Blog // 08.08.2010

Encountering Tanzania

Article by Aba H

With part of the country bordering the Indian Ocean and others occupied by vast wilderness and ancient cultural monuments, the dynamic spirit of Tanzania is exciting and contagious. Join us as we encounter the home of Mt Kilimanjaro and the birthplace of Swahili. Encounter with us the splendour of Tanzania!

History & People

The strategic location of this coastal country, not to mention its stunning beauty, was a source of envy for outsiders particularly Arab, Portuguese and European traders. Tanzania as we know it today was formed through a political merging of Tanganyika -the mainland- and Pemba and Zanzibar -the offshore Spice Islands. The two geographical entities gained independence from the British in 1961 and 1963 respectively. In 1961 Julius Nyerere became the country’s first president.

This multicultural nation has over 120 different tribal groups -with mainly Bantu roots and Comorian, Shirazi and Arab influences- living under a united Tanzania. This is a heritage that Tanzanians are proud of. One of these tribal groups is the Maasai who are a well-known pastoralist tribe and important carriers of culture and tradition in Tanzania. Until this day they practice their old age customs. Many tourists visit Tanzania hoping to see this unique and respected group of people.

If you have ever been to Tanzania or interacted with Tanzanians you will know that they are warm and friendly. According to Zaninka Flavia, a Rwandese who grew up in Moshi – a town near Mt. Kilimanjaro- not only are the people very friendly but they also have a strong sense of loyalty to their communities. When in Tanzania, getting to know the people is a must!

Places of Interest

Some of Africa’s most famous game reserves are found in Tanzania. Some of which are the Ngorongoro National Park home to gazelles, wildebeest, zebras, leopards, lions, the white rhino and cheetahs- and the Serengethi. The Ngorogoro crater is a spectacular sight and has been referred to by some as one of the world’s Natural Wonders. Another famous game reserve is the Selous Game Reserve –which is larger than the entire country of Switzerland.

Aside from the popular wildlife attractions in the north and the spectacular beaches along the coast, which are both common tourist stops, Tanzania has a lot more to offer! There remain beauties that toursits are yet to explore such as Pangani Island and Mafia Island -which were once ports for merchant ships- and Gombe Stream National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park which are excellent chimpanzee sightseeing destinations. Other beuatiful trousits attractions are the Ruaha National Park, the ancient rock paintings around Kolo village and the Lake Victoria shoreline.

The coastline has remained serene and rich with the diverse Swahili culture which includes a strong Muslim heritage, Swahili arts and crafts and Swahili music. The coastline was once a trading route for jewels, slaves and spices from the Indian sub-continent to the Middle-East and is adorned with old mosques and coral palaces.

A Tanzanian feature that needs no introduction is Africa’s highest mountain-Mt. Kilimanjaro- which stands 5, 895m (19, 341ft) tall, which takes about one week to climb.

Cuisine

Tastes in Tanzania vary but a main dish enjoyed is ugali made from either corn, sorghum, cassava or millet flour and it is usually eaten with meat, vegetables or a fish stew. Tanzanians along the coast prefer rice or pilau, which is a cinnamon-flavoured rice, to ugali. Goat, cattle and sheep are used mainly for milk but are also eaten during festive occasions. Tanzania has fertile soil and as a result they can enjoy foods such as beans, spinach, maize, fruits and plantain (cooking bananas). Mishikaki (barbecued meat) is also very popular in Tanzania. Coconuts grow in abundance along the coast and Swahili dishes include seafood seasoned with coconut milk and spices.

Mandazi -a sweet fried bread- samosas, sugar cane, peanuts and chapattis are eaten as snacks or served with tea. Tea is commonly served throughout the day and home-brewed beers -Mbege and Konyag-) are also popular beverages.

Coconut Bean Soup

Ingredients
125 ml chopped onion
3 tsp margarine or butter, melted
125ml chopped green pepper
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
250ml chopped tomato
625ml canned kidney beans
500ml coconut milk
750ml water
125ml cooked rice

Preparation

Saute the onions in the butter. Add the green peppers and season with curry powder, salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 2 minutes. Add kidney beans, coconut milk and water to the mixture and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rice and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season to taste.- From “Eating the Tanzanian way”

The Women of Tanzania

Dr. Magdalena Ngaiza is among many of the terrific women in the country. She is a senior Development Studies Lecturer at the University of Dar Es Salaam and believes in respecting local wisdom when developing solutions through consultation with both men and women.

Upon realising the link between poverty and gender issues, she assisted in the establishment of the Association of Women Leaders in Agriculture and Environment (TAWLAE). This Association gives local communities in Tanzania’s Mkuranga costal area technical expertise in processing and selling fruits and vegetables; in making paw-paw jam and in drying cassava.

The stories of all Tanzania’s amazing women cannot be fully covered in this article however Frontline Management, a local Events and PR company, has taken the initiative to appreciate Tanzanian women through the Tanzania Women of Achievement Awards. This Award recognises women of all backgrounds, ages and social status who are making a difference to Tanzania’s economic and social situation. Through celebrating these women the awards provide role models and encourage other women to step out into a world of ingenuity and compassion. According to Mrs. Sadaka Gandi -the head of the awards committee- “we need more heroes and role models in Tanzania as without heroes, we are all plain people, and don’t know how far we can go.” These are only a few examples of some exciting things women are doing in the country.

Tanzania has a unique rhythm, from the fierce Maasai warriors to the serene Swahili coast and the dynamic cuisine. The treasures and beauties of this East African country cannot be emphasised enough. You’ll just have to see for yourself!

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