What to do in Dar?
Sunday, 08th June 2014
1-2 Days in Dar es Salaam – What to do?
Almost every visitor to Tanzania passes through Dar es Salaam. It has the country’s largest airport, is the gateway to Zanzibar, and is a stopping point on most Tanzanian itineraries. However, most people merely see Dar as a crossroads. Hotels become waiting rooms for the Serengeti or Mount Kilimanjaro, while tourists seem to be in a perpetual state of limbo as they wait for their next bus or plane. But Dar es Salaam is a fascinating and atmospheric city. Brilliant beaches are hidden away just down the road. An intriguing mix of cultures pervades the streets. Historical buildings stand beside traditional markets and modern skyscrapers. For those prepared to explore, Dar es Salaam offers a very authentic African experience.
What’s Dar es Salaam like?
Dar is a down to earth and relaxed place. It might be Tanzania’s biggest city but it’s still retained the atmosphere left over from its days as a small fishing village. African, Indian and Arabic influences harmoniously come together, and then the contrasts ensure there is something new to explore every day. Combine this with some great hotels and restaurants, as well as the welcoming smiles from locals, and it’s hard to understand why Dar es Salaam is so overlooked. There is enough to keep visitors occupied for weeks, but seen as most people only have one or two days, here are some ideas of what to cram into an itinerary.
Authentic African Markets
For a raw absorption in local life visit one of the atmospheric markets around the city. Start in the Kivukoni Fish Market, haggling for barbecued seafood and watching giant fish being auctioned. Now immerse yourself in the vivid Kariakoo market. Traders shout out deals from tiny stalls, smells of fried street food fills the nostrils, while the huge swathes of cotton come in every unimaginable combination of colours. Then haggle for crafts at the Mwenge Carver’s Market. Okay, so it’s possible to find handcrafted carvings anywhere in Tanzania. But Mwenge has an almost baffling quantity of curios on offer. This isn’t just a couple of stores. It’s a whole world of fantastically priced souvenirs. Finally, remember all those charities that collect people’s unwanted clothes. Ilala Market is the pre-owned clothing shop of Tanzania and sifting through the piles always makes people laugh, like spotting a “I just ran the Boston Marathon” t-shirt, or a 1990’s English football jersey.
The Rich History of Dar es Salaam
150 years ago this was nothing more than a tiny fishing village. Since then it’s been ruled by the Germans, the British, an assortment of Sultans, and elected Tanzanians. To learn about some of this history head to the National Museum. This museum goes much further back in time. 3.5 million years to be precise. Countless fossilised human remains exhibit just how old the Tanzanian land is. The regal State House is the official residence of the President, and seeing it from the outside is the Tanzanian equivalent of visiting Westminster in London. For a religious take on history try St Joseph’s Cathedral or the Azania Front Lutheran Church. German missionaries built these distinct monuments and beautiful choir song fills the surrounding streets on Sundays. Finally, the Village Museum offers a look at a traditional tribal lifestyle that lives on in Tanzania.
Dar es Salaam is on the coast. And that means beaches. While the city is dominated by its harbour, virgin white sand makes an ideal day trip. Bongoyo Island is small and uninhabited, making it perfect for recreating any scenes from the TV series Lost. Mbudya Island is even smaller and more deserted. Lounge beneath palm trees and sip cocktails from the bar at the island’s northern end. Alternatively, just 30 minutes drive from the city centre the pristine sand begins. Head south to Kigamboni Beach, where crystal clear water and tranquility can lull anyone into hibernation. Or head north to Bahari Beach.
Nighttime in Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam has arguably the liveliest nightlife in East Africa. Exclusive restaurants offer fine-dining experiences, while the myriad of cultures mean that people can dine on Indian, Chinese, Italian, Ethiopian, and just about every other distinct cuisine. Gaze out over the Indian Ocean sunset from the Coral Beach restaurant, or party to an eclectic blend of music in the centre of the city.
Adding Dar es Salaam To an Itinerary
As the gateway to Tanzania many people will be landing in Dar es Salaam. It’s easy to customise a package to allow a few days exploring the city. Speak to one of our dedicated team or check out the various experiences in Tanzania, including Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Northern Circuit Safari, or Southern Circuit Safari.