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Ep 12-14: Tanzania - Green Paradise & Land of Peace

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Jovin Kyenkungu was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tanzania is an East African country known for its lush green landscape, the iconic Serengeti National Park and the tallest peak in Africa - Mount Kilimanjaro.

Tanzanian people as a whole are cheerful, peaceful and optimistic.

​​”Back home, there’s this saying that we laugh a lot or we smile a lot because life there is not that good, so we just have to make the most of life,” says Jovin Kyenkungu, who was born in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania and now lives in Toronto, Canada.

Way of Life

What sets Tanzania apart from North America is that life there revolves around family and community, says Jovin.

“It’s a​​ less individualist society and more family-oriented,” he explains. “What people do there is mostly for their family rather than thinking for themselves.”

Jovin says the best part about visiting home is being together with family again. You’ll hop from one house to another meeting aunties and cousins throughout your trip and they’ll feed you and entertain you endlessly, making you feel the warmth of being part of a larger family.

The social norm for a typical nuclear family in Tanzania includes a working father with a stable job to support the family and a mother whose primary duty is to raise children and if possible earn some extra income on the side dabbling in various side jobs or running her own part-time business.

In 2023, the average salary in Tanzania is $160 USD per month. The majority of people in Tanzania (70 per cent Jovin estimates) make enough to meet their daily needs and perhaps to own a small house, while five percent are considered ultra wealthy. They’re often the big producers in the country in charge of its construction industry or other infrastructure systems.

Compared to its neighbor Kenya, Tanzania’s economy is still on the come up. New transportation systems are being built to better connect the country. People's lives are improving, albeit very slowly, largely due to a combination of corruption and historical problems.

Today, many university grads still struggle to find a job due to the lack of opportunities. Those who can afford to leave the country go to Europe or North America for better opportunities, while those who can’t open up their own shop instead of going to university in order to earn sooner, but it’s still a daily hustle, says Jovin.

What keeps people going are the small things in life, he says, like being thankful for their family or the beautiful nature they have. “It could even be the weather or being by the coast. It’s hard to be negative when the land around you is so beautiful.”

Culture & Customs

Tanzanian culture reflects the historical waves of people that have settled in the area from abroad as well as the local indigenous tribes. Arab merchants first came to trade with the indigenous tribes as early as the 5th century, then the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century followed by the Germans in the late 1800s. The Germans controlled the country from 1885 to 1918, and then the British took over the administration until in 1964 when Tanzania finally gained its independence through the union of Tanganyika (the mainland) and Zanzibar (the Arab-dominated island off the coast).

Historic Arab and German influences on the culture can be seen in the official language of Tanzania, says Jovin. For example the swahili word for school is “shule,” pronounced “SHOE-leh,” which comes from the German word “schule” and is pronounced the same.

Before the outsiders came, various tribes resided in Tanzania. The country in the 21st century is still home to more than 120 indigenous tribal groups each with their own distinct culture, language and traditions. However in big cities like Dar es Salaam where Jovin’s family lives and Dodoma the capital, people have abandoned their traditional dress, making it impossible to tell someone's origin. Only in the rural regions are tribal garbs and traditions still seen in public.

In Tanzania, the different tribes live in harmony unlike its neighbor Kenya, where tribal conflicts are a regular occurrence and tribal identification factors heavily in its politics. This makes Tanzania a uniquely peaceful country in East Africa, says Jovin.

His mother and father are part of the Chaga and Haya tribes of Tanzania respectively. The Chaga people reside near Mount Kilimanjaro and are the country’s third largest tribe known for their successful agriculture techniques and distinctive houses called Chaga huts, while the Haya people who live in northwestern Tanzania are known for their beekeeping practices and rich oral tradition, myths and legends that have been passed down generations.

His parents moved to Dar es Salaam from the countryside in search of better opportunities like many other rural Tanzanians. They no longer practice their tribal traditions such as ancestral worship and the traditional ways of living.

The arrival of Christianity has overtaken and cleansed many of the traditional practices of local indigenous groups, says Jovin. Only at his grandmother’s place can he still catch a glimpse of the old ways of living - smoky fire cooking in a mud hut while women exchange ancestral stories and plots of burial space reserved for family members kept right in front of his grandmother's house.

Travel Recommendations

Here are four top destinations to hit if you’re looking to visit Tanzania:

  • Serengeti National Park - see wild elephants, lions, hippos and giraffes up close in a jeep and camp under the stars. The park has the highest concentration of large mammals in the world and the best time to visit is from June to October, which offers the best wildlife viewing and is also the time of the Great Migration, in which more than a million wildebeest, zebras and other animals migrate across the open plains.

  • Dar es Salaam - the largest city and commercial hub of Tanzania. Visit the National Museum and House of Culture to learn about Tanzania’s rich culture and heritage. Stop by at the vibrant Kariakoo Market where tourists can shop for various goods including local crafts, fabrics, and fresh produce. Hit the beach near dawn and try famous Swahili seafood and nyama choma barbeque meat skewers as you mingle with the locals.

  • Zanzibar - 2 hours away from Dar es Salam by ferry, this island off the coast of the mainland is renowned for its pristine beaches and rich history and is a popular vacation spot for locals and foreigners. Stone Town, the heart of Zanzibar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring a variety of markets, streets, mosques and architecture reflecting the mix of Arab, Indian and European influences on the island. Zanzibar is also major trading port in East Africa, you can join a spice tour to learn about the island's renowned spice trade.

  • Mount Kilimanjaro - for those who enjoy the outdoors, why not plan a hiking trip up the highest mountain in Africa and enjoy the breathtaking scenery as you pass through diverse ecological zones starting from lush rainforests at the base to alpine desert and snow-capped peaks at the summit. An expedition to the top could take anywhere from five to nine days.


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