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Tanzania Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Tanzania
Tanzania’s population is a vibrant mix of religions, races and cultures. Depending on what area you’re travelling in, be prepared to see a variety of cuisines, customs and dress, which directly reflect the diversity of the population. The island of Zanzibar is predominately Muslim; Maasai are largely found in the North along with other indigenous tribes whose beliefs are largely animist; and Christians, Hindus and other minority groups can be found throughout the country. Although most Tanzanians may not have many material possessions, travellers can expect a warm welcome and generosity from most locals. Greeting styles and language differ according to ethnic or tribal group but universally, visitors can expect to receive a warm welcome and a smile from most.
Geography and Environment of Tanzania
Bordered by Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania has one of the most diverse natural environments in the world. While travelling through Tanzania, you’ll be able to see enormous gorges, sprawling savanna, ancient islands, dense woodlands, snow-capped mountain ranges, vast lakes, colonial towns and modern cities. With the Indian Ocean occupying the eastern side of Tanzania, this country truly does have the best of both worlds. Home to Africa’s highest peak and some of the most famous nature reserves in the world, Tanzania also has eclectic cities and vibrant villages to boast of. Tanzania’s former capital, Dar es Salaam, is a modern metropolis with a colonial flavour while the regional centre of Arusha has retained a village feel. Zanzibar is in a category of its own with its ancient cobbled streets and unique, heritage-filled buildings.
History and Government of Tanzania
Home to some of the earliest human remains in the world, the land now known as Tanzania could possibly be one of the first lands to have been inhabited by early humans. Human habitation can be traced back 10,000 years to a time when people lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle before outside influences arrived bringing with them organised agriculture and cattle farming. Visitors to Tanzania should head to Olduvai Gorge (known as the 'Cradle of Mankind') if interested in the early history of Tanzania and, in fact, the world.
Europeans only arrived in the 15th century, via the East Coast. Zanzibar was first controlled by the Portuguese, then by Arabian traders interested in easy access to the Indian Ocean that allowed trade with Asia and beyond. This was also a time when the human slave trade was a lucrative business. The island of Zanzibar became a pivotal place for this trade, with more than 100,000 slaves passing through during this period.
Mainland Tanzania came under the influence of German, Belgian and British colonisers in the 1800s, who explored and mapped the interior of the country. German colonisers brought infrastructure, agriculture and Christianity to Tanzania, but faced resistance from many tribes who fought against being forced into labour and desperately wanted to keep their land and preserve their traditional way of life. During World War I, Germany lost the colony to the British, heralding a new era of colonial rule for the region. More recently, Tanzania adopted its constitution in 1977, held its first multi-party election in 1995 and had its first female presidential candidate in 2005.
Tanzania at a glance
- 42.7 million
- Swahili, English
- (GMT+03:00) Nairobi
- Type D (Old British 3-pin), Type G (Irish/British 3-pin)
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