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Africa Geographic Travel

Written by: Meredith Chait

Dar es Salaam in Tanzania is primarily known for its airport. Many foreign travellers arrive in the capital only to connect to their next flight, which tends to be to a national park or to Zanzibar.

However, during my months of volunteering in Dar es Salaam, I found that the city of 4.5 million people has a lot to offer in its own right.

Here is my selection of the top 8 things to do in Dar es Salaam:

Walking around Dar es Salaam

1. Makumbusho Village Museum is an outdoor museum that displays about 20 different styles of houses found in Tanzania.

Tanzanian house

2. Mwenge Craft Market is one of the more popular places for tourists to shop. With stalls selling artwork set around a little courtyard, the market is famous for woodcarvings and ebony, and you can watch people as they carve the wood. Just beware of shoe polish that the sellers use to colour other wood to make it look like ebony.

Carving wood outside Mwenge Craft Market

3. The National Museum and House of Culture holds some interesting artwork and artefacts, and is definitely worth a visit.

4. Kariakoo market in the Kariakoo district sells household items, food and kanga cloths. I suggest paying a visit to the market just to see the sheer number of people and stalls.

dar es salaam

5. At Tinga Tinga Art Market, you can buy souvenirs of colourful animals and patterns that are typical of the Tinga Tinga art style. This was started by Edward Saidi Tingatinga in 1968, and has its roots in hut wall decorations in Eastern Africa.

dar es salaam market

6. Watch the fishermen sell their catch at the auction tables of the downtown fish market. It is a very busy place that is especially bustling in the mornings.

Downtown fish market in Tanzania

7. The Germans built Azania Front Lutheran Church in a typically Bavarian style. It is worth the trip as it is interesting to reflect on the significance of the colonialist era and German architecture in Tanzania.

Lutheran church in Tanzania

8. There is a fishing village on the Msasani Peninsula, which is situated in one of the oldest Arabic settlements along the Swahili Coast. It took about an hour to find as it is off the beaten path, but it was definitely worth the perseverance.

dar es salaam street

Getting around

As in many capital cities, there is a lot of congestion in Dar es Salaam, and a person could easily sit stationary in traffic for an hour. Sometimes buses and motorbikes even use the sidewalks to weave their way around the queues.

A bajaj is basically a rickshaw pulled by a scooter instead of a bicycle. It is a little more dangerous than taking buses or taxis, but they can manoeuvre much more easily around the traffic and are more fun. I would also suggest taking a dala-dala if possible. This is essentially a bus and is not only much cheaper than any other modes of transport, but it is a great way to experience the local culture.

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