Tanzanian Culture

Standing on the ocean’s edge looking from the mainland of Tanzania towards its islands of Zanzibar, Mafia and Thanda Island, you can smell Zanzibar’s legendary tropical spices on the trade winds and hear the ancient voices of the people of Tanzania singing their haunting, part African, part Arabic songs. Their songs recall a time of slavery and their fight for freedom; their songs speak of life’s difficulties and dangers, and of its briefness and beauty.

Tanzania's culture is layered with the history of many centuries and as many cultural influences, with 120 different ethnic groups in the country. The main languages spoken today are Swahili, Arabic and English, and trade between the Arab traders and the coastal Tanzanians dates back to the first century BC.

The Swahili people’s love affair with the ocean is reflected in the traditional fishing dhows with their iconic triangular sails, which have been around for over 2000 years and are still widely used. Another intoxicating living tradition in Tanzania is that of the Maasai - a clan of statuesque, regal people clad in traditional red cloth and adornments, whose wealth is their cattle. Then there are the architectural statements from past times, including the exquisite Zanzibari doors with Arabic-Indian influences dating back centuries. In days gone by, the door would be the first part of the house to be erected; the richer the owner the more ornate the door.