Cultural tourism has the potential to diversify Tanzania’s wildlife safari, mountain climbing, and beach offerings, a key US travel agent has said. Ms. Welcome Jerde, who is in the northern tourism circuit with a group of 18 tourists, said that Tanzania, home to 120 ethnic tribes, could brand culture as a tourism product.
“Personally, I love Tanzania, it’s a beautiful country. I want people to come and explore not just safari, but also to see the people, different tribes to learn more about the country,” Ms. Jerde noted. For her, Tanzania is exceptionally positioned to offer tourists the cultural and wildlife experiences that are authentically experiential in a way no other destination can provide.
Ms. Jerde was in talks with the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO)’s CEO, Mr. Sirili Akko, who went to see her in response to her circulated video that her group was held for 2 hours, denied entry at Lake Eyasi cultural tourism gate.
“Tanzanian culture is a delightful mix of influences with over 120 tribes,” Mr. Akko told her after apologizing on behalf of the destination.
Tanzania is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.
It is the only African nation whose tribes represent all 4 of the continent’s major ethno linguistic groups—Bantu, Cushitic, Nilotic, and Khoisan – and they are perpetuating a traditional way of life in the Lake Eyasi basin among other areas, he added.
Indeed, a genetic study has shown that the oldest known human DNA lineages are those of the people who live in Tanzania, which includes the most ancient populations of the Sandawe, Burunge, Gorowaa, and Datog people according to Dr. Sarah Tishkoff from the University of Maryland. This is compounded in the Olduvai Gorge site in Tanzania that holds the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors. Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in the area dating back millions of years, leading them to conclude that humans evolved in Tanzania.
“Each of the 120 different tribes in Tanzania have their own distinct ways of life, but together they gracefully unite to form Tanzania,” Mr. Akko noted.
Over 120 languages are spoken in Tanzania, most of them from the Bantu family. After independence, the government recognized that this represented a problem for national unity, and as a result made Swahili the official language. Today, a great majority of the population have accepted and fluently use Kiswahili, thus English is generally well known. As a result of this linguistic situation, many of the 120 tribal languages are slowly withering away with every new generation.
Kiswahili on the other hand has grown into an international language that is widely used across multiple borders. Kiswahili is ranked among the top 10 international languages. Apart from Tanzania, it is now used in Kenya, Uganda, DRC Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to name a few. “But more significantly, Kiswahili is also taught in universities around the world such as Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Cambridge, Colombia, Georgetown, George Washington, Princeton, and many more,” Mr. Akko said.
He said that the holiday destinations could be combined perfectly to experience the country’s full cultural diversity. “Indeed, holidays in Tanzania are paradise, as the country is fascinating with its wealth of nature, its diverse animal world, and array of culture,” Mr. Akko said.
Holidaymakers quite often experience the “Big 5” – elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhinoceros – up close in the Serengeti National Park; hike up Mount Kilimanjaro; or relax on the beach of a tropical island like Arab-influenced Zanzibar, he said.
“If you are looking for variety, you are guaranteed to find it in Tanzania.”
“Kilimanjaro, for instance, [is] the hiker’s Paradise. Kilimanjaro, the roof of Africa, attracts nature lovers from all over the world with its imposing snow crown,” Mr. Akko explained. The area around Mount Kilimanjaro is the ideal starting point for discovering Tanzania’s endless steppe landscapes and incredible wealth of wildlife.
The brilliant white beaches on the spice island of Zanzibar promise all-round pampering and plenty of relaxation, Mr. Akko explained, adding that tourists should come to Zanzibar to experience the tropical beauty. “Its bathing holidays that smell of pepper, cloves, and vanilla, where the azure sea gently laps your feet and your senses learn to fly. The year-round warm, crystal-clear water and the white powder-sand beaches make Zanzibar the African dream destination to unwind,” he explained.
Dar es Salam, the gateway to southern Tanzania, is the bustling metropolis located on the country’s mainland coast, which is hardly developed for tourism.
“Not far from the city you will find secluded beaches with oriental flair. The island dream of Zanzibar is just a stone’s throw away, and the national parks in the south of Tanzania can be easily explored from here,” Mr. Akko said.