Cities: What You Need to Know About Kilimanjaro

  | 7 min read

Home of the peak of Africa and rightly named after it, Kilimanjaro is one of Tanzania’s 30 administrative regions.  With a population of roughly 1.7 million, it was the eighth most densely populated region in the country as of 2012.


Kilimanjaro is bordered to the south by Tanga, the southwest by the Manyara Region, to the west by the bustling Arusha region and to the north and east by Kenya. Some Kenyans from the south share similar traits to Tanzanians from north Kilimanjaro, often leading to jokes among locals that Tanzanians from this region are more ‘honorary’ as they could’ve easily been Kenyan.

One of the larger regions of Tanzania, Kilimanjaro is divided into seven districts, namely Siha, Hai, Rombo, Moshi Urban, Moshi Rural, Rombo, Mwanga and Same (pronounced ‘Sa-meh’). Rombo, though considerably smaller than the larger districts of Same & Moshi Rural, is the third highest populated district. The capital of the region is Moshi.

The Chagga and The Pare

Kilimanjaro is home to two main tribes; The Chagga & the Pare tribe. Spread over the 7 districts, the Chagga are more present in Hai, Moshi (Urban & Rural), Rombo and Shia. This is because traditionally, the Chagga had settled in these 5 areas. Mwanga and Same are more Pare territory.

The Chagga are the third largest ethnic group in Tanzania. Traditionally living on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and its neighbouring areas, Chaggas have been known for their trading and overall enterprise. It’s these two traits that have led to their spread countrywide. Chaggas have no issues in travelling to neighbouring or far lands in search of business or to establish one. Typically, it would be the male who does so and once settled, his family (if he has one) would follow. If single, intermarriage or inter-procreation would likely occur. These factors have contributed greatly to their spread nationwide.

Kilimanjaro’s cooler climate has supported agriculture for generations. The Chagga have taken advantage of this by implementing successful irrigation systems, terracing and continuous fertilization methods that have supported farming efforts greatly. Also, through being one of the first tribes in the area to convert to Christianity, they had more of an advantage due to the better education & health care that was established and provided by missionaries.

Like 90% of tribes in Tanzania, the Chagga tribe is a Patrilineal one; where all membership derives from the father’s side. In short, males are significantly dominant over females in the tribe. This, however, is all traditional. As time has passed, things have changed. Years ago, boys/men were virtually not allowed to enter the kitchen as it was seen as women’s domain & submissive. Now, women are business owners & entrepreneurs creating wealth for themselves and their families. In many cases, women have and continue to drive the economic prosperity of their households and Chaggas as a whole.

Now, out with the Chagga and in with the Pare.

Pareland lies a northern route of the historic East African long-distance trade. Historically, Pare people were great producers of iron which were in high demand by the Chagga and other nearby peoples. Their exploits with iron led them to become prominent blacksmiths in the land.

The Pare were among the more politically active tribes in Tanzania. The Pare Union was formed in 1946 and was one Tanganyika’s first ethnic-based nationalist movements against British colonial rule. As the nationalist movement grew, the union then became part of the Tanganyika African Association (TAA) which later became Tanganyika African National Union (T.A.N.U).

Economically, Tea, Coffee & Sisal are among the chief produce of the Pare people. Trade farming in these products has helped spearhead development in the land. Compared to most districts, the Pare have developed their infrastructure quite well with regards to roads, the availability of electricity, telephone connectivity (landline & mobile) and water supply.

Day to Day Food & Drink in Kilimanjaro

Bananas, bananas, bananas. One might rightly say that the Chagga people and generally all over Kilimanjaro, the locals go bananas over cooked bananas. Whether cooked in a beef stew, grilled, fried or mashed to form a soup (Mtori), bananas will be consumed with pleasure. Furthermore, the Chagga local brew is the famed Mbege. It’s a locally made banana beer brewed over the course of 5 – 7 days, to perfection. With a grainy like texture, it somehow manages to remain smooth. In addition to Bananas, the Chagga are avid meat eaters with goat & beef the more popular choices.

Over in Pareland, Makande is the main meal. The primary ingredient is maize and it includes red beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes and chicken stock, cooked in a stew-like manner. A traditional Pare meal it may be, Makande is now widespread across Tanzania.

Throughout Kilimanjaro, bananas, Mbege, Makande, Mtori are readily available. It’s the same case for meat and the various ways it’ll be cooked. Also, rice dishes, chips, Ugali and other common Tanzanian dishes will be found at many a restaurant. In recent years, Mutura, the combination of beef minced meat stuffed in intestines (beef) in a sausage manner, has become increasingly popular. Mbege production and consumption has also grown from that of rural Kilimanjaro mostly to the urban areas. It’s a prominent feature many bars in Moshi, the region’s capital.


On the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro lies Moshi, Kilimanjaro’s capital. All region offices and administration centres are located in Moshi. The president’s residence when making regional visits is in the Moshi suburb of Old Moshi. Moreover, all major commercial entities and leisure activities in Kilimanjaro happen in Moshi. Also, with the main road making the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) and the town of Arusha 30 minutes and 1 hour away respectively, Moshi finds itself in prime territory. Unsurprisingly, the Pare and Chagga people make up most of the Moshi population.

Moshi has excelled considerably on literacy and education. According to the Tanzania Poverty and Human Development Report 2005, the Moshi urban district had the highest literacy rate for people over 15 years old compared to the other 128 districts in Tanzania. Additionally, the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College, Stefano Moshi Memorial University College, Mwenge Catholic University are among the many higher learning institutions found in Moshi. Furthermore, each district of Moshi has a community-established secondary school.

Healthcare is also in a decent state with two major hospitals, the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre and the Mawenzi Regional Hospital, both within the municipality. Moreover, the Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute, out of the KCMC, also plays a leading role in health in the region.

Meanwhile, having Mount Kilimanjaro in your town is an obvious positive for Moshi. This major tourist attraction brings with it mostly foreign but also local tourism, breeding more economic life to the town. Through the demand for porters & guides not to mention restaurants, bars, and other leisure centres to add to a potential climbers’ stay, Tourism has contributed greatly to employment and the overall  Moshi economy.

One understated quality of Moshi is its cleanliness. One of the cleanest towns in Tanzania, Moshi, and its residents have collaborated for years to ensure the beautiful greenery provided by trees & the natural environment are matched by the town’s cleanliness. Residents take great pride in this and rightly so.

A place with potential

Still growing, Kilimanjaro is one of the leading regions in Tanzania. It’s had it’s historic & economic advantages and made use of them. Moshi could certainly be in more of an advanced position but it’s waking to it’s potential. Nonetheless,  Kilimanjaro is worth a visit in Tanzania.


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.