Tanzania is a country in East Africa, located within the African Great Lakes region. It borders Kenya and Uganda to the north, Burundi, Rwanda, and the DRC to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. To the east of the country is the Indian Ocean. Tanzania is home to about 55.5 million people, and is also the location of Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. The country is also unique in that it has two capital cities. What is the capital of Tanzania? Let’s clear things up.
What is the Capital of Tanzania?
Since 1996, the official capital city of Tanzania, which is a presidential constitutional republic, has been Dodoma. This is where you will find the president’s office, the National Assembly, and various government ministries. Dodoma is the de jure capital of Tanzania.
Dar es Salaam is the former capital of Tanzania, and has long been a city of historic and commercial importance. As the country’s largest city, Dar es Salaam is the principal port and economic hub of Tanzania, and it remains home to many government offices. As such, it is considered the de facto capital of Tanzania.
Dar es Salaam
The name Dar es Salaam comes from Arabic, and roughly translates to “the house of peace”. The city was built in the mid-19th century by Sultan Majid bin Said of Zanzibar. Dar es Salaam would fall into decline during the 1870s, only to experience a rapid revival after the German East Africa Company established a station there in the later part of the century.
Eventually, German East Africa would be taken by the British during World War I, becoming Tanganyika. Dar es Salaam would remain the administrative and economic center. The city would continue to grow following World War II, and eventually, in 1961, Tanganyika gained their independence. Dar es Salaam would remain as capital, even when Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania in 1964.
In 1974, however, it was decided to relocate the capital of Tanzania to Dodoma, a city in the country’s interior. This move was made in an effort to make social and economic improvements to the central region of the country, and to better centralize the capital.
Today, Dar es Salaam remains the largest city in Tanzania, with a population of about 4.2 million people. It continues to experience rapid growth, in part due to the essential role it plays in the country’s economy. As such, many important government agencies remain in the city.
Modern Dodoma was founded in 1907 by German colonists while the Tanzanian central railway was being constructed. While the city never experience rapid growth like Dar es Salaam, its favorable location in the country’s interior led to Dodoma being considered as a potential new capital city by colonial powers as early as 1915. Dodoma was seen as easily accessible due to its location near a railway. It also boasts a nice climate and room for development.
After Tanzania gained their independence, the new government was committed to socialism and Pan-Africanism. Dar es Salaam, a rapidly growing commercial center and economic hub, stood at odds with the new government’s ideals. Instead of trying to reorganize and restructure Dar es Salaam, it was decided that creating a new capital would be a more economically viable option.
Dodoma was selected as the site of Tanzania’s new capital, and in 1974, the government began the process of relocating there. Its rural location in the heartland of the country was seen as symbolic of the government’s desires that citizens maintain a close relationship to the land. The hope was that Dodoma would become a symbol of Tanzania’s social and cultural values.
Dodoma would become the official capital of Tanzania in 1996. However, much of the initial design plans and goals for the city never materialized. Many government offices and embassies have resisted moving to Dodoma, preferring the more urban, coastal Dar es Salaam. Because of this, Dar es Salaam remains the commercial and de facto capital of Tanzania.
Today, Dodoma has a population of about 400,000, and is home to many Tanzanian attractions, like the House of Parliament, the Dodoma Cathedral, and the National Mosque. And Tanzania lives on as one of the handful of countries with more than one capital city.