Dar es Salaam, previously known as Mzizima and often abbreviated to simply Dar, is the former capital of Tanzania, the most populous city in the country and one of the most important economic centres in the region. One of the fastest growing cities in the world, Dar es Salaam is a hub for finance, the arts, media, fashion, film and television.
Located on the Swahili Coast, this is East Africa’s second-busiest port, as it straddles some of the most significant sea routes. As one of the most prominent cities in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is often the first point of call for tourists visiting the country, as well as nearby Zanzibar.
You’ll certainly feel the energy of the city, from lively fish markets with docks of dhow boats, to the infamous traffic. However, what was once a quiet fishing village only a hundred years ago has still retained a relaxed, laidback vibe, aided by the sandy beaches and paradise islands offshore.
With so much to see and do in the region, many visitors miss Dar es Salaam completely as they head off on their safari adventures. Yet, if you can spare a day or two, there’s plenty to see and do in the city.
One of the best things to do in Dar es Salaam is shopping and there is a wealth of markets to choose from. At the Wonder Workshop, artists with disabilities create artworks and jewellery pieces using repurposed materials, while at Mwenge Carvers’ Market traditional woodcarvers transform chunks of wood into vivid art pieces. Nafasi Art Space is where to go for paintings by young, undiscovered talents and at Tingatinga Centre you’ll find colourful canvases filled with Tingatinga designs.
Other places to see include the Village Museum, which hosts traditional dancing and drumming performances; the Kigamboni Community Centre for support of a local organisation that focuses on vocational development; as well as the Alliance Francaise, which hosts French and Tanzanian cultural events. Or, you could see it all with a bicycle tour or history walk.
If it’s beaches you’re after, try breezy Bongoyo Island, lively Coco Beach, a dhow boat trip at Kigamboni, idyllic Ras Kutani or family-friendly Kunduchi Beach, which also features a water park.
Often overlooked, Dar es Salaam has much to offer visitors, especially those looking for an introduction to Tanzanian culture, or to unwind at the end of a safari trip.