Many people simply pass through Dar en route to the nature, wildlife parks and islands elsewhere in Tanzania. Some will go on a safari, while others will be making the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. However, Dar es Salaam makes a great place to go by itself, even if you aren’t doing anything else in the country. Here are 10 reasons to give Dar es Salaam a visit.
You can learn about tribal life
Dar es Salaam is home to the Village Museum, an open-air area where there are several authentically reconstructed homes. Inside, you’ll find furnished items, and the locals demonstrate many skills like pottery and carving. You can also view a traditional tribal dance in the afternoon.
You can find some beach bliss
Dar is home to some of the most chilled-out beaches in Africa. You’ll find locals running food stalls, live concerts, and plenty of people hanging out at the area beaches like Coco and Kigamboni. There are also several bars and restaurants in the area where you can throw back local beers and chow down on fresh seafood as the sun goes down.
You can visit a marine reserve
Dar’s coastal location makes it a great place for all kinds of fun in the sun activities, not just beaches. For instance, there are some fantastic snorkeling spots, such as Bongoyo Island or Mbudya island, both short ferry rides off the coast where you can get your water time in while viewing colorful tropical fish and cute sea turtles.
You can visit ruins
The northern area of Dar is home to some of the oldest historic ruins in the country, including the Bagamoyo, Kaole and Kunduchi ruins. There are graves dating back to the 1700s along with the remains of an old mosque. Pottery from Asia has also been found by archaeologists in the area. Hire a local a guide to take you, as it’s easy to get off the beaten path in a hurry.
You can chow down on great food
Dar es Salaam has one of the most interesting mixes of cuisine on the continent due to the history of Arabic and Indian traders that came to the area over the centuries. Much of the food is loaded with spices, and you can throw a rock and find a delicious seafood joint. The ex-pat scene also means you’ll be able to dine on plenty of fare from around the world that you won’t find in smaller cities. For more info on the dining scene there, see our article: Dining Out In Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
You can see animals without going on safari
If you don’t have the dough to go on a safari, or if you missed seeing an animal that you were craving to spot, you can go to the Kigamboni district in Dar es Salaam. The Dar es Salaam zoo is home to crocs, antelopes, monkeys, leopards and elephants among others. You can also get much closer to them than you would normally get on a safari.
You can get your shop on
If you’re looking for a bustling place to get your shop on, look no further than the Kariakoo Market in central Dar. This local hot spot is popular for locals, and there are enough fantastic leather goods, pottery and fabrics to keep tourists happy, too. Just make sure your bargaining game is strong before coming. If you’re looking for more handmade goods, make a stop by the Mwenge Woodcarvers market.
You can see a working fish market
No, we don’t mean a fancy mall-like area near some water with a few people selling lobster rolls and some tuna laid out on ice. We mean a “working” fish market, where boats of dozens fishermen roll up on the beach, piles of shrimp are dumped on wooden tables, and locals chop up and cook fish over grills on the spot for vendors and restaurants around the city. It’s a little smelly, but it’s worth putting up with it for the experience.
You can learn about the history of Tanzania
Take a trip to the National Museum where you’ll be able to explore a cool collection of human fossils that were found in the country. You’ll also be able to see remnants of the slave trade and learn about the colonial history of the area. Be sure to check out the collection of presidential cars.
And then there’s everything else
As we said, there’s a reason many people stop in Dar, and that’s because it’s an ideal location to explore everything just outside the city. You can go on a hike through a rain forest full of waterfalls in the Udzungwa Mountains, go on a safari, or visit Zanzibar — all in a few hours drive (or ferry) from the city. After you’re back from your day trip, you’ll be ready to watch the sun go down on the beach then enjoy the city’s nightlife.
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This article was originally published on September 30, 2015.