The United Republic of Tanzania is in East Africa and includes the islands of Mafia, Pemba, and Zanzibar. Tanzania is bordered by Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and the Indian Ocean.
Dodoma is Tanzania's political capital and Dar es Salaam is the commercial capital. Ports are Dar-es-Salaam, Mtwara, Tanga and Zanzibar.
Tanzania has a central plateau with highland areas and plains along the coast. The Great Rift Valley runs through the middle of the country. Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, is in the northern highlands. The main river is the Rufiji. Lake Malawi (Nyasa), Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria are shared with Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya and Uganda respectively.
The climate is tropical along the coast and varies with altitude.
Much of Tanzania's environment is protected by its system of National Parks. The rolling plains of the Serengeti National Park are home to millions of animals and birds including herds of antelope, wildebeest and zebra. Other conservation areas include Arusha National Park, Gombe Streams National Park, Mahale Mountains National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Ruaha National Park and Tarangire National Park.
The Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Kilimanjaro National Park and Selous Game Reserve are World Heritage sites.
The coral island of Chumbe became a protected area in 1994. Today Chumbe Island Coral Park is one of the most well known nature reserves in East Africa and aims to promote awareness of coral reef ecology.
The former East African island ports of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara are on the World Heritage list. Between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, merchants in these ports traded precious metals, perfumes and other goods.
The Stone Town of Zanzibar, also on the World Heritage list, was a Swahili trading town. Zanzibar was one of the major trading centres of the slave trade.
The population of Tanzania was estimated at 36,766,356 in 2005.
On the mainland the majority of the population is native African (120 different tribes) with one percent Arab, Asian and European. The population on Zanzibar is Arab, native African and mixed Arab and African.
Kiswahili and English are the official languages. There are also many local languages and Arabic is spoken in Zanzibar.
On the mainland thirty percent of the population follow traditional beliefs and the remainder are equally divided into followers of Christianity and Islam. In Zanzibar ninety-nine percent of the people are Muslim.
Coconut milk, bananas and plaintains are ingredients in a variety of recipes, both savory and sweet. Groundnuts (peanuts) are also used.
Ugali, a porridge often made from cornmeal, is a staple food. Rice and chapattis are eaten frequently. Other food includes soups, stews, vegetables (beans, cabbage, cassava, peppers, sweet potatoes) and meat (chicken, goat, lamb and beef). Barbecued meat is a favourite. Seafood is plentiful on the islands, along the coast and near rivers and lakes.
Bananas are used in various desserts. Other fruit includes guavas, mangoes, papayas and pineapples. Sweet fried breads and pancakes are often served.
Tea is a popular drink. Beer and white rum are brewed locally.
Many people think that the history of mankind started in Kenya and Tanzania. The Leakey family, excavating in the region in the 1960s, found evidence of some of our earliest ancestors.
Over the years, Bantu speaking people moved to the area and by the eighth century Arab traders were living along the coast. The Shirazi and Swahili people who populated the East African coast had their origins in Persia (Iran).
At the end of the fifteenth century Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, visited "Tanzania". Before long Portugual controlled much of the East African coast. However, at the end of the seventeenth century Arabs from Oman took control of the island of Zanzibar (a major centre of the slave trade).
In 1886 Britain and Germany divided present-day Tanzania betweeen the two countries: Germany had control over most of the mainland and Zanzibar became a British protectorate.
Following the First World War, mainland "Tanzania" (Tanganyika) was governed by the British for the League of Nations; after the Second World War the country came under the trusteeship of the United Nations.
Led by Julius Nyerere, Tanganyika became independent in 1961 and Zanzibar gained independence in 1963. The following year Tanganyika and Zanzibar became the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar; soon renamed the United Republic of Tanzania.
The economy of Tanzania is heavily dependent on agriculture. Many people living in Tanzania are subsistence farmers with eighty percent of the working population employed in the agricultural sector. Products grown include bananas, cassava, coconuts, sweet potatoes, maize, millet, rice and wheat. Cash crops are cashew nuts, coffee, tea, cotton, sisal, tobacco and pyrethrum (used in insecticides). Zanzibar is famous for cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Cattle, sheep, goats and chickens are kept.
The main industries are fishing, mining (gold, diamonds and gem stones), farm tools, fertilisers, textiles, shoes, cigarettes, food processing and beverages.
The Tanzania Tourist Board promotes the country's National Parks and its world famous wildlife. Coastal pursuits include dolphin watching and deep sea fishing.
There are one hundred and twenty different tribes in Tanzania, each with their own artistic skills. For example, the Makonde are famous for ebony carvings of masks, and the Masai are known for the artistic designs on their shields. Carvings on the doors of the old stone houses in Zanzibar reflect the country's Arab heritage.
Traditionally, tribal groups in Tanzania used music and dance to mark special occasions such as harvest, initiation ceremonies and weddings. The drum, one of the most important musical instruments, was also used as a method of communication. On the island of Zanzibar, the traditional Swahili sung poetry, known as "Taarab", a combination of music and poetry, is very popular.
Today traditional and modern music is often combined. An example can be seen in the work of the Mionzi Dance Theatre which promotes the music, dance and drama of Tanzania.
Football is probably the most popular team sport in Tanzania.
Runners from Tanzania have been successful in international competitions. Every year runners carry a "freedom torch" across the country from Mount Kilimanjaro to celebrate independence.
Religious holidays are observed. Other days commemorated include New Year's Day - 1 January, Zanzibar Revolution Day - 12 January, Union Day (Tanganyika and Zanzibar) - 26 April, International Labour Day - 1 May, Peasant's Day - 8 August and Independence Day - 9 December.