In our “Exploring Countries” series, where we cross continents and discover fascinating facts, our next stop is Tanzania. Known as the land of world-famous national parks and a must-visit for safari enthusiasts, let’s get to know Tanzania together.
Tanzania’s Geographic Location
Let’s start by understanding Tanzania’s location. It’s an independent country located in the middle-eastern part of Africa. It has coastlines along the Indian Ocean to the east. Its neighboring countries include Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south.
Population and Ethnic Composition of Tanzania
According to 2018 data, Tanzania’s population is approximately 59 million. The ethnic makeup of the population is overwhelmingly African, making up around 99%. The remaining 1% is composed of Arabs, Asians, and Europeans.
Religious Structure of Tanzania
Regarding the country’s religious structure, Muslims make up the largest portion at 38%, followed by Christians at 30%, and Animists at another 30%. The remaining 2% consists of other minority religions.
The Story Behind the Name Tanzania
The country’s name has an interesting story. Present-day Tanzania was actually two separate countries until 1964: the Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. When these two countries united, they took the first syllables of both countries as their name, creating the name “United Republic of Tanzania” to signify their union.
A Brief History of Tanzania
Settlement in Tanzania dates back to prehistoric times, with the earliest inhabitants being Bantu-speaking Ethiopian tribes. Unfortunately, the country was successively colonized by Portugal, Germany, and then Britain from the 1500s until 1961. In 1961, Tanganyika, which had recently gained independence, merged with its neighboring country Zanzibar.
Languages Spoken in Tanzania
Tanzania consists of over 120 ethnic groups, and its people are aware of and celebrate their diversity. Each group has its own language, which continues to be used for communication within these communities. However, the country’s widely accepted official language is Swahili. Although English was the official language during the colonial period, it is rarely used today.
Tanzania has a developing economy largely dependent on agriculture, mining, and tourism. The challenges to the country’s economy include deficiencies in infrastructure, a shortage of skilled labor, and the legacy of exploitation from years past. Tanzania does possess resources such as gold, diamonds, uranium deposits, and natural gas, but like many other exploited nations, it faces challenges in fully benefiting from these resources.
The History of Islam in Tanzania
Islam was introduced to Tanzania with the arrival of Muslim Arabs in the 1st century AH (7th century CE). From the mid-7th century onwards, Muslim Arabs established numerous city-states with strong relations with other peoples. During the 12th to 15th centuries, a prosperous period known as the Swahili Coast emerged due to intermarriage between Muslims and the locals, resulting in a mixed population. However, in the 16th century, during the Portuguese colonial period, attempts were made to Christianize the population, and Muslims suffered persecution.
The Current Status of Tanzanian Muslims
There are enough mosques and schools in the country to meet the needs of Muslims. Additionally, there is an organization called the “Islamic Association in Eastern Africa” that takes care of Islamic schools. Muslims are politically represented to some extent in proportion to their population. Islamic activities in Tanzania are conducted by the “Supreme Council of Islamic Organizations in Tanzania.”
The Capital of Tanzania
Since 1996, the country’s capital has been Dodoma. Before that, from its establishment until 1996, the capital was Dar es Salaam. Consequently, Dar es Salaam is home to many government buildings and official institutions. As the country’s largest city, Dar es Salaam remains an important commercial hub with the largest port.
Administrative and Political Structure of Tanzania
Although Tanzania encompasses various ethnic and religious groups, it has not experienced internal conflict or military coups since its inception, making it one of the politically stable countries in Africa. The country operates as a republic, with elections held every five years. Administratively, the country is divided into regions known as “Mikoa.”
Tanzania is a place where different ethnic groups live together in harmony, and its people are known for their tolerance and respect for each other’s values. For example, during Ramadan, it is frowned upon to eat, smoke, or consume alcohol in public. Handshaking is highly valued as a common gesture of respect among the entire population.
They prefer chicken over red meat and give great importance to seafood. Some of their notable dishes include fish coated with coconut, octopus in coconut milk, sauced calamari, lobster, and shrimp. The traditional breakfast in this tropical climate often includes tropical fruits.
Famous Mosques in Tanzania
In the capital, Dodoma, there are two notable mosques. Jamatkhana Mosque, one of the city’s oldest buildings dating back to 1954, bears the architectural influence of British colonialism. Kaddafi Mosque, built in 2010, is one of Africa’s largest mosques with a capacity of 4,500 worshippers.
Tanzania’s Most Important National Park
Serengeti, meaning “endless plains,” is the largest and most visited natural wildlife park in Tanzania. It encompasses various natural habitats like savannahs, forests, and water basins and serves as a migration area for numerous wildlife species. Serengeti is also known as one of the world’s top safari destinations, where visitors can witness wildlife in their natural habitats.
Botanical Gardens in Tanzania
Another must-visit place in Tanzania, apart from its national parks, is Dar es Salaam Botanical Gardens. Established in 1893, the botanical garden’s purpose is to showcase Tanzania’s plant diversity and endangered species. It features many visually appealing plants such as the purple palm and flame trees.
Africa’s Highest Mountain
Mount Kilimanjaro, standing at 5,895 meters, is the tallest mountain on the ancient continent of Africa. Every year, 40,000 visitors come here to climb to its summit. Climbers are not only seeking to reach a peak but also to get a bird’s-eye view of various natural habitats. For some, it serves as a starting point in their quest to conquer the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
Must-Visit Places in Tanzania
Watching the sunset at Ngorongoro Crater is a popular choice among Tanzania’s visitors. For those curious about snakes and reptiles, Meserani Snake Park, which boasts a collection of these creatures, is an interesting stop. The Dar es Salaam National Village Museum provides insight into the lives of Tanzania’s ethnic groups. Zanzibar, Pemba, and Toten islands are also appealing destinations for tourists.