Dar es Salaam is a coastal capital in the process of reinventing itself, and is emerging as a cosmopolitan city that is enjoyable to explore. Dar remains at heart a bustling Swahili market town, yet is a centre of trade and commerce which attracts ambitious Africans from all of Tanzania and its neighbouring countries, and international communities who come to this port for all manner of business. This is Tanzania's communication hub, a world apart from the lifestyle of the rural majority.
For city-lovers, Dar has plenty of quirks, and a reasonably casual East African pace everywhere other than at its hectic centre. Its Indian Ocean location offers realms of respite: a wild coastline and sea breeze, easy excursions and seaside accommodation. One lodge in particular, Ras Kutani
, is only a stone’s throw from Dar yet extremely remote and arguably the best mainland beach lodge on the whole coastline.
The city physically reflects the paradox of Indian Ocean calm and enterprise. High-rise residential buildings and gleaming office blocks have grown up around the city centre and certain suburban areas, and yet the old character of its periodically Arabic, German and British colonial and African past is still much in evidence in the low-rise red-tiled roofs on the main streets and in the makuti- thatched suburbs. Laden ocean-going tankers cruise across the horizon, and in their wake Arab dhows skim the waves and dock on shores green with mangroves and palms.
Despite confusion over the role of Dar es Salaam - officially demoted from capital city in 1973, but still awaiting the actual transfer of government to Dodoma - it remains the most urbanized centre in Tanzania and its commercial capital, so it acts as a good mirror of the country’s economic state. The range of new businesses, cafes, bars, restaurants and products now available reflects the success of the market reforms urgently introduced in 1986. That said, on your Tanzania holiday
, Dar is not an itinerary imperative!
Dar es Salaam - Where to stay
There are a number of large 4* business hotels in Dar where the majority of travellers tend to stay. There is little to distinguish between the popular options, but we tend to choose Dar es Salaam Serena
and the Southern Sun (the old Holiday Inn) as our first choices.
Further outside town, the Sea Cliff is a similar-styled option with better views, but the only really high quality boutique option in town is The Oyster Bay
- a small 8 roomed hotel owned by the people responsible for Selous’ famous Beho Beho
lodge. The accommodation at Oyster Bay is stunning and the food and service impeccable, however the price tends to push most travellers towards the larger hotel options. For the budget option there is no better choice than the Souk at the Slipway with rooms starting from as little as $60 per night.