Journey Around Tanzania

About Tanzania – Major Districts

5. Arusha-Moshi Region

Spatial Location of Arusha-Moshi Region in Tanzania

This north west region, dominated by the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, is important for tourism, farming, industry and commerce of Tanzania. Agriculture varies with height of position on the side of these two big mountains, so that the forests occur on the higher slopes, intensive cultivation on the middle slopes, plantations on the lower slopes, and little cultivation on the drier plateau areas. The mountains attract relief rainfall, so that the further one moves from the mountains the poorer agriculture becomes. Traditionally, the farming around the southern slopes of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru consists largely of shamba cultivation of bananas and maize, with coffee, tea and sisal as the cash crops. Coffee, therefore, dominates the cash crop farming of this area, which is interesting since the world price of coffee in the 1980-90’s had gradually fallen. Because of this the Tanzanian Government had attempted to discourage the expansion of coffee land. Since the acres of coffee were not being expanded in these early days, development took place in other crops. Around Arusha wheat and maize became important and on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro the growing of maize, paddy and cotton were encouraged. Arusha was selected as the headquarters of the East African Community owing to centrality, leading to the development of large new administrative buildings. Early on, industry consisted mostly of agricultural processing, but its selection as the capital of East Africa encouraged industrial expansion. Electricity to all the industries and to the public in Arusha is supplied from Nyumba ya Mungu Power Station. In addition, the establishment of the International Kilimanjaro Airport, encouraging tourism to the region, was a further impetus for growth. The rise of Arusha can, therefore, be based on its selection as the headquarters of the East African Community, its vast industries and its potential for tourism.

Section of Arusha Town in Tanzania
Section of Arusha Town. Image Courtesy of TripHappy

6. Dar es Salaam: Capital of Tanzania

Spatial Location of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania

Dar es Salaam is by far the largest town, the biggest port, the primary industrial town and the most important communication centre for the whole of Tanzania. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that Dar es Salaam is also the capital and major administrative centre. The 2020 index put its population at 6.7 million; a 5.24% increase from 2019. Because of its important functions, Dar es Salaam is growing rapidly, both in area and population. The most obvious fact about its physical geography is that it lies at the coast. A more accurate description would be to say that Dar es Salaam is sited on the northern and western sides of a ria. A ria is caused by sub-mergence; it is, of course, a drowned river valley caused by a rise in sea level or the land sinking below the ocean. There climate of the area is pleasant almost all year round, and being almost seven degrees south of the equator, its climate is not really equatorial. The rainfall is relatively heavy, concentrated around the months of March-April-May. Temperatures are always high, but there is a noticeably cooler period from June until September, which coincides with, and partly causes, the long drier season. In fact, the climate here is similar to that of Mombasa along the Coast of Kenya. Similar to its opposite number and most coastal towns in East Africa, Dar es Salaam was founded by the Arabs. Sultan Seyyid Majid decided to build a city on the mainland and it was begun in 1865. Its population and importance grew slowly until, by 1891, it was large enough to be chosen as the main port and communications centre for German East Africa. From this time onwards it grew rapidly and, during both the German and British administration it was the obvious choice as the capital of the Republic of Tanzania. Most of the early settlement, especially during the early colonial period, was in the area around the harbour creek.  Later the town expanded to districts like Magomeni, Kariakoo, Llala and Keko, which are away from the older township. The high class residential areas – those used by the colonial administrators and more recently by state officials and expatriates – are set at Oyster Bay north of Msimbazi Bay and, to a lesser extent, at Upanga. Dar es Salaam is the second largest port in East Africa and, although smaller than Mombasa, handles three times as much trade as all the other Tanzanian ports together. Within Tanzania, it dominates both the import and export trade.

Aerial view of Dar es Salaam City
Aerial View of Dar es Salaam. Image Courtesy of The Citizen

7. Pemba and Zanzibar Islands

Spatial Location of Pemba and Zanzibar Islands

Tanzania’s offshore consists of two main islands – Pemba and Zanzibar – and many smaller ones. These islands are very low, rarely rising above 300 feet or 100 metres, and are made of coral. For over a hundred years they have been famous for the growing of cloves and coconuts; although these two crops are still important, many newer crops are now being cultivated. Many people live on these islands: Pemba Island has an estimated population of 400,000, with its largest town, Chake-Chake, having  a population of 20,000; while Zanzibar Island has an estimated population of 1.3 million. The population density on both this islands is about 10 times higher compared to the mainland. Pemba Island has an area of about 984 km2 and is therefore smaller than Zanzibar Island, with an area of 1,657 km2. Both islands are located close to the coast of Tanzania; Pemba lies about 64 kilometres east of Tanga and Zanzibar Island is less than 48 kilometres north of Dar es Salaam. About 48 kilometres of Indian Ocean separates the two islands, and Pemba and Zanzibar Channels separate the islands from the mainland. The channels that separate the two islands from the mainland are only 20 metres deep in some places, although in other parts they are as deep as 60 metres. It is almost certain that at some point in history these channels did not exists and the islands were once part of the mainland. It is thought that a series of nearly parallel faults developed and the land between them sank to form the Pemba and Zanzibar Channels. This, of course, did not happen quickly, but over a period of thousands of years. Also the sinking did not happen continuously, instead there were period when the land was sinking and periods when it did not move. In time, however, it sank to its present level and it is probable that the sinking has not yet stopped. Along with this sinking was also tilting. As the channels sank so the two islands were tilted, so that the western sides of the islands tilted upward and are higher than the eastern sides.

Zanzibar Island, reachable by air from Dar es Salaam in 20 minutes or by ferry, is one of Tanzania’s most popular destinations. There are also daily flights from Nairobi via Mombasa and Tanga, and daily passenger steamship services, the sea journey taking about two hours. On the eastern side of the island are many good places to stay near the seafront. Visitors don’t need to take formal clothes to Zanzibar. The island is a place of informality and relaxation. Apart from the unrivalled beaches, places to visit include the handicraft showrooms; the Old Fort; Beit-el-Ajaib (the House of Wonders) which was built in 1883 by Seyyid Bargash; the People’s Palace; which was the former Sultan’s Palace; the Hindu Dispensary; and the old slave market. Other interest include the fruit market, Livingstone’s House, the Maruhubi Palace ruins, Kibweni Palace, which are all well worth a visit, and the Kijichi coconut plantation, where guides explain to visitors the short history of the coconut, and how copra is obtained. The latter also take one to see clove trees, cinnamon trees, cocoa and coffee plantations. Zanzibar has a weighty history too. The Sultan of Zanzibar – an Arab leader and descendant of chiefs who sailed from Arabia centuries ago and conquered a large part of East Africa – once controlled the territory that later came to be known as German East Africa, and there through his chiefs governed the affairs of the mainland. In the ensuing Scramble for Africa, Zanzibar Island remained the property of the Sultan, under the protection of Great Britain. Zanzibar was the capital of the Sultan, from where he controlled far-reaching trade in spices, slaves and ivory. At the same time, many kind of goods were shipped there to be taken over to the mainland for trade with the natives. People from India, Arabia and Europe settled here many centuries ago to trade in businesses and helped grow the city, which was for at least two centuries the largest city in East Africa. For the history buff, the castle of the Sultan and the influence of building from early settlers is worthwhile. “The port city of Stone Town dominates the west coast, and although the beaches of Mangapwani, where slave caves are visible at low tide and nearby, Bububu are less than half an hour’s drive away.” – TTB

View of Stone Town, Zanzibar Island
View of Stone Town, Zanzibar Island. Image Courtesy of ArchZine