A guide to Tanzania

February 19, 2013

Central Tanzania – Kigoma

Filed under: A guide to Tanzania,Central Tanzania,Kigoma — Tags: , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 11:25 am

Kigoma is the most northernmost town on the Tanzanian shores of Lake Tanganyika, bordering both Burundi and the Congo (formerly Zaire), and the lake has officially been declared a Free Trade Zone. The lake is the central focus of the town, and the multitudes of colourful boats clustered along the sands of Kibirizi beach ply a mellow trade between the villages and towns on each of its shores. Such a situation has made it a historical port for trade, exporting local goods, foodstuffs and palm oils, and salt from Uvinza for over a thousand years.

The most prominent people in the region are the Ha, said to have been considered so loyal and hardworking by the first colonial settlers that they were sought after to work on their new plantations. The down side of this for the Ha was that they were therefore discouraged from developing any cash crops of their own, and consequently afforded little economic leverage when the settlers left.

In the late nineteenth century Kigoma became the first landing stage for Europeans on Lake Tanganyika. Sir Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke arrived on its shores in 1856, on a commission from the Royal Geographical Society to find the source of the Nile. In 1886, journalist Henry Morton Stanley came here in search of the missing missionary, explorer and scientist, Dr David Livingstone, although the two men actually met a few kilometres south in Ujiji. The house where Dr Livingstone stayed in Kigoma still stands.

It remains however, a serious undertaking to reach Kigoma overland by road, and the railway link from Dar es Salaam is the most reliable overland route, culminating in an impressively elegant triple-storey railway station, built by the Germans in 1915.

Tanzania – Central Tanzania-Tabora

Filed under: A guide to Tanzania,Central Tanzania,Tabora — Tags: , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 11:24 am

The Tabora region is the traditional centre of the Nyamwezi Tribe, and for this reason was originally referred to as ‘Unyamwezi’, and in its hey-day during the early 1800s, the town of Tabora was called Unyanyembe. Chief Fundikira of Unyanyembe worked to capitalise on the tradition reputation of the Nyamwezi people as long-distance traders of great renowned during the early nineteenth century boom in the Arab slave and ivory trade, but still also continued to trade traditional good such as ivory, beeswax, copper and salt. The name ‘Nyamwezi’ seems to translate in Swahili as ‘People of the Moon’, and it is thought that this was earned in response to their startling emergence from an apparently stark and bleak region of the interior.

The first Arab caravan arrived in around 1800, and just thirty years later the town had become a central staging post. Connections with the coast grew very close; a likely strategic marriage even took place between the daughter of Fundikira and the father of the most renowned of all the Afro-Arab traders, Tippu Tip. A subsequent chief of the Nyamwezi was Chief Mirambo, perhaps one of the greatest of all the clan chiefs, and one who came closest to uniting the miasma of different tribes of the interior before his death in 1884.

The Nyamwezi chief Isike defended Tabora against the onslaught of German Colonial rule in 1891, but when his defeat seemed inevitable he blew himself up inside their tribal arms house, with the aim of taking some Germans with him on the way.

Today, the Nyamwezi cash crops such as cotton and tobacco, and keep livestock. The regional honey is still greatly sought after, and still follows the same trading route to the coast as of yore, although now it is transported along the central railway line, designed to follow the old caravan tracks, between Dar es Salaam and Kigoma. Tabora town is now mainly focused around the station, perhaps the only tangible, reliable connection with life beyond the town, as it is extremely laborious to reach by road, even at the height of the dry season.

Central Tanzania – Dodoma

Filed under: A guide to Tanzania,Central Tanzania,Dodoma — Tags: , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 11:19 am

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.




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