Pinpointed almost at the very centre of Tanzania, Dodoma is an arid agricultural region that has acquired an unusual prominence since the decision was taken in 1973 to make it the capital of the independent republic of Tanzania. While this political decision was taken in part to ensure that neither Muslims nor Christians felt under-represented, it remains fairly distant for either to visit – despite the completion of a tarmac road from Dar es Salaam via Morogoro – and the capital city has remained ‘pending official transfer’ since that time. Nevertheless, the Tanzanian parliament meets for sessions here at The Bunge, for which most government officials make their way from Dar es Salaam, and disappear off again when the debates are complete. In this way the regional home of the once almost-forgotten Gogo people has been revived by a fairly gentle breath of fresh life, and given them an opportunity to make themselves heard by flurries of passing politicians. The Gogo share the region with the Sandawe people, descendants of the first hunter-gather tribes, and the Rangi and Burungi peoples.
The Gogo are accomplished agriculturists and pastoralists, and succeed in cultivating a number of productive crops regardless of the distinct lack of rain in the region. The sandy soil here has proven ideal for cultivating ground nuts, which proliferate alongside maize, millet and beans, but the region is distinguished by its most recently introduced cash crop – somewhat unusual for East African agriculture – grapevines. The vineyards were introduced here by Italian missionaries in 1957, and are said to have produced a very potent port, which although not widely available at present may well develop greater renowned in the future.
This dusty centre existed as a caravan transit point during the earliest days of trade, during which time the Gogo developed an impressive reputation as caravan raiders, but the town was officially founded by the German colonial government when the railway reached here in 1907.