million years, we’re talking really early!) wander through the exhibits documenting the kaleidoscope of cultures that dominated across the centuries – the Shirazi Persian culture of the early 14th century, the East African slave trade centred at Zanzibar, colonial rule of Germany and Britain, to modern-day Tanzania.
Next door to the museum is the House of Culture, which hosts contemporary art exhibitions and music.
From the hush of the museum, head to the noise and colour of the fish markets. The largest of the city’s fish markets is Kivukoni and if you’re up early you’ll be able to see the traditional wooden dhows sail in with their catch. The market has been around for generations and employs around 3,000 people representing every kind of fishing industry trade: boat and net repairers, icemen and women, wood suppliers, cooks and auctioneers.
Fish is cheaper than meat on the coast and it’s a part of the staple diet. After early-morning trading, the workers fill up on lunch, and you’ll be able to do that, too.
Central to Tanzania’s hard-won independence is the Uhuru Torch Monument, a symbol of Tanzania’s freedom and located in the Mnazi Mmoja Park of the Kariakoo coastal area. The monument is a white obelisk with a replica of the Uhuru Torch at the top. The original Uhuru Torch was lit back in 1961 on the eve of Tanzania’s independence, at the summit of Kilimanjaro, as a symbol of light and freedom shining across the country.
If you’re feeling up to it, you can take part in the Uhuru Torch Race that takes place around Tanzania each year.
Feel the buzz
After you’ve checked out the Uhuru Torch Monument, nip over to the Kariakoo market, a bustling, chaotic place nearby at Sikuku Street of the old town. It’s the city’s biggest market, covering several blocks. It’s perfect for people watching and for observing the real daily life of the citizens – and you might pick up a bargain. You’ll find it refreshing to see luscious fruit and vegetables piled up at their natural, oddly-shaped and beautiful best, rather than pristine and uniform in the clinical aisles of a supermarket.
You’ll find terrifyingly huge avocados, fresh, plump tomatoes, green bananas, juicy mangos, and herbs and spices that perfume the crowded avenues.
If you’re feeling daring, check out the underground market where fruit and veg are sold wholesale: it’s hot, stuffy and a huge test of character.
If you’d like to get out of the city, head out to Coco Beach in Oyster Bay, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. It’s a place to hang out, enjoy the sea views, play beach football, stretch your legs along the white sand, and surf the blue waters. There’s a lively oceanfront scene, with beer and food vendors and if you’re lucky you’ll catch some bongo flava rhythms – hip-hop music in a style that Tanzania’s own.
Dar es Salaam has everything a lively city has to offer, as well as its own unique culture. If you’d like a city adventure after your safari and before your beach holiday, then it’s the perfect stop-off.