Tanzania QUick Facts

  • OFFICIAL NAME: United Republic of Tanzania
  • CAPTIAL: Dar es Salaam (administrative captial), Dodoma (legislative capital)
  • AREA: 365,755 square miles (947,300 square kilometers)
  • POPULATION: 55,451,343
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Kiswahili or Swahili, English
  • MONEY: Tanzanian shilling
  • FLAG:



    Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa and includes the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia. About twice the size of California, this African country is bordered by the Indian Ocean and eight countries: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique.

    Mount Kilimanjaro, once an active volcano, is the highest point in Africa and is bordered by three of the largest lakes on the continent: Lake Victoria (the world’s second-largest freshwater lake) in the north, Lake Tanganyika in the west, and Lake Nyasa in the southwest.


    About 90 percent of Tanzanians live in rural areas and live off what they can grow on the land. Tanzania’s early people were hunters and gatherers. Traders moved to the country in about A.D. 800. The native people married the newcomers from India, Arabia, and the Shirazis from Persia. Their language, Kiswahili, spread to other East African areas.

    There are about 120 African tribal groups in Tanzania. Arranged marriage is still customary for many Tanzanian families and parents start planning for their daughter’s future when she is young

    Parts of the country are infested with the tsetse fly. This blood sucking insect carries sleeping sickness, which affects humans and livestock. While the government has tried to eliminate the flies, many areas are not safe for humans or their animals. Malaria is always a threat in the country. Soccer is the favorite sport in Tanzania.


    The staple food in Tanzania depends on the region that one is coming from. The people from the North West prefer plantains, those from the South West prefer Ugali and those along the coast prefer rice. These staple carbohydrates are accompanied by a fish, beef, goat, chicken or mutton stew or fried pieces of meat, along with several types of vegetables such as beans and sukuma (greens), pumpkin or sweet potatoes.

    Walking along the streets especially in urban market areas, many local delicacies are sold such as fried plantains, sweet potatoes, charcoal roasted maize on the cob, pieces of dried or fried fish, mshikaki, grilled pieces of meat, samosas, and chapatis to name a few.


    Most of the land was once savanna and bush, but today is semidesert. There is an abundance of wildlife in Tanzania. The largest remaining elephant populations in the world are in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, but they are still being killed for their ivory tusks.

    Some of the most well-known African mammal species are native to Tanzania: wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, elephant, rhino, lion, and leopard. They are endangered due to poaching. Crocodiles and hippopotamuses can be found along riverbanks and lakeshores, and giant turtles live off the coast.

    The Gombe Stream National Park is a well-known chimpanzee sanctuary where Jane Goodall did research on chimps in their natural habitat. Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s oldest and most popular park for tourists. It is linked to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and is home to over 1.7 million wildebeest, and about a million other animals.


    The president is the head of the country and chief of the armed services. General elections are held once every five years. Zanzibar also has its own president, assembly, ministry, and makes its own laws. Zanzibar is wealthier than the rest of the country. Dar es Salaam is the administrative capital, but Dodoma will be the future capital and is home to Tanzania’s legislature.


    Tanzania has a harmonious national culture that is based on a subtle but strong social code of courtesy and respect with politeness, respect and modesty being virtues that highly valued in the community. The ability to keep control of one’s temper and emotions in public is highly valued, and this repression is true of mutual affection as well. Boys and men however commonly holds hands in public as a sign of friendship or comradeship

    There are many factors that have contributed to the national identity of Tanzanians.

    Kiswahili language – This is the lingua-franca of the nation, is spoken and revered by all, and is a compulsory subject in schools. Tanzanians have strong feelings of national pride and cohesion, and the use of a common language has enabled Tanzanians to resolve most internal conflicts without resorting to violence and keeping the country at peace

    Independence from colonial rule and the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form a United Republic. Socialism as endorsed by first president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and sanctioned in the Arusha Declaration of 1967. As an expression of social collectivity, ujamaa villages were created whose core structure was based on mutual assistance and cooperation.

    National Resources such as Mount Kilimanjaro and other natural attractions such as the Serengeti and the world’s largest caldera, Ngorongoro crater as well as Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, contribute to the Nations sense of national identity.


    There are more than 120 ethnic tribes in Tanzania, the largest being the Sukuma (over three million), and the Chagga, Haya, and Nyamwezi with over one million each. They are all united by the use of Kiswahili, a coastal Bantu language with Arabic influence.

    In his quest for his people to identify themselves as one people the first president Julius Nyerere encouraged all Tanzanians to communicate in Swahili, which facilitated trade, political debate, nationalism and information.

    English is also spoken by most of the Tanzanians of post-secondary education in addition to their tribal languages. When traveling it’s always a good idea to go with a little local language knowledge.


    After Tanganyika and Zanzibar became independent countries, they merged in 1964 to form the nation of Tanzania. Tanzania is the world’s largest producer of cloves.

    Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania is the location of the oldest human settlements found by Louis and Mary Leakey. This area is often called “The Cradle of Civilization.”


    Tanzania is a large nation and has a varied equatorial climate. Overall the climate is tropical, with hot and humid coastal areas while the northwestern highlands are cool and temperate. In the highlands of the northeast temperatures range between 10C and 20C while the rest of the country rarely drops below 20C. Generally the hottest period of the year is November to February and the coolest period from May to August.


    Tanzania also has two rainy seasons in the northern and eastern regions, the short and long rains. The short rains known as Vuli happen from October to December, while the long rains known as Masika are from March until June. In southern, central and western parts of the country there is only one rainy season between December and April.

    Global climate change has blurred the traditional dates of the rainy seasons, which has an impact on climbing Kilimanjaro, because clearly the best times to attempt a summit would be during the dry periods from June to October. Nowadays however there can still be rains in July and longer rains can start early in September.

    For up-to-date weather information on the mountain you can check out snow-forecast.com or see our Climate Information Page.


    The warm Tanzania climate lasts from mid-December to March, roughly corresponding with the rainy period of the south, west, and central region of the country.  From June to October, it is generally colder and drier across the country.  Temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru drop below freezing at night.

    Knowing the temperature and climate during the month in which you want to climb Kilimanjaro is clearly of great importance in preparing for Kilimanjaro and in particular your Kilimanjaro packing list.

    Annual Weather Patterns

    • January – February: Dry summer season, dry.
    • March – May: Long rainy season with high humidity, heavy downpours in the afternoons and daily temperatures just below 30°C.
    • June – October: Dry season. Temperatures vary with altitude and location, but usually fine clear skies and sunny weather.
    • November – December: Short rains, mostly daily thunderstorms, becoming dry and warm at the end of the year.

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