Basic facts on Tanzania

Tanzania is one of Africa’s most intriguing nations. With its population standing at 40% Muslim, 40% Christian, 20% animist, the nation is the peaceful host to Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, the Serengeti National Park, and a bewildering array of vibrant and diverse coral reefs.

A brief history of Tanzania

Not much oral tradition has survived about the area now called Tanzania before the colonizing powers settled. The Arab traders penetrated the mainland as far as Lake Tanganyika , where they had stations in Ujiji and Tabora. The main purpose was ivory and slaves, and these trade routes still exist today, now tarmac and railways. The Arabs left a trail of Muslim villages and local leaders and associated traders. Besides warfare, pure commerce was the reason for gaining slaves.  It was easy to buy slaves in those early days, villagers would raid their neighbours and sell them.

The Masai in the north were, in those days, the only tribe that successfully fought off the Arab slave raiders. They were a war-minded nomadic tribe, who were more difficult to attack and raid than a small village as found in the south.

With the arrival of the European powers, colonisation gained scale and speed. The British signed a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar in the hope of stopping Napoleon from gaining access to East Africa and endangering the British jewels in the Far east. The British were the first to set up a Consulate in Zanzibar when Sultan Sayyid of Oman moved there.

The British interest was twofold; to stop and ban slavery and to gain commercial rights in East Africa. The hunt for the source of the Nile , and the exploration of the inland, was partly a romantic ideal but was also fuelled heavily by the enormous economic power to be gained from this knowledge (or so they thought).

The British were not the only ones interested: the Germans were also working their schemes. They started the “German East Africa Company”, which set up treaties with unsuspecting local chiefs to hand over their land and rights. This “company” sphere of influence was mainly concentrated in the coastal strip, and somewhat inland towards Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Moshi. Smoothly, the “company” was given the status of a Protectorate by the German Government; a treaty was then signed with Britain (to keep out the French) and German Tanganyika was born. Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi were given to the British.

The Germans set about building schools, hospitals and roads to turn their new colony into a profit making place, but cattle husbandry was a disappointment; the tsetse fly, found all over the north, was a serious threat. Agriculture was hampered by the dry and unfavorable climate of the interior, and was only profitable in the north, around the mountains.

The Germans held on till the end of World War 1, when they were made to give up all colonies in Africa. Their grand scheme, to eventually unite South West Africa (now Namibia ) and German Tanganyika (Tanzania) had finally failed. A bitter fight was fought between the Germans and the British in East Africa. The famous Konigsberg – and “Pegasus” battle ships sank many British ships around Zanzibar and the mainland deltas, and exercised the “fastest war in history” (45 minutes, see Wilbur Smith and K.Patience).

The British were given the mandate over Tanganyika, who neglected the colony because of the unsuitability for agriculture. The only export crop by then was sisal and besides, the British had Kenya , a much more profitable area.

Slowly farmers in Tanganyika formed co-operations, and their union was the Tanganyika Africa Association. In 1953, Julius Nyerere took over this Union, and quickly transformed it into a political organization, merging it with other parties to form the TANU and taking the slogan “Uhuru na Umoja”  (Freedom and Unity). Tanganyika gained Independence in 1961 in a smooth, bloodless way, and Julius Nyerere was its’ first president.

Zanzibar (and Pemba ) had a rougher ride to Independence. The Afro-Shirazi Party was established in 1957, who gave the main push for independence. however, their two opposing parties were favoured by the British. In 1963, after three elections, the two winning minority parties were given leadership, and formed the first independent government, supported by the British. This enraged the Afro-Shirazi Party (led by Abeid Amaan Karume), and with the support of the mainland TANU Party, a bloody revolution was initiated. The Arabs were the focus, and most were expelled or massacred. The Omani Sultan was replaced by a Revolutionary Council, and Zanzibar (and therefore Pemba ) was made to merge with the mainland, forming the United Republic of Tanzania. Till this day, opposition disputes the outcome of all elections, and independence from the mainland is a central theme for the contemporary opposition parties, claiming the Union was forced on them by the Afro-Shirazi party.

In 1977, the ASP and the TANU formed the CCM, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, still in power today.

dhows ply their trade
wasambara woman
masai dwellings
tourism infrastructure

A Note on Zanzibar

Twenty short miles off the sandy beaches of Tanzania lies the ‘Spice Island’ of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a semi autonomous state within Tanzania that comprises of two islands. The first is the dreamy, untouched deep water Oceanic Island of Pemba, a remote affair with greenery, fields, dhows, hills, clear blue water and only three hotels. Then there is the island of Zanzibar.  It is said that in Swahili the locals call Zanzibar Unguja, but after 11 years of living in Tanzania, I have only heard of Zanzibar and Pemba. If Pemba is the remote getaway with the main attraction of diving, then Zanzibar has the teeming seething mass that is Stone Town. Zanzibar is in effect one big bazaar. It is a true melange with all races selling their wares. The white handpainted stone houses make for narrow walking streets and charming shops.

Zanzibar has a heady atmosphere that is hard to describe. The legendary British Explorer Sir David Livingstone  made Zanzibar his rest halt in between expeditions. He said that this was his favourite place to relax, after an expedition, and yet also once said “Nothing is what it seems in Zanzibar”. In the north of Zanzibar at Kendwa there are pretty beaches and a buzzing tourist scene. Good restaurants and bars abound along the beach strip.

We offer a selection of hotels in Zanzibar from the smallest guest houses in Stone Town to Matemwe Beach Village in Matemwe and Sunset Bungalows in Kendwa. Zanzibar has some interesting macro diving, and pretty reef diving. Do not expect to be overwhelmed here and you will not be disappointed. Raf has dived around the world, and still enjoys his Zanzibar Diving. And being divers ourselves, we know where to go. Scubado and One Ocean are safe and reliable owner managed dive companies. We thoroughly recommend both.  Contact us to add Zanzibar to your safari itinerary.

organic produce
usambara woman