Have You Been To Tanzania?

published by Bren

Last updated: November 15, 2023

I have a question.

Have you been to Tanzania?

Oh, it’s an incredible place. By the sea, the east African coast. Let me tell you about it, my friend.

It’s a place by the equator, where the sun will hit you like an open flame. You will effortlessly tan to a golden bronze, or a lobster red, whichever one your body warms to. But you can leave your woollen socks at home. You will not need them here.

It’s a place where men sit at their roadside carts piled with poles of sugar cane, shaving them down with a small knife and chopping them into small plastic bags. Enjoy a bag of nature’s candy for less than a dollar, cut fresh right before your eyes.

It’s a place where the streets come to life – young men walk briskly with trays of peanuts and candy, jingling coins in their hand. You can hear the jingle from the window of your hotel, eight storeys up. The cars beep their horns relentlessly, stuck in the jam sana, and piki pikis weave through the traffic like in a video game.

Have you been to Tanzania?

It’s a place where the french fries are not called french fries at all. They’re called chipsi, and they’re not bought bagged from the supermarket. Oh no, sir. They’re peeled and cut every morning from the freshest potatoes, ready to be deep fried batch by batch in a tiny wok. They’re golden, crispy. They’re the most delicious fries in the world.

It’s a place where the avocados are the size of pineapples. Cut them open and they are rich, creamy and soft, like no avocado you’ve ever seen before. And you don’t buy them for $5 in a gourmet store. No sir, many a kind lady will pull her basket of avocados off the top of her head and sell you one by the side of the street. They eat parachichi by the dozen here, and why wouldn’t you? They only cost around 25 cents.

It’s a place where you can smell the goat being barbecued a hundred metres away, charring away on a makeshift grill over hot coals. The meat is smokey, gamey, exploding with flavour. Order a portion if you dare – that steak will never taste the same again.


What’s for lunch? #ugali #nyamachoma, bro

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on

Have you been to Tanzania?

It’s a place where you might creep 100 metres in an hour on the gridlocked streets of Dar Es Salaam. It’ll be hot, so you’ll need some water. It’ll be long, so you’ll need a few snacks. But young boys will march through the traffic jams, coming right to your car window to sell you whatever it is you need. Once you’ve got your food and drinks, you could also buy some phone credit, a football, maybe a few pots and pans too. You can buy anything from your car window around here.

It’s a place where fresh oranges are sold on every corner – young men run their sharp knives along the skin, peeling them meticulously and stacking them in small baskets on the back of their bikes. You can eat as many chungwa as you like, they only cost 10 cents or so.

It’s a place where the kids run wild with muddy knees and shining smiles. Without Xboxes and Nintendos, they play rede under the banana trees, laughing infectiously with every throw. They run not in the video games, but out in the dirt, in the sunshine where kids were always meant to be.


A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on

Have you been to Tanzania?

It’s a place where the women dress wrapped in the brightest fabrics, tailored perfectly to their curves, they laugh with zest and vigor, and smile with unapologetic beauty. They have some of the whitest and brightest smiles in the world.

It’s a place where minivans are used as dalla dallas – tiny buses designed to fit 12 but often overflowing with more than 30. Arms and heads flailing out the windows, yet they still stop to collect more. If you’re lucky enough to sit at the front with some leg space, ladies will step on and drop their belongings in your lap, before squeezing into the back to find a space to stand. Depending on the day you might get a handbag, a basket of tomatoes, or even a cute little baby in your lap. Don’t worry, they trust you.

It’s a place where the floury white sand beaches can rival the best in the world. You’ll find them everywhere – Dar Es Salaam, Pangani, Zanzibar. The ocean is warm and clear, and home to electric festivals and delicious seafood. It’s a beach paradise that most will never see, and the locals welcome you to their shores with smiles.


Sunrise beach, Kigamboni Dar es Salaam, Wednesday afternoon. No filter bro.

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on

Have you been to Tanzania?

It’s a place where their omelettes are not made with cheese or vegetables, but with french fries. Chipsi mayai they call it, and you can eat it any time of day. Sprinkle some salt, squirt a bit of ketchup. It’s a quick and dirty treat that you’ll surely try more than once.

It’s a place where the boda boda drivers hang on the corner, lying on their bikes, chatting the day away as they wait for passengers. Need to get somewhere fast? Pay him a dollar or two and jump on the back. They’ll get you from A to B in no time.

It’s a place where the boys ride dragging baskets of coconuts on their bicycles. Ask him for one and watch him pull out a knife and hack it open in seconds. You want maji, or nyama? Just ask for both and slurp the whole thing down. African coconuts are something else.


A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on

Have you been to Tanzania?

It’s a place where you can get lost in the winding alleys of Stone Town without a care in the world. It’s not dangerous here, nor intimidating. Children run up and down these alleys at all hours of the night. It’ll remind you of Istanbul, or Granada, this place. A tiny town of Arabian flavour on an island, with all the character you could want.

It’s a place where ladies will sit shaded under a roadside tree, charring corn on the cob over hot coals. Grab one – they’re only a few cents, and fun to eat. It’s like popcorn, Africa style. You’ll be back for more.

It’s a place where you don’t eat burgers or pizza after a hard night out. Oh no, after one too many Serengeti beers you indulge in a few skewers of mishkaki, perhaps goat or beef, perhaps a side of chipsi and maybe even a grilled quarter chicken. Pub food is a little different around here.

So tell me, have you been to Tanzania?

It’s a place where the mornings are started with donuts and tea. The mandazi are cooked fresh each morning – hot and steamy. Lather them with peanut butter and wash them down with a cup of hot chai. Your days will start deliciously here.

It’s a place where the music is kicking, full of love and guaranteed to take you over. When you’re in a club and an Ali Kiba song comes on, you’ll know what I mean. Once you’ve rocked out to a bit of bongo flava, there’s no going back. I promise you’ll still be rocking your Tanzania jams many years from now.

It’s a place where the ladies at the market sit behind their stacks of vegetables, piled up high in the afternoon sun. You can hear the laughter from the other end of the street. When they’re not stuffing veges into bags, they’re yammering away to the lady next to them. The market here is gossip city.


A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on

Have you been to Tanzania?

It’s a place where Swahili is the tongue of the streets, and once you throw around a little mambo and hujambo, you’ll be getting smiles from every direction. Don’t be scared. Give a vipi here and there. Sign off with an asante sana. It’s a beautiful language, and you’ll surely miss it when you go.

It’s a place where the pizza might be a little different to what you’re used to. The Zanzibar pizza, doughy and deep fried, stuffed with meat and onions and veges and cheese. Or perhaps have one for dessert, filled with gooey Nutella and banana. It’s definitely not good for the waistline, but I promise your taste buds won’t complain.

It’s a place where the kids are full of laughter and smiles. Life is not shiny here but the sparkles in their eyes will tell you different. Kids are full of love and spirit, they greet their elders with a shikamoo, they’re taught to respect their families and communities, they walk to school with a skip in their step. It’s truly beautiful to see.


A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on

Have you been to Tanzania?

It’s a place where people wear their tribal colours with pride. Sip some blood with the masais, drink some banana beer with the chagas. Family, tradition, respect. It’s something to admire here.

It’s a place where football stickers are plastered on every bajaj and taxi. Who’s your favourite team? Liverpool? Chelsea? The boys here go nuts for it. Grab yourself a cold Serengeti and watch the game. If you’re a football fan you’ll make friends in seconds.

It’s a place where the food is hearty and simple, no flashy red wine jus or berry compote. Enjoy a banana and beef stew, a grilled fish, a bowl of pilau, some creamy avocado. A little kachumbari on the side. Mush some fresh ugali in your hands and chow it down. Top it off with a fresh mango or coconut. There’s no way you won’t fall in love with it all.


Cooking #beef #stew, #african style.

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on

Have you been to Tanzania?

I won’t lie, it’s a place that may bring a few tears. It’s a place that can break your heart. You can see things here you don’t want to see. But it’s a place where you’ll learn a few lessons, too. Tanzanians are strong, optimistic, resilient. You may very well be humbled here, but you’ll love them for it.

It’s a place you won’t forget quickly. You’ll miss hearing the karibu in the streets, the smell of freshly grilled goat at lunchtime, the shouts of mzungu! followed by a smile and a wave, the kids’ laughing faces, the warm African sun, the tire sandals, the one dollar bottles of konyagi, the oddly delicious sour milk, the mosquito nets, the boda boda rides, the power cuts, the warm beer, the muddy shoes, the tip of Mount Kili peeking out over the clouds, the funky bracelets, the posters of Ludacris outside every hairdresser, the chipsi stacked in the window of every food cart, the shoes being sold on every street corner. There’s something about the place. You’ll miss the love. You’ll miss the chaos. Everyone falls in love with Tanzania.

So tell me.


Have you been there?

Beautiful piece about all the small things that make Tanzania beautiful.

Heading to Tanzania? My Dar city guide might come in helpful!

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  1. Hi Bren! A brilliant piece of writing – you capture everything that we love about Tanzania, especially your paragraph that starts “it’s a place where the kids are full of laughter and smiles”. Visiting is always such a very humbling experience.

    We first visited as volunteers in 2008 and spent three months in an orphanage just outside Moshi. This was an opportunity we took at the end of our working careers. We have since lost count of the number of return trips we have been fortunate enough to make. Our next trip is in less than two weeks’ time. We have also just read your piece from April 2014 on volunteering or voluntourism. Again, we share many of your sentiments.

    Did we really make a difference? Like you, we now have our own project which we hope is making a difference – building a Primary School in a rural and impoverished community on the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In less than three years, the school has grown to 119 pupils. Over a third of them would not otherwise have the chance of an education and are only able to attend as a result of a small Sponsorship Scheme that we run. The children have so little but they love to learn and are always so happy.

    Perhaps we might get to meet up with you if we are in the Moshi area at the same time at some point. Meanwhile, if you are interested in finding out more, please visit our website at ACECharity.uk – we post a weekly blog with all our progress and developments at the school – or email us at [email protected]. Good luck in your ventures and we look forward to reading more about them.

    Sue and Ron Hayes,
    Founders of Africa’s Children in Education (ACE)

  2. Hey Brendan…I am glad you loved your stay in Tanzania. I miss home so much and I am suprised and happy that you noticed most of the things I like about home.
    I was at the University of Auckland last year for a study abroad program and I had an amazing time there. NZ is my second favorite place on Earth… right behind Tanzania of course. I would love to go back!

  3. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful pieces of travel-writing that I’ve come across. I’ve lived in Tanzania for 8 years and your article captures the essence of the place with perfection. Reading this made my heart physically ache for my childhood home and almost brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written. I’m so glad people like you in the world exist who can appreciate what a captivating place Tanzania is.

  4. I lived there for two and a half years as a Peace Corp volunteer in the late 1960’s outside a small town called Kahama. Three years ago I returned to my school compound on vacation from teaching at an international school in Kigali, Rwanda. I could barely recognize the town with its electricity and growth, but when I went to see my school, I was amazed that it was the same and without running water and electricity. Forty years had past and it was like going back in a time machine. To me, that is some of the magic of Tanzania, to live in a place where the culture survives, the influence of colonialism was limited, and just be able to have a beer and listen to the art of conversation with the locals. Luckily I still retain some Swahili. I love the times I have lived in South American countries, but East Africa always draws me back. What an Adventure!

  5. I live in Tz for the past three years, n enjoyed several of these. The Tanzanians are a nice lot, very respectful with gud manners (you always should greet in conversation beginning n end). A great living with nature, fruits n food, , significantly natura andl organic, local grown items rich and huge in size. Africa, in particular, Tanzania deserves the visit at minimum, from global fraternity, while wild life n resort tourism adds more memorable value..

  6. Wow Bren … how beautifully have you captured the real essence of Tanzania. I’m a Tanzanian living in UK and reading this beautifully written article has reawakened all the senses I have embedded in my memories as a child growing up in TZ. The mishkaki being cooked outside the house, drinking coconut (mnazi) water, street foods, peanut sellers with jingling coins … beautiful memories well captured. Thank you for sharing your experience of my home country with the world. 🙂

  7. Mambo vipi….very well written. As a Tanzanian I feel so good and proud seeing foreigners talking good things about my country. Yes, for us what you wrote sounds like little things but for sure you won’t notice them until you come from outside….I have been to couple of countries in the past 10years and everytime am away I start missing home. What I love most about us is is being polite and humble especially to guests…Karibuni sana Tanzania.

  8. Thank you so much Bren for capturing the little details that have made my 13 year stay in Tanzania special. I will read this when I return to the US next month and get homesick for my adopted home. I often cringe when I read travel blogs as they are usually about the Big Five and visiting Maasai villagers in their “costumes” and “huts” but funny enough you did not mention safaris once. Thank you for respecting Tanzania as it is.

  9. Oh Bren! You literally put my thoughts on paper. I am born and bred in Tanzania of East Indian origin and now living in Canada since 2001. Traveled the world over and to me there is no no place like TZ. I visit TZ every year and the time spent in Tanzania is the best time for me. I visit villages and see the natural beauty. Kids waking up very early mornings – so refreshed with smiles and spring in their step, looking so happy. What a contrast as I see kids going to school in the western world who can hardly open their eyes in the morning and making waking up look like a ghastly punishment. I keep on stating to my colleagues in Canada the beauty of TZ. Some believe. Some don’t swayed by negative news of Africa. I love TZ and everyday wish and hope to move there permanently!

          1. mr Bren u got it!! thats real Tanzania !! u got great eye!! u made me see my country in other way !!thanks !!karibu hapa tanzania nyumbani kwa waswahili(welcome tanzania homeland of swahili people!!)cheers bren!! and cheers for all u commenters!! ahsante sana!!

  10. Hello Bren, Happy New Year! This is such beautiful article about Tanzania and I think you have a good heart. I hope you were able to spend some quality time with your family and friends. . I have certainly enjoyed spending some more time with my family during our holidays. I’m contacting you to discuss the details how we can cooperation with you. My name is Peter and I am writing on behalf of Projects Overland, a
    Volunteer organization based in Tanzania, operated through the Anglican
    Church of Tanzania, Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro.

    We have offices in Arusha, Moshi, Lushoto and Zanzibar and support projects in
    Medical placements, schools, orphanages and community projects (eg.
    AIDS, human rights).
    Our volunteers come from all over the world and we offer them safe and
    Affordable accommodation, 24/7 support, rewarding experiences and much
    Our aim is to empower and support communities in need – because
    Although Tanzania is getting lots of tourists every year, it is still a
    Developing country where health care and education are rare commodities.

    I would like to know if you are interested in extending you programs to Tanzania and
    In the name of Projects Overland, I would like to ask for cooperation
    With you.
    If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you! Thank you

    Kind regards,

  11. Hi Bren! Thank you so much for writing this. I am Tanzanian, born and raised – living in Arusha now, the Geneva of Africa. You managed to capture everything I love about my heaven on Earth! Noticed this was posted a day after the previous election. Were you around during the campaigns season? Another thrill!

    I just couldn’t help it but wonder why I’ve never read this before. It’s a timeless piece of writing, so will share widely all over the internet – everybody needs to read this! Ahsante sana na karibu tena!

  12. I was in Tanzania from 1985 to 1990. I was teaching Accounting at Shaaban Roberts school in Dar es Salaam and Shinyanga college in Shinyanga. Then I moved to Nairobi, Kenya and taught at Kenyatta university for two more years before moving to United States. I got married only after leaving Tanzania. My children never got the opportunity to visit Tanzania. But I told my children many exciting stories about my African life. They always wanted to visit Tanzania. Hopefully we will visit Tanzania one day.
    I used to walk the roads of Dar es Salaam a lot. When I read your article all the memories came back. Machunga, Karanga, and green coconut sellers, the beach, mishkaaki, movies at Avalon theater, Twiga hotel, ngoma at the school, Kaanga wearing students of Shycom going to mess hall singing songs in the night, huge birds of Shycom campus, two days bus travel to Arusha from Shinyanga, cold weather of Arusha, the Kilimanjaro etc., Thanks for explaining briefly all the things to be remembered about Tanzania in a small article.

  13. Just read your lovely article & it made me tear up a little & long for Tanzania. I volunteered teaching HIV/AIDS awareness in Arusha for a month a decade ago & it was the best experience of my life. I miss hanging out with the locals & asking for my beer baridi, having the children follow me calling “mzungu” when I’d go running, the bucket baths & going to bed early when the power cut out, which was frequently! I even miss those crazy dalla dallas! On my way back to the States, I stopped over in Amsterdam & cried most of the flight from JRO to AMS because I wanted to stay just a little while longer. My husband & I climbed Kili last year then relaxed on Zanzibar & he fell in love with the country & it’s people, too. I cried again when it was time to leave. We are already planning another trip back in a couple of years!

  14. This is a really great article, suprised I am only just coming across it now. I first visited Tanzania in 2015 Zanzibar to be specific, this was my first time back to any African country since 2004, age 14 being originally from Zimbabwe and residing in the UK since age 8, this was a real eye opener for me.
    I have been back on many occasions since 2015 also visiting Dar Es Salaam, which is a great city by the way. I was finally inspired to build [link removed]
    To highlight the beauty of this amazing island. This went live back end of 2019 and growing at a steady pace really hope to inspire others to travel to Zanzibar, Tanzania and other African nations as a whole there’s a lot to discover.

  15. Hi Brendan ,
    I am a Tanzanian born in Arusha and my schooling was for some years mostly in Kilimanjaro and currently residing in Dar es Salaam.
    I have traveled extensively all over Tanzania as well as other few countries in the world but I find Tanzania very beautiful and unique in a lot of things.
    In short I loved your article , it is a beautiful picture of part of Tanzania
    Did you by any chance visited the National parks and see wonders of the virgin land and the original animals of the world , the water bodies and it`s marine such the pink Flamingos of lake Natron ?I loved your article because you have a great sense of humor and such a strong positive thinking mind which I am sure it is going to be a big help for those travelers who always portray only negative things about certain countries
    Keep it up !!!1

    1that brought me to my senses and I could not imagine other humans who look for nothing but the negative images

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