Dar es Salaam (meaning ‘Haven of Peace’), is the largest city in Tanzania (population estimated at over 4 million), the third-fastest-growing city in Africa and the ninth-fastest- growing in the world. Though Dar es Salaam lost its official status as Tanzania ‘s capital city to Dodoma in 1973, it remains the centre of the permanent central government bureaucracy and continues to serve as the capital for the surrounding Dar es Salaam Region.
Situated close to the equator and the warm Indian Ocean, Dar es Salaam experiences generally tropical climatic conditions, typified by hot and humid weather throughout much of the year. Annual rainfall is approximately 1,100 mm (43 in) per annum and in a normal year there are two distinct rainy seasons, 'the Tanzania long rains' which fall during April and May, and 'the Tanzania short rains' - during October and November. Dar, as it is popularly known, is full of historical buildings, many of which date back to German and British colonial times.
Spanning two sweeps of bay, looking out over the Indian Ocean, Dar es Salaam is relaxed in atmosphere and can easily be navigated on foot (the guided city tour takes around 2 hours). The best place to begin a tour is at the very heart of the city: the Askari Monument, erected in memory of the African troops who fought in World War I. Head south, and you come to the harbour and the site of the imposing Lutheran church, one of the first buildings constructed during the German occupation. Along the waterfront, street-vendors sell peanuts, candy and stalks of sugarcane. At the end of the Kivukoni Front is the Kivukoni Ferry, which shuttles people, produce and vehicles across the harbour to Kigamboni, a large fertile peninsula where mangoes, pawpaws, cassava, bananas and coconuts grow right down the edge of the beach. Ocean Road leads away from the ferry along the water’s edge, home to the bustling Kivukoni Fish Market, where you can buy red snapper, lobster, prawns, squid, barracuda and shellfish straight from the sea. State House lies past the fish market along Ocean Road. Built in 1922 on the foundation of the old German palace, it is a well-maintained government residence offering a blend of African and Arabic architecture. North of Ocean Road are the Botanical Gardens, home of the Dar es Salaam Horticultural Society and one of the few places in the world where you can see coco-de-mer palm trees growing other than in the Seychelles. Across the street is the National Museum, an interesting cultural centre built in 1940. Heading south around the bay is St Joseph’s Cathedral, with its distinctive red-tiled spire, and Dar’s oldest surviving building, the Old Boma (1867), which was built to house the guests of Sultan Majid.
Eating out in Dar is a cosmopolitan experience: traditional Tanzanian food can be had on almost any street, ranging from grilled-meat kebabs to corn-on-the-cob (some of the best street food is found on Zanaki Street). As to restaurants, choices include: Italian, Chinese, Japanese, South-Asian, Indian, Ethiopian and Middle-Eastern.
Opened in 1940, the Museum and House of Culture Dar es Salaam (next to the Botanical Gardens and formerly the National Museum) features traditional craft items, headdresses, ornaments, musical instruments and witchcraft accoutrements. The museum also houses finds from Olduvai Gorge, most importantly the fossilized skull of Zinjanthropus or ‘nutcracker man’.
The city offers a wide range of shopping malls (Haidery Plaza, Mayfair Plaza, Mlimani City Shopping Mall, Oyster Bay Hotel Shopping Centre, Shoppers’ Plaza and The Slipway Complex to name but a few). Good buys include; semi-precious Tanzanite jewellery, Makonde wood carvings, soapstone sculpture, musical instruments, basket ware, Maasai beadwork, sisal mats, brightly coloured sarongs known as kangas (for women) and kikois (for men), spices, curios and paintings. There are a number of markets, the largest and most colourful being Kariakoo Market, which offers a huge variety of clothes, foodstuffs, spices and traditional medicines. It gets its name from the British Carrier Corps, which was stationed here during World War II. 6km north of the city centre, Dar’s white sandy beaches with their swaying palms and pounding surf begin. Oyster Bay is the nearest beach to the city and is ‘the place to be’ at weekends. The coastline about 25km north of Dar and east of New Bagamoyo Road is lined with resorts and is a popular weekend resort. The coastline south of Dar gets more attractive, tropical, and rural the further south you go, and is an easily accessible getaway. The beach begins just south of Kigamboni, which can be reached in a few minutes by ferry.