Tanzania is located in East Africa and is Africa’s 13th largest country, with over 50 million people and dozens of cultures and languages. The nation is home to the famed Mount Kilimanjaro, which is Africa’s highest mountain, and the vast Serengeti where tourists can see a variety of unique animals over thousands of square miles. The country was created in 1964 following the merger of two states, Tanganyika, which is the mainland part of the country, and Zanzibar, which is a chain of islands off the coast of mainland Tanzania which was also referred to as the “Spice Islands” in the past. The history of the country stretches back several millennia and the area was well known for steel and iron production as far back as two thousand years ago.
Of course, it should come as little surprise that Tanzania changed hands several times during the colonial period, beginning with a Portuguese incursion into the territory following the 1498 voyage of explorer Vasco da Gama. Following this, however, the Portuguese were forced out by Omani Arabs who would, unfortunately, use the territory to facilitate the slave trade well into the 19th century. Zanzibar would become a Sultanate of its own, and later a British protectorate under the Sultan’s administration.
It was also during the 19th century that the British and Germans competed in mainland Tanzania for control of territory, which led to a large amount of German success. The Imperial German Empire conquered large swaths of Tanzania and incorporated the territory into German East Africa. In the aftermath of World War I, however, Germany’s imperial holdings were surrendered to the British, who would continue to administer Tanganyika until independence in 1961. The British also ended their protectorate of Zanzibar in 1963, which would soon overthrow the Sultan, and end the Arab dominance of the islands after a series of rigged elections were deemed intolerable by the African majority on the island chain.
Following this bloody revolution in Zanzibar, the two entities, Zanzibar and Tanganyika merged to form Tanzania. The country was decidedly socialist, permitting only one party until 1992, and accepting a fair amount of aid from other socialist states before self financing in the 80s. China still maintains a great deal of influence in Tanzania, however, the United States also maintains good relations. With the exception of a war with Uganda from 1978-79 which led to the fall of Uganda’s Idi Amin, Tanzania maintains peace with its many neighbors, though a border dispute with Malawi has proven contentious in recent years. This stability has proven to be a great incentive for tourists to travel to Tanzania, which allows visa-free travel to many of its neighbors, and visas on arrival to almost every other nationality, with exceptions for some (but not all) African, Asian, and Middle Eastern nationals who require visas issued beforehand.
Of course, there are two huge draws for tourists visiting Tanzania; Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. For those wishing to channel their inner Ernest Hemingway, Kilimanjaro can take up to a week to reach the summit and is located in the northwest of the country. The fastest ascents, however, have been less than 8 hours. Travelers should be cautious, as climbing the mountain often leads to at least some form of altitude sickness, and while deaths are rare, a few people do succumb to the mountain each year. Kilimanjaro also happens to be a dormant three cone volcano, with two extinct cores, and one semi-active one at the summit. There was a minor eruption which occurred 200 years ago, however, the last significant eruption happened over 360,000 years ago.
The Serengeti is the perfect place for tourists to experience one of the largest mammal migrations in the world. The grasslands are found largely in Tanzania, and expand south into Kenya, and this territory is also home to the Maasai, a nomadic people who came to the territory from what is now South Sudan sometime between 500 and 1,500 years ago. The Serengeti, which means “endless plains” in the Maasai language, has over 70 species of large mammals and 500 species of birds. Travelers can easily book either a driving or walking Safari in Serengeti National Park, with luxury tents, however, there are options to camp in one of the 9 campsites in the park; this option simply requires permission from the warden. Of course, the taking of flora and fauna, littering, or interfering with the animals is strictly prohibited.
Since many flights will come through Dar es Salaam, travelers will naturally want to check out the country’s largest city, which is also its financial and political hub even though Dodoma is the capital. Travelers, however, should use common sense, and avoid travelling alone in isolated areas, as pick-pocketing, and robberies are not unheard of. Travelers can also access Zanzibar by taking a boat from Dar es Salaam, and see the UNESCO site, Stone Town. Spices are also grown on the island, and visitors can check out the spice plantations and bring some home with them fresh from the source.