Facts About the Culture, Geography, and History of Tanzania
Tanzania, founded by Mwalimu Julius Kabarage Nyerere, is the largest and most restive country in East Africa. It is bordered by Indian Ocean to the East, Kenya and Uganda to the North, Burundi and Rwanda to the north-west, DRC and Zambia to the south-west, and Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique to the south.
There is a lot to talk about this great land of the Swahili-speaking people. Nonetheless, we have put together 12 interesting facts that can help you have an imaginative tour of this vast, diverse and peaceful country.
12. Tanzania, is a place where nature is at its wildest. It is surrounded by three great lakes of Africa – Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi.
The ecological biodiversity of Tanzania is unmatched. It not only harbors dense woodlands but also expansive savannah grassland. It is a water rich-country that is home to some of Africa’s large fresh-water lakes. It is not only home to the Big 5 Cats (Lions, Cheetahs, Tigers, Leopards, Tigers) but also home to the Big 5 herbivores (Elephants, Hippos, Giraffes, Buffalos, Rhinos).
Most of these Big 5 Cats and Herbivores are found within the expansive Mara-Serengeti reserve that it shares with Kenya. The 7th wonder of the world (the Wildebeest annual migration), happens between Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park. Tanzania also shares with Kenya homage to the rare Flamingo birds which migrate between Lake Natron in Tanzania and Lake Nakuru in Kenya.
Apart from this ecological biodiversity, there is so much that Tanzania shares with Kenya than with any other country in the world. Thus, visiting Tanzania opens to you the gates of Kenya. It is a one contiguous tourist circuit.
11. Tanzania is made up of 130 tribes, each significant in their own way.
Ethnically, Tanzania is the most diverse country in East Africa, followed by Kenya. While Kenya has just about 40 ethnic tribes, Tanzania has triple that number which rises to over 130 ethnic groups.
Though, both Kenya and Tanzania share some ethnic tribes, namely, the famous Maasai, the native Swahili people, the Taita, Meru, and some others that have different names due to differences in dialect.
10. Dar es Salaam, a city in eastern Tanzania, is the largest city in the country. It’s also the largest Swahili-speaking city in the world and has given birth to many great men in Africa’s history.
Dar-es-Salaam, an Arabic word for ‘city of peace’, is an ancient city established by the Arab traders from the Arabian Peninsula, mainly by the Sultan of Oman. Dar es Salaam is the heartland of Swahili language (a mixture of Bantu and Arabic dialects). As such, it is the Swahili capital of the world. It is home to the largest number of Swahili scholars.
9. The de-facto national dish of Tanzania is the humble Ugali. It’s a simple porridge made with either maize, millet, or sorghum flour.
Ugali is a staple food that is made by carefully pouring flour into boiling water and stirring until it forms into porridge. The flour is mainly made by grinding maize. Other sources of flour include millet, sorghum and dried cassava.
It is common to have a mixture of millet and sorghum flour, or a mixture of maize and sorghum flour. Cassava flour is common among the Nilotic groups bordering Kenya and Tanzania along the shores of Lake Victoria.
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8. Mpingo trees, found in Tanzania is the costliest timber in the world. Known as African Blackwood, it’s used to make elegant furniture and fine musical instruments.
Masks and traditional stools have been famous traditional culture among some tribes in Tanzania, especially the Makonde tribe. Mpingo wood has a unique fiber formation that makes it hard to split when dry and greatly consolidates.
It also doesn’t split while chopping. This makes it easy to make wood carvings such as masks, stools, and patterned wooden decorations for doors and windows.
7. Freddie Mercury, the frontman vocalist, and songwriter of rock band Queen, was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Born Farrokh Bulsara on 5th September 1946, Freddie Mercury built a successful career that earned him many awards. He has posthumously received many awards including the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music in 1992, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
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6. The flag carries in it the 4 elements of Tanzania’s daily life. The green represents nature’s beauty, the yellow represents the mineral deposits of the country, the black represents the people, while the blue represents the great lakes.
Tanzanians are very patriotic people, thanks to the inculculation of the values of patriotism by that nation’s founder, Mwalimu Julius Kabarage Nyerere. It is this unique sense of patriotism that has held this multi-ethnic nation together thus avoiding the tribal animosity and wars characteristic of most of its neighbors such as Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and DRC.
As such, symbols of national unity are greatly treasured. The flag is the most important symbol and its colors define what Tanzania stands for.
5. Lake Victoria in Tanzania is the largest tropical lake and the second largest freshwater lake in the world.
Tanzania shares with most of its East African neighbors the massive Lake Victoria. Although the bulk of Lake Victoria rests in Tanzania, part of it rests in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. Lake Victoria provides livelihood to communities in 7 Countries in Africa:
- Rwanda (which share the waters of Lake Victoria directly)
- South Sudan
- and Egypt (which shares the waters of Lake Victoria via River Nile which empties the Lake into the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt).
This Lake is home to so many fresh water species including hippos, fish, crocodiles, turtles, among others. It not only supplies food, but it is also a source of hydro-power. It is a trans-national transport hub and marine tourism hub
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4. Tanzania has an island called the Mafia.
Mafia is an infamous name of a global terrorist network headquartered in Italy that at some point in history controlled the Italian State. However, the Island of Mafia in Tanzania is not related to the Mafia criminal gang in whatsoever way. It is just a coincidence that they do share a name. Mafia Island is part of the Zanzibar Archipelago.
3. Tanzania has designated 25% of its land to wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. It’s among the highest in the world.
Wildlife sanctuaries and national parks grabs a huge mass of land in Tanzania. They in total grab almost 200,000 square kilometers of land, which is more than 3 times larger than the size of Rwanda and Burundi combined.
This proves the importance by which the Tanzanians regard their wildlife and natural heritage. This natural heritage has in turn rewarded Tanzania heavily with revenues from its tourist attraction making tourism to rank among the top foreign exchange earners. This preservation has made Tanzania to continue grabbing a giant share of Safari tourism that has been the traditional preserve of its northern neighbor, Kenya.
Due to poor policies and corruption, Kenya has continued to lose its luster as a Safari destination as illegal logging, land grabbing and human habitat has continued to shrink its national reserve. Kenya has also continued to lose its tourism position to Tanzania due to its high cost of inefficient economy riddle by rampant corruption and also political insecurity characteristic of its high-octane politics.
2. Mount Kilimanjaro is Tanzania’s poster boy. The iconic mountain is the highest peak in Africa and a place of amazing beauty.
Mount Kilimanjaro is a unique landmark. It is not only the highest peak in Africa but home to an amazing grassland plains populated by unique wildlife species including antelopes, giraffes, buffalos, elephants, lions, leopards, among others.
1. Tanzania may have untold geographical riches but remains submerged in poverty. Despite being surrounded by three of the largest lakes of the world, water scarcity has turned into a nightmare for rural areas.
While Julius Nyerere is credited with endowing the world with one of the most peaceful and harmonious countries in Africa, his socialist policies had their own negative effects.
Due to his socialist policy, famously known as ‘Ujamaa’, Tanzania’s productivity remained low despite its vast agriculturally productive land, rich mineral deposits and plenty of water resources and spectacular wildlife. Its northern neighbor (Kenya) despite not being richly endowed in terms of arable land (only one-third of Kenya is arable), not being a harmonious society (due to ethnic political upheavals), and less endowed in terms of mineral and other natural resources, has a more advanced and more productive economy.
This is due Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, having pursued Capitalist policy (as opposed to Tanzania’s socialist policy). However, unlike Kenya, Tanzania is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world due shift away from the socialist system and having a less corrupt governance system.
Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa both in terms of land area and population. It has a rich ecological biodiversity that remains a magnetic attraction to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who pay it patronage each and every year. This land of Swahili has a lot to offer to would-be visitor. The best way to learn about Tanzania it experience it first-hand.