Straddling some of the most important sea routes in the world, Dar es Salaam has established itself as the commercial capital of Tanzania. At its bustling harbour, goods arrive from all over the world while dhows deliver the morning’s catch to the popular fish market that provides a glimpse into the city’s marine past.
But the coastal city has much more to offer than just the lively port. There are a wealth of restaurants and shops, while the fascinating architecture is a mixture of African, Arab, Indian and German.
There is also plenty of history to explore, from museums that provide an insight into Tanzanian tribes to the remnants of German colonial presence. Add to that botanical gardens, colourful craft markets and simple connections to nearby islands, and Dar es Salaam makes the ideal destination for a long weekend.
To make the most of your time in Dar es Salaam, get an early start and head to the open-air village museum where you can learn all about Tanzanian tribes. You’ll see traditional dances, authentically constructed huts, while the ‘villagers’ will show skills such as weaving, pottery and carving.
Continue to discover more about the culture of the East African nation by visiting the National Museum. Here, visitors can see a copy of the famous fossil discoveries of Zinjanthropus - otherwise known as the 'nutcracker man’ - as well as archaeological finds from the ancient Shirazi civilisation of Kilwa. For auto aficionados, the museum also has a collection of vintage cars used first by the British colonial government and then by Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, including a pristine Rolls Royce.
Next, travel just two-and-a-half kilometres north of the city to Bongoyo Island Marine Reserve. Home to beautiful beaches and secluded islands, the area is blessed with great snorkelling and diving sites, while the waters are teeming with colourful marine species. For those feeling adventurous, there are walking trails through the dense forest that lead to the remains of a German colonial building. Alternatively, relax on the beach and soak up the sun before watching the sunset from one of the many restaurants that serve up fresh seafood.
Begin your second day in the city by visiting the colourful markets where you are bound to bag a bargain. Here you will discover handicrafts that are ideal for gifts, while the nearby Botanical Gardens provide a welcome escape from the warm sun and the chance to see a range of indigenous and exotic plants.
Both the old State House and St. Joseph’s Cathedral are worth a visit, especially for those who appreciate architecture. But to truly make the most of your time, ensure you take the popular ferry service across to the island of Zanzibar.
Home to some of the finest beaches in the world, the beautiful island is ideal for those wanting to swim, snorkel or simply while away the hours. There are stunning corals to explore and you may even be fortunate enough to see pods of dolphins coming close to the shore.
Explore the historic quarter of Stone Town, with its fascinating mix of influences from Europe, India, Africa and Arabia, before returning to Dar es Salaam and ending your trip by visiting one of the many restaurants near the fish market to enjoy some local delicacies.