History and Economy
In many ways, Tanzanian history is the history of humankind. Fossils found at Olduvai Gorge, one of the world’s premier archaeological sites, suggest that Tanzania has been settled by hominids for over 2 million years. Iron Age migrations from West Africa were followed by European and Arabian merchants, missionaries and slavers, and by the mid-1800s Zanzibar had become the centre of the East African slave trade. Colonised first by the Germans and then the British, independence came peacefully to mainland Tanganyika in 1961. The addition of Zanzibar in 1964 created the modern state of Tanzania.
Rich in mineral wealth and natural gas, Tanzania’s economy is nevertheless dominated by agriculture, which employs 75% of the workforce and accounts for half the country’s GDP. Tanzania’s main exports include gold, coffee, tea and cotton. But it’s tourism, increasing in importance year after year, that is the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.
People and Culture
Some of Tanzania’s 120 ethnic groups make up the African population, with a significant numbers of Asians, Arabs and Europeans too. Even with this mix of identities, Tanzania has long promoted a harmonious national culture, one that is based on a subtle but strong social code of courtesy and respect. English and Swahili are the official languages.
Landscape and Wildlife
Lying between the two arms of the Great Rift Valley, Tanzania’s huge central plateau is bounded on the west by Africa’s great lakes, the north by mountains (including Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak) and the Indian Ocean in the east. Most of the country is covered in grassland, open woodland and savannah, but significant pockets of rainforest exist in remote mountain ranges.
Home to 20% of Africa’s large mammals, Tanzania is one of the continent’s premier game viewing destinations. More than 25% of the country is given over to conservation and several Tanzania animal reserves rank among the biggest in the world. Most visitors head for northern Tanzania, where the most famous and accessible animal reserves are. But it’s in south and central Tanzania where you’ll find huge, virtually unvisited savannah and rainforest reserves that deliver genuine off-the-beaten-track safaris.