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Educators Programs in Tanzania

Exploring Tanzania

Country Basics 

Tanzania is located in East Africa, bordered by the Indian Ocean, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. The country has a population of over 65 million people. The capital city was moved to Dodoma in 1996.

The terrain consists of highlands in the north and south, plains along the coast, and plateau in the center with large wildlife preserves throughout the country.

Tanzania has over 21 national parks, including Serengeti National Park which has a massive annual wildebeest and zebra migration. The park is home to one of the most productive ecosystems on earth, sustaining the largest number of hoofed animals and the highest concentration of large predators in the world, including lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyenas.

The impressive wildlife and the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro brings many tourists to Tanzania each year. Mount Kilimanjaro has an elevation of 5,895 meters (19,340 feet) above sea level, making it the largest free-standing mountain in the world.

Brief History 

Archaeologists have found evidence that the world’s oldest hominid settlements began in the Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania. The gorge was settled about 10,000 years ago by hunter-gatherer tribes and later settled by Bantu tribes migrating from West Africa.

The Portuguese first laid claim to Zanzibar in the 16th century, but the island was later claimed as a Sultanate of the Oman Arabs. Both Germany and Britain claimed “spheres of influence” over Tanganyika in the late 1800s. After World War I, the first League of Nations officially gave the territory to Britain. Tanganyika gained independence from British rule in 1961 and joined with Zanzibar in 1964 to form present-day Tanzania.

After independence, a one-party government under Julius Nyere of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi Revolutionary Party (CCM) ruled Tanzania under a republican constitution and a socialist economic policy called Ujamaa. Tanzania now holds multi-party elections, although CCM has continued to dominate national politics.

Cultural Expectations 

While in Tanzania, you can expect… 

the local people to treat you with interest, curiosity, and kindness, and the kids to hold your hand and touch your hair.

While in Tanzania, locals will expect you…

to be interested in their artwork, to play as hard as you work, and to cover your shoulders.

Cultural Icon

Freddie Mercury was born Farouk Bulsara in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Freddie moved to England and rose to world-wide fame as the lead singer of the rock band Queen.


When in Tanzania, you will feast on… 

  • Wali (rice)
  • Ugali (maize porridge)
  • Chapatti (bread)
  • Nyama choma (grilled meat)
  • Mshikaki (marinated beef)
  • Ndizi-nyama (plantains with meat)


The currency of Tanzania is the shilling which is subdivided into 100 cents. The Tanzanian shilling replaced the East African shilling in 1966.


Both Swahili (or Kiswahili) and English are the official languages of Tanzania. English is the primary language of commerce, government, and higher education. Arabic is widely spoken in Zanzibar.


  • Hello: Hujambo 
  • Reply to Hujambo: Sijambo 
  • Hello (to an older person): Shikamoo
  • Reply to Shikamoo: Marahaba 
  • How are you? Habari gani?; Good: Nzuri/Safi 
  • Good morning: Habari za asubuhi;Good afternoon: Habari za mchana; Good night: Usiku mwema 
  • You are welcome: Karibu; You are all welcome: Karibuni 
  • Goodbye: Kwaheri 


  • Please: Tafadhali; Thank you: Asante 
  • Excuse me: Samahani 
  • May I enter? Hodi? 
  • Sorry: Pole


  • What is your name? Jina lako nani?; My name is ___. Jina langu ___. 
  • Where are you from? Unatoka wapi?; I am from ___. Ninatoka ___. 
  • How old are you? Una miaka mingapi?; I am ___ years old. Mimi nina miaka. 
  • Do you speak English? Unasema Kingereza?; I speak a little Swahili. Ninajua Kiswahili kidogo. 


  • Could you repeat that please? Tafadhali sema tena? 
  • How do you say ___ in Swahili? Unasemaje ___ kwa Kiswahili? 
  • I don’t understand. Sifahamu. 
  • I want to go to ___. Ninataka kwenda ___. 
  • Where is ___? Wapi ___? 
  • I would like ___. Ninataka ___.
  • How much is it? Ni bei gani? 

Swahili proverbs 

  • Together for one goal: Pamoja kwa lengo moja 
  • Slowly is the best course: Pole pole ndiyo mwendo
  • Hurry has no blessing: Haraka haraka haina baraka 
  • A person is people: Mtu ni watu (similar to “no man is an island”)
  • Little by little fills up the measure: Haba na haba hujaza kibaba

Ethnic Groups

On the mainland 99 percent of the population is African. Of this, 95 percent are Bantu, consisting of over 130 tribes. The other one percent include Asian, European, and Arab ethnicities. The Zanzibar populations are primarily Arab, African, mixed Arab and African.


The breakdown in the country is:

63.1 percent Christian, 34.1 percent Muslim, 1.1 percent folk religion, less than one percent of people in other faiths such as Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish. The island of Zanzibar is almost entirely Muslim.

Did You Know? 

  • Tanzania is the largest country on the East African coast.
  • Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, and one of only two mountains on the continent that has glaciers (the other is Mount Kenya).
  • Tanzania is bordered by three of the largest lakes on the continent: Lake Victoria (the world’s second-largest freshwater lake) in the north, Lake Tanganyika (the world’s second deepest) in the west, and Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) in the southwest.
  • Hakuna Matata, the popular phrase from Disney’s The Lion King, means “no worries” in Swahili. Simba is also Swahili for lion.
  • The world’s earliest human skull was found in the Olduvai Gorge.
  • Tanzania has the largest concentration of wildlife animals per square kilometer with more than 4 million wild animals and representatives of 430 species and subspecies.
  • Jane Goodall did her research on chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park.
  • Tanzania shares its national anthem with South Africa and Zimbabwe. It’s titled “Mungu Ibariki Afrika” (God Bless Africa) and was composed by Enock Sontonga.
  • During a period of high corruption in Tanzania, people of the government were called Wabenzi, meaning “people of the Benz.”

Rustic Pathways in Tanzania

Tanzania Animal Conservation: Finding Inspiration from Jane Goodall
Students traveling to Tanzania for an animal conservation program learn important lessons from Dr. Jane Goodall.

Tanzania Travel: Learning About Ancient Ways of Life
In northern Tanzania, students learn about an ancient hunter-gatherer tribe, provide many hours of service, and embark on an African safari.

A to Z: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Tanzania
A collection of Tanzanian quirks and attractions from A to Z to give you a window into life in Tanzania.

Capture: Tanzania
Favorite images and some thoughts from a Rustic Pathways photographer in Tanzania.

Know Before You Go: Indispensable Tips for Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro
Tips from a Rustic Pathways program leader!


Kilimanjaro Facts
Learn the facts about Kilimanjaro and the surrounding area where Rustic Pathways works. Consider exploring our related projects in this fascinating area of the world!

Serengeti Safari Travelogue
Acquaint yourself with the gem of African Safaris, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Understanding the country starts with understanding its greatest attraction, the wildlife and habitat that are conserved and held up as the main driver of tourism in this country of wonders.


Foods of Tanzania
Brief write-up of the history and staples of Tanzanian Cuisine. After you read this, we challenge you to look up and try to make Ugali for your next meal!


Paradise (Novel)
Tanzania’s vibrant cultural mix offers a deep bridge to the Middle East. This celebrated novel, reflecting a Tanzanian reflection of the Western “Heart of Darkness”, tells this story, and a few others, with an excellent narrative of the early history of the mainland and Zanzibar.

Cultural Characteristics of Tanzania: 6 Important Facts
Familiarize yourself with some of the habits and cultural expectations of Tanzania. (6 minute read)

World Bank’s Report on Poverty in TZ
Understand the context of one of the most significant challenges in this country, poverty. This executive summary will give you background for your conversations with our staff and help work toward solutions.


Clouds FM: Dar Es Salaam’s Most Popular Radio Station
Hear the beat of Tanzania’s largest city, and one of the fastest growing cities in the world, Dar Es Salaam. You may find some great new music!

Try it Out

Learn Basic Swahili Greetings
About ready for your experience with our Tanzania team? We think so! Before you go, practice a few greetings and goodbyes in Swahili, the most commonly spoken language in Tanzania and East Africa.