Cities: What You Need to Know about Dar Es Salaam

  | 7 min read

The ‘residence of peace’ or Dar Es Salaam, is the largest city and the commercial capital of Tanzania.  Originally the nation’s capital, Dar es Salaam  was founded as a summer residence for the sultan of Zanzibar. However, it started to become an important financial and economic center in the region after the arrival of the Germans in the late 1800s; It was then made the capital of the German East Africa Company. After WW1, the British took control of German East Africa where Tanganyika was formed, with Dar maintaining its commercial capital status. It continued from then till now.

Dar is now a bustling and thriving African city. The largest city in Tanzania with a population of over 4 million inhabitants, Dar is the third fastest growing city in Africa & the ninth fastest in the world. Additionally, at its current rate of growth Dar is poised to reach ‘megacity’ status (over 10 million residents) in the next 15 – 20 yrs. It has grown into East Africa’s second-busiest port & is touted to take the number one spot in the near future. Furthermore, with the Dar port clearing $15 billion annually as of 2013, its growth potential is there for all to see.

Its position as the commercial and administrative capital of Tanzania (it was the capital city until Dodoma replaced it in 1974) has seen it grow considerably. More so, Dar has become a popular tourist destination among African  tourists and  those from all over the world? Why? Well here are some reasons:

1.      Gorgeous Sandy Beaches: From the North to the South of the city, one can enjoy the  feeling of sun-kissed sand massaging one’s feet

2.      The Islands: Yes, you read that correctly. For a truly relaxing experience of the city, visiting the islands of Mbudya and Bongoyo are a must. They’re 20 & 30 minutes away from the mainland Dar, a short distance to access paradise. It’s a cheap trip too.

3.      The Tropical Climate: Coupled with the first two reasons is this. The tropical climate brings with it warmth and sun virtually throughout the year in Dar. This being the case, it makes for a very appealing destination for those looking to escape Winter or colder conditions in June/July or December/January/February

4.      Zanzibar is near: As Zanzibar attracts millions of visitors per year, this works in Dar’s favour with many tourists either passing through or adding Dar entirely to their travel itinerary.  A big reason for this is not only Dar’s attractions but it’s short-distance from Zanzibar (2 hours by speed ferry & 20mins by plane)

These are four fantastic reasons alone to visit the Dar Es Salaam. But, to truly experience it in all it’s glory, there are some more non-typical things for you to experience that’ll have you feeling like one of the locals.

Top among them are:

Riding a Daladala

‘What’s a Daladala?’ you might ask. It’s a form of public-private transport.; a bus service that has private ownership but  caters to the public. It’s also the most common form of public transport city-wide (possibly country-wide too). Daladala’s are known for their ‘creative’ but reckless road demeanor. However, they’re cheap. So if your budget is running a bit tight, you’ll find their price alright. And chances are, you’ll have a story to tell about your trip from point A to point B in double D.

Street Food & Local Cuisine

Ugali, ndizi, nyama choma or chips mayai? Four staples in a Dar Es Salaam resident’s diet & three types of food that are to be tried when in Dar. In actual fact, there are plenty of other local dishes – makande (a maize-centric dish), makange (spicy, chilli fried chicken fried with onions & green peppers), muhogo (cassava either fried or boiled), kiti moto (pork) – however the four mentioned here are chief among the local flavours.

Ugali, is basically stiff porridge. Doesn’t sound like much right? But, when prepared correctly with the right side dish, preferably a stew and greens, it is soft, smooth and delicious. Ndizi is banana in Kiswahili. But, these are no ordinary bananas. These are non-ripe bananas cooked in a special stew with beef & beef stock. Nyama Choma translates to grilled meat, which is exactly what this is. BBQ’d meat most commonly of beef, goat, chicken & pork. Doesn’t sound like much out of the ordinary, but, it’s the way it’s BBQ’d. Lastly, there’s Chips Mayai. Undoubtedly the most common fast food & a Dar original, this combines Chips and Mayai (eggs) in an omelette. Basic, quick & tasty as hell! No stay in Dar is complete until one if not all of these have been tested.

See A Live Band

Tanzania has had a thriving pop music scene over the past 6-7 years. Many local acts have gone on to national acclaim, some even to the international level. However, the local music scene is steeped in band culture. In the 70s through to the early 00s, bands were greatly popular and a weekend was incomplete without seeing. To date, remnants of this remain with excellent bands, the Skylight Band being chief among them, giving a modern spin to that classic band sound. It’s something to be experienced for sure.

Try Konyagi

Tanzania has great, top-quality alcoholic beverages; specifically the beers. However, there is one that captures the culture, tradition, and spirit of Tanzanians from generation to generation. Konyagi, ‘the Spirit of the Nation’ is that drink. A cane spirit with a taste similar to gin, Konyagi has a character unique to itself.  It packs a punch, has a kick and provides for a perfect toast when mixed with tonic & ice.

Go To A Tanzanian Send Off

In Tanzania, a ceremony is held for a bride-to-be as her goodbye to her family. Named a Send Off, the ceremony is held with the bride’s family and  relatives where formalities take place and she is ‘sent off’ to her fiancée & his family. This proceeding is quite exclusive to Tanzania and should one have the chance to attend, definitely do so for this unique experience.

Watch a Yanga Vs Simba Football Match

Football is Tanzania’s most popular sport. Yanga vs Simba, a Dar Es Salaam derby & the nation’s fiercest sporting rivalry, is its peak. Historically, the two most dominant teams in the land, they are naturally great rivals. Furthermore , being from the same city, Yanga vs Simba is quite the footballing experience. Regardless of whether it’s a league match, cup match or friendly (which generally is non-existent between the two teams), the match is played with great pride & intensity, matching that of the stadium’s atmosphere. So if you’re in Dar during one of these matches, pick a side, or not, get to the national stadium and watch.

Great times are to be had in Dar. The beaches, islands, bars and restaurants all offer great entertainment and leisure options. It’s a vibrant city with a lot to offer and more to come. As much as it’s the ‘residence of peace’, days and nights can have a little more welcome action, which isn’t a bad thing.

Learn more about Dar’s history and culture, here.


Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.