To most travellers Dar es Salaam is merely a stopover on their way to or from the region’s more popular destinations such as Zanzibar, Pemba and the safari circuits. Dar, as it is affectionately known, isn't one of Africa's most attractive cities but is a vibrant melting pot of cultures and colours and is well worth a visit if time permits.
The economic and cultural heart of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is set in a bay facing the Indian Ocean and is bustling with restaurants, eateries, pubs, clubs and diverse shops. Explore the vibrant local markets, the museums and historical landmarks such as St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the White Father’s Mission House, the Botanical Gardens and the old State House; they are all interesting to visit.
Head to the harbour for a glimpse into the trading past of Dar es Salaam, this seaport has a history that stretches back more than a century; a particularly surreal site is watching traditional boats such as the dhows slip under the bows of massive, steel tankers. On the north side of the harbour look for the fish market; typically this is a vibrant, noisy and yes, maybe a bit smelly, destination. Other markets to experience include the textile and carver’s market; all of them are colourful and worth visiting.
Access to this vibrant city is through Tanzania’s main airport, Julius Nyerere International Airport (also known as the Dar-es-Salaam International Airport), with daily and weekly flights from most international destinations. You can choose from a range of luxury accommodation in large city hotels, boutique guest houses to sea-side retreats.
The Art House
Known as Nyumba ya Saana by locals, this palm-roofed building houses an art co-operative that supports nearly 200 young artists across a range of disciplines. Started by an American nun in 1972, this is a great place to pick up batik work, carvings, oil paintings, pottery and textiles.
One of the oldest forests in the world and today incorporated into a reserve, Pugu Hills is home to hippos, cheetahs, lions, monkeys and a variety of other animals. It has extraordinarily high levels of biodiversity particularly in terms of bird species. Keep an eye out for the large colony of bats that call the abandoned man-made caves home.
Head out of the city
Just outside of the city find Bongovo Island Marine Reserve with great snorkeling and diving sites as well as beautiful beaches, secluded islands and many varieties of marine life. This is well worth a visit and is a great way to spend a day out of the city. Other day excursions include those to the village of Gezaulolo and the medieval ruins of the trading town of Kunduchi.
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