Tanzania, a land of spectacular beauty, and one of the largest countries in Africa, is a union (formed in 1964) between the mainland (Tanganyika), and the Zanzibar Isles consisting of Unguja (also known as Zanzibar) and Pemba. It lies on the east coast of Africa, between 1degree and 11degrees south of the Equator. It is bordered to the north by Kenya and Uganda. To the west is Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia, and to the south are Malawi and Mozambique. It covers an area of 945,000 sq. km, the size of Denmark, France, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom combined.
Tanzania comprises a coastal lowland, volcanic highlands and the Great Rift Valley and includes within its territory, Africa's highest peak.
Tanzania is the only country in the world which has allocated at least 25 per cent of its total area to wildlife national parks and protected areas. The total protected area is equivalent to the size of the Federal Republic of Germany and Belgium combined. The 55,000 sq. km Selous Game Reserve, the largest single wildlife area in Africa, is bigger than Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, Burundi, Israel, Lesotho and Kuwait respectively.
Tropical weather prevails over most of Tanzania. The coastal area is hot and humid. In the northern circuit cool weather prevails from May to September. The hottest months for the whole country are from October to February. The long rains are from March to May, and the short rains from October to November. Coastal areas and the islands have tropical climate, whereas the central plateau is semi-arid and the highlands are semi-temperature.
The evocative mix of people and cultures in Tanzania creates a tapestry of memories for the visitor.
Since the dawn of mankind, when the savannahs of east and southern Africa saw the birth of humanity, Tanzania has been home to countless peoples of many different origins. Tanzania's history has been influenced by a procession of peoples, from the original Bantu settlers from south and west Africa to the Arabs from Shiraz in Persia and the Oman; from the Portuguese to the Germans and the British. Tanzanians took control of their own destiny with independence in 1961.
It has a population of over 26 million with 120 African ethnic groups, none of which represent more than 10 per cent of the population. The SUKUMA, the largest group, live in the north-western part of the country, south of Lake Victoria. They are fairly commercial oriented and have prospered with a mix of cotton farming and cattle herding.
The HADZAPI of northern Tanzania have built a society based on hunting and gathering food, while the IRAQW live in the central highlands of Mbulu and are known for their statuesque, immobile posture and sharply delineated features. They grow their own food and tend cattle.
The MASAAI, who are perhaps the most well known of East Africa's ethnic groups, are pastoralists whose livelihood and culture is based on the rearing of cattle, which are used to determine social status and wealth. They dominate northern Tanzania but only occupy a fraction of their former grazing grounds in the north, much of which they now share with national parks and other protected areas. They are easily recognised by their single red or blue garments and their ochre covered bodies.
North of the Masaai steppe, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, live the CHAGGA, who farm the mountain side. Through cooperative farming they have achieved a fair standard of living.
The GOGO live near Dodoma and have developed slowly due to lack of water. The formerly warlike HEHE live in Iringa District's highland grasses.
The Makonde are internationally famous for their intricate wood (ebony) carvings (sold over much of East Africa). They live along the coast on the Makonde plateau and their relative isolation has resulted in a high degree of ethnic self-awareness.
The NYAMWEZI, whose name translates into "People of the Moon", were probably so called because of their location in the west. The Nyamwezi, now cultivators, were once great traders. The 19th century European explorers regarded them the most powerful group in the interior.
The HAYA, located along the shores of Lake Victoria, to the north-west of the Nyamwezi, grew and traded coffee long before the arrival of the Europeans and today have established tea and coffee processing plants. Haya women produce excellent handicrafts.
In an area of forest and bush live the HA who retain a deep belief in the mystical. They live in relative solitude with their long-horned cattle and wearing hides or fibres of bark. They are well known for their artistic expression, especially their dances and celebrations.
Tanzanians will tell you that the reason for the relative harmony between the various ethnic groups is that virtually everyone speaks Swahili in addition to their native tongue.
Only 50 per cent of the children attend primary schools, and just four per cent the fee-paying secondary schools. However, adult literacy campaigns have achieved high levels of literacy.
Basic medical care is provided by the state and private (mainly Christian) health centres. Rural areas are served by local clinics.
The economy is still suffering from slow growth and a shortage of foreign exchange, and agriculture, in particular, from poor availability of credit and equipment. However, coffee, cotton, sisal, tea and diamonds are in rich supply and Zanzibar is the world's third largest producer of cloves. State reforms have cut inflation and the budget deficit, bringing a rise in inward investment and a return to positive growth.
The majority of Tanzanians are subsistence farmers. The small wealthy elite is composed mainly of Asian and Arab business families.
Almost half a million travellers pass through Dar-es-Salaam International airport annually. An $870 million programme to improve the country's trunk roads is due for completion this year.
Former President Julius Nyerere's philosophy of Ujamaa (African Socialism) guided Tanzania's development for 21 years until he retired in 1980. His successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, oversaw a relaxation of these policies and moved the country towards its first multiparty elections last year. The new Union President is Benjamin Mkapa, a former journalist. The non-acceptance by some Zanzibaris of their union with Tanganyika is still a problem and separatism is a growing force.
Tanzania plays a role in both eastern and southern Africa and is an active member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), established in 1992 to promote economic integration.
Tanzania is heavily dependent on aid receipts of over $1 billion annually to offset a severe balance of payments deficit.
Defence takes 15 per cent of the country's budget. The armed forces are closely linked to the ruling Revolutionary Party of Tanzania (CCM), and there is an 85,000-strong citizens' reserve force.
More than 90 per cent of the energy demand is met by wood and charcoal, but hydroelectric projects are now producing 70 per cent of the electricity. To reduce the need for expensive oil imports, there are plans to exploit offshore gas at Songo Songo. Oil deposits have also been discovered off Pemba Island.
Including livestock, agriculture accounts for 60 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 80 per cent of employment and exports.
Include natural gas, oil, iron, diamonds, gold, salt, phosphates, coal, gypsum, kaolin and tin.
The daily press is state-owned but censorship is minimal. Much of the independent press publishes in Kiswahili. The English language Daily News is available in Dar-es-Salaam and other main towns. Kenya's Daily Nation and The EastAfrican are available in Dar-es-Salaam, Arusha and Mwanza. Time and Newsweek, and several European and American papers can be found at stalls on Uhuru Avenue in Dar-es-Salaam.