Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa and includes the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia. About twice the size of California, this African country is bordered by the Indian Ocean and eight countries: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique.
Mount Kilimanjaro, once an active volcano, is the highest point in Africa and 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 in the west, and Lake Nyasa in the southwest.
Map created by National Geographic Maps
PEOPLE & CULTURE
About 90 percent of Tanzanians live in rural areas and live off what they can grow on the land. Tanzania’s early people were hunters and gatherers. Traders moved to the country in about A.D. 800. The native people married the newcomers from India, Arabia, and the Shirazis from Persia. Their language, Kiswahili, spread to other East African areas.
There are about 120 African tribal groups in Tanzania. Arranged marriage is still customary for many Tanzanian families and parents start planning for their daughter’s future when she is young.
Parts of the country are infested with the tsetse fly. This blood sucking insect carries sleeping sickness, which affects humans and livestock. While the government has tried to eliminate the flies, many areas are not safe for humans or their animals. Malaria is always a threat in the country. Soccer is the favorite sport in Tanzania.
Most of the land was once savanna and bush, but today is semidesert. There is an abundance of wildlife in Tanzania. The largest remaining elephant populations in the world are in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, but they are still being killed for their ivory tusks.
Some of the most well-known African mammal species are native to Tanzania: wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, elephant, rhino, lion, and leopard. They are endangered due to poaching. Crocodiles and hippopotamuses can be found along riverbanks and lakeshores, and giant turtles live off the coast.
The Gombe Stream National Park is a well-known chimpanzee sanctuary where Jane Goodall did research on chimps in their natural habitat. Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s oldest and most popular park for tourists. It is linked to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and is home to over 1.7 million wildebeest, and about a million other animals.
The president is the head of the country and chief of the armed services. General elections are held once every five years. Zanzibar also has its own president, assembly, ministry, and makes its own laws. Zanzibar is wealthier than the rest of the country.
Dar es Salaam is the administrative capital, but Dodoma will be the future capital and is home to Tanzania's legislature.
After Tanganyika and Zanzibar became independent countries, they merged in 1964 to form the nation of Tanzania. Tanzania is the world’s largest producer of cloves.
Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania is the location of the oldest human settlements found by Louis and Mary Leakey. This area is often called “The Cradle of Civilization.”