The majority of the people in Tanzania, apart from the indigenous religions, are either Muslims or Christians. The official language of the country is Swahili, but as far as I can see, because this is a tourist destination with a developing trade, English is also used in communication and correspondence. Also, according to my research and the documentaries I’ve seen, there are nearly 130 ethnic groups with distinctive languages in Tanzania. The most important, and oldest one of those are the Masai.
The Masai, who speak in “Maa,” their own language, are a patriarchal tribe, who have a monotheistic religion, but according to them there can be different ways to reach god. For example, a mountain, or a tree. Therefore, whenever they attribute such a quality to an object, this object necessarily turns into a religious item, and is glorified. Jumping is like an endurance test in this tribe. When the tribe gathers and sings, the men start jumping. This is also a show of strength they engage in, in order to display themselves to the women. In the olden days, a man had to kill a lion to get married, but they have given up this particular tradition these days. Nowadays, a man can choose his wife, or wives depending on the number of cattle he has, in other words his wealth. The man sets up a different home for every wife he has, but he has to spend an equal amount of time with each of his wives.
Although it depends on their financial status, the man still lead a polygamous life, while the women are monogamous. While predominantly inhabiting the south of Kenya, and the north of Tanzania, the members of this tribe can also be seen in Dar es Salaam, in their red clothes, with their oval jewelry, and their ear holes reaching up to two centimeters.
After a tour of the streets of Dar Es Salaam, you can continue your exploratory tour with the Village Museum downtown. In this museum, there are samples of the shelters various tribes have been using since the ancient times. From the early shelters called “Dungu”, built by the Zaramo people to defend themselves from the wild beasts when they migrate, to the “Chagga” built on Mount Kilimanjaro, to the houses built by the tribal chiefs or men for their first wives, the native structures of these lands can be seen here. When you see these houses, you can more or less understand the social relationships, like the status of the genders. The houses generally consist of a ground and an upper floor. The ground floor is a storehouse, and a retreat during the days, and the upper floor is for sleeping at nights. While the cattle are generally kept in ring-like sheds built from dung, or tightly weaved pieces of sticks, the small cattle are brought in and kept in the ground floor store at nights to protect them from predators. So, in short, the three to five m2 ground floor has three different purposes.
You can pay five to ten dollars more at the entrance, and watch the traditional dance demonstration inside, and listen to instrumental music sitting by the fire in the yard. To be honest, we got accustomed to this dance after a while, so much that we even took part in a five people demonstration. Believe me, after you’ve seen these lands, you will miss these laughter filled moments, and these people very much.
As we were visiting this open air museum, we noticed three young men in contemporary clothing eating. They were kneading some kind of white food, resembling over-cooked pilaf, into dough, then dipping it into a sauce I thought was made of spinach to eat it. On the other side was their fish on a piece of newspaper. At first they didn’t want to be photographed, but as we chatted they relaxed. As a rapport built up they offered to share their food with us. While my friend turned the offer down on account of hygiene, and because she didn’t know what they were eating, not wanting to be rude, I wanted to try it. Verdict: I really like it! Maybe I didn’t have high hopes, I don’t know. After leaving the country, I learned that what I had was the national food of the country, Ugali. Now, I have another taste in my life that I’m glad to have tried it right then and there! I think this food made with corn flour, and served with a type of sauce, which is not very hard, or expensive, is very fitting.
The Dar es Salaam cuisine primarily consists of seafood. So much so that at dinner time, apart from desserts, every option you’ll have at the hotel’s open buffet will be fish. If you don’t like fish, I’d suggest you find someplace to have dinner as you tour the city.
After you pass the modern Harbor Tower built by the Japanese, you’ll be surprised by the three-wheeled taxis, namely the tuk-tuks, and the people waiting for the bus. Which reminds us: If you want to hire a cab for the day and don’t like the proposed price, don’t tell them you’ll ask another cabbie, because you might induce a fight among the cabbies.
After you pass the tuk-tuks, you will see the Fish Market on the shore. This place is another must-see in Dar es Salaam. When you go to the market you will notice that many people, including those walking on the street, don’t like to be photographed publicly, and being stared at. Therefore, we did it in secret.
To tell the truth, it’s not possible to spend a long time here, more so because of the untreated sewage problem then the smell of fish. But, it’s ideal to witness the conditions the people have to live in. As you’re thinking, “This smell will never leave my lungs!” you see people sleeping, eating, working, playing there, and you go, “What am I thinking?” Honestly, we didn’t go inside the market much, because we were affected enough by what we saw there.
As we moved on, we saw another building of the same type across from the fish market. It was filled with souvenirs made from things like sea shells, and shark teeth. Don’t be fooled by the prices they offer, you can get a discount after a little bargaining, and leave happy with the little gifts they offer. I did my shopping at the last store, because the store owner there explained everything I wanted to buy from an encyclopedia he had. When you’re in Dar Es Salaam, you might want to consider buying ornaments made from ebony-tree which is too hard to drive a nail in to. They’re a bit more expensive than you might expect, but they are worth it.
The shores of the city that reveal the tides are surprising. The sea is crystal clear, but if you want even more beautiful ivory beaches Zanzibar is close by. You can take a boat, fast ferry or plane to get there. The cheapest and slowest boats take about three hours. You need to have a vaccination card for yellow fever to enter Zanzibar.
They tell me that the Stone Town in Zanzibar gets its name from its engraved stone gates. And I also understood why this town is called the spice town when I learned that many herbs and spices like clove, turmeric, sea weed, vanilla, and black pepper are grown and traded here. If you’d like to see on site how these spices are grown, and treated while you’re in Zanzibar, I suggest you take the spice tour. Another thing you shouldn’t pass over in Zanzibar is the dolphin tour. Rather then seeing the dolphins in the small pool they’ve been squeezed in, it is a very enjoyable and unforgettable experience swimming with them in the sea. Walking on the quiet beaches of Zanzibar, and swimming is also very peaceful.
If you want to go on a safari while you’re in Tanzania, you must consider going to the Serengeti National Park under UNESCO protection. According to research, the name Serengeti comes from the Masai word “siringet” meaning “immense land.” In this park you can see animals like lions, elephants, leopards, zebras, rhinos, buffalos, giraffes, cheetahs, and antelopes. If you don’t have enough time, another option is the Mikumi National Park, which is closer to Dar es Salaam. You can have a similar experience here too. Another place in Tanzania in UNESCO’s World Heritage List is Mount Kilimanjaro. These assets cause may tourists who like it natural to choose Tanzania.
Finally, there’s a picture you see as you approach Tanzania on your night flight. The white light coming from the sheds in the pitch-black darkness. It’s like the sky has come down to earth and you can touch it… I hope you can witness this mysterious picture, and add the zest of culture that is Dar es Salaam to your life.