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Embassy of Tanzania, DC

About Tanzania

Tanzania on the map

Tanzania is a country located in East Africa (6°00?S, 35°00?E)

Brief History

The United Republic of Tanzania (Kiswahili: Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique to the south. To the east it borders the Indian Ocean.

Tanzania is a result of the unification of Tanganyika (the mainland) and the Zanzibar islands. Tanganyika and Zanzibar united on 26th April 1964, forming the United Republic of Tanzania. Tanganyika became independent from the British on December 1961 and Zanzibar became free through a revolution on 12th January 1964.

Julius Nyerere

Mwalimu Julius k. Nyerere – Revolutionary leader and First President of Tanzania

Some of the oldest human settlements have been unearthed in Tanzania. The oldest human fossils where found  in and around Olduvai Gorge (Oldupai) in northern Tanzania, an area referred to as “The Cradle of Mankind”. It is believed to be the birth place of humanity. Fossils found in this area include Paranthropus bones thought to be over 2 million years old, and the oldest known footprints of the immediate ancestors of humans, the Laetoli footprints, estimated to be about 3.6 million years old.

About 10,000 years ago, Tanzania was populated by hunter-gatherer communities who spoke Khoisan. They were joined by Cushitic-speaking people who came from the north about 5000 years ago. The Khoisan peoples were slowly absorbed. Cushitic peoples introduced basic techniques of agriculture, food production, and later cattle farming. About 2000 years ago, Bantu speaking people began to arrive from western Africa in a series of migrations. They further developed iron working skills, introduced different ideas of social and political organization. Later, Nilotic pastoralists arrived, and continued to immigrate into the area through to the 18th century.

In the early first Millennium CE, trade with Arabia and Persia made the East African coast economically strong. As a result Islam was introduced and due to the Arab-centric doctrine of Islam, some Arabic influences entered the language – resulting in the emergence of the Kiswahili language. The Kiswahili language continued to grow as a result of thriving trade with Arabs, Persians and Indians. Today’s Kiswahili language is colored with influence from Arabic, Indian and European languages, but a majority of it remains Bantu.

Man found at Olduvai Gorge

Stone tools by early man found in Olduvai Gorge-Tanzania

All along the coast, as well as on the islands of the Zanzibar, archipelago, and Kilwa, many trading cities thrived. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, in a period known as the Shirazi Era, these cities flourished, with trade in ivory, gold and other goods extending as far away as India and China. The Swahili influence was felt east to the islands of Comoros and Madagascar, as well as west into central Africa, the great lakes kingdoms, and Zimbabwe. In the early 1300s Ibn Battuta, an international Berber traveler from North Africa, visited Kilwa and proclaimed it one of the best cities in the world. Kilwa was one of the early trading towns in the world to use money.

In 1498 Vasco da Gama became the first European to reach the East African coast, and by 1525 the Portuguese had subdued the entire coast. Portuguese control lasted until the early 18th century, when Arabs from Oman established a foothold in the region. During this time, Zanzibar became the center for the Arab slave trade. Due to the Arab and Persian domination at this later time, many Europeans misconstrued the nature of Swahili civilization as a product of Arab colonization. However, this misunderstanding has begun to dissipate over the past 40 years as Swahili civilization is becoming recognized as principally African in origin.

The port of Zanzibar was visited by Dutch, English and French ships. The British East India Company had a representative in Zanzibar, who acted as an advisor to the Sultan. In 1873 a British fleet forced Sultan Barghash to declare the end of the slave trade. Although reduced, illegal slave trade continued.

In 1848 the German missionary Johannes Rebmann became the first European to see Mount Kilimanjaro, and in 1858 Richard Burton and John Speke mapped Lake Tanganyika. In January 1866 the Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone went to Zanzibar, from where he set out to seek the source of the Nile. After having lost contact with the outside world for years, he was found in the town of Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871. Henry Morton Stanley, who had been sent in a publicity stunt to find him by the New York Herald newspaper greeted him with the now famous words “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

Marhubi Palace ruins - Home of Omani Sultan in late 1800s

Marhubi Palace ruins – Home of Omani Sultan in late 1800s on the Zanzibar Islands

In 1877 the first of a series of Belgian expeditions arrived in Zanzibar. In the course of these expeditions, in 1879 a station was founded in Kigoma on the eastern bank of Lake Tanganyika, soon to be followed by the station of Mpala on the opposite western bank. Both stations were founded in the name of the Comite D’Etudes Du Haut Congo, a predecessor organization of the Congo Free State. The fact that this station had been established and supplied from Zanzibar and Bagamoyo led to the inclusion of East Africa into the territory of the Conventional Basin of the Congo at the Berlin Conference of 1885.

At the table in Berlin, contrary to widespread perception, rules were established among the colonial powers as how to proceed in the establishment of colonies and protectorates. While the Belgian interest soon concentrated on the Congo River, the British and Germans focused on Eastern Africa and in 1886 partitioned continental East Africa between themselves; the Sultanate of Zanzibar, now reduced to the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, remained under the Sultan from Oman for the moment.

The Congo Free State was eventually to give up its claim on Kigoma (its oldest station in Central Africa) and on any territory to the east of Lake Tanganyika, to Germany.
Tanganyika as a geographical and political entity did not take shape before the period of High Imperialism; its name only came into use after German East Africa was transferred to the United Kingdom as a mandate by the League of Nations in 1920.

Tanganyika was colonized first by Germans (1880s until 1919) then the British (1919 to 1961). It served as a military outpost during World War II and provided financial help as well as munitions. Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere became Prime Minister of British-administered Tanganyika in 1960, and continued as Prime Minister when Tanganyika became independent in 1961. He went on to become the first president of Tanzania, after the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar on April 26, 1964. Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere introduced African socialism or Ujamaa, which emphasized justice and equality.

For more information please visit the following sites: Tanzania National Website