Dar es Salaam (familiarly called "Dar" by many) has long been the largest and most important city in Tanzania—ever since it was a trading center for Arab and Omani sailing ships that arrived here on the Indian Ocean trade winds in the eighth and ninth centuries. It was this cultural influence that shaped the coast of both Kenya and Tanzania. This coastal strip in both countries is today a predominantly Moslem region. Much of the trade (in slaves, ivory, and spices) was concentrated both in Dar es Salaam Tanzania and Zanzibar, as well as farther north in Mombasa and Lamu.
The German East Africa Company (like the British East Africa Company in what is now Kenya) established a trading station in Dar es Salaam in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, beginning a period of African colonial rule that continued until the mid-twentieth century. The city of Dar es Salaam Tanzania served as the capital of Tanganyika and later of the country of Tanzania, which merged with the island Sultanate of Tanzania in 1964. The country's capital city was officially moved to the more central inland city of Dodoma in 1974. Nonetheless, the National Assembly did not move there until 1996. Many government office, foreign embassies, and international corporate headquarters remain in Dar es Salaam to this day. Major Dar Es Salaam hotels include important international franchises like Kempenski, Movenpick, Protea, Holiday Inn, Best Western, and Golden Tulip.
As the city is the largest and most important in the country, it boasts the country's most important airport, the Julius Nyere International Airport named for the country's first president. Although a large percentage of visitors arrive at Arusha's Kilimanjaro Airport for a Tanzania safari, the greatest number of people will fly into the Dar es Salaam Tanzania airport, coming in from around the world, including Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Many flights from international cities will stop in both Arusha and Dar. In addition to business and government passengers, flights include passengers going on to holidays on the beaches of Zanzibar, for wildlife safaris that include the Serengeti National Park and Selous Game Reserve, and for climbs to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the continent of Africa.
This is a cosmopolitan city with excellent museums and many fine international restaurants. There are several Dar es Salaam hotels of a very high international standard, catering to both tourists and business travelers. However, few tourists remain in the city for than a day or two, as most are simply passing through on their way to the country's most famous and popular attractions—the incredible wildlife reserves. However, a good number of people (especially Europeans) come here only for beach holidays and do not go on wildlife safaris at all. There are several Dar Es Salaam hotels and resorts on the ocean on the peninsula just to the north of the city.
Also to the north within an hour's drive is the town of Bagamoyo, once the capital of German East Africa and a major slave depot. There are fascinating ruins here in this town where slaves were brought to be loaded on ships for export primarily to the Arab countries. The name of the town comes from this sad history, and literally translated means "lay down your heart." And, of course, there are the pristine coral beaches on the exotic spice island of Zanzibar.
Image: Roland | Wikipedia Commons