Shopping in Tanzania

There are lots of places to shop in Tanzania; in any of the big towns and cities, you would easily find well stocked shopping centers, shopping malls, supermarkets, banks and ATMs, foreign exchange bureau, cinema halls, nice restaurants, bars and open air markets. Below are some of the tips and major places to shop in Tanzania.

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 Shopping in Tanzania

Shopping in Tanzania

Tanzania has many regions with various traditions and cultures, each region have its own unique local products, that they produce to earn them a living as well as to show case their rich historical background. One of the ways to promote and keep memories of the rich African traditions, is to buy this traditional artifacts, jewelry, carvings, precious stones, furniture, traditional cloths, music, art work among others.

No holiday would be complete without taking home some of this African souvenirs and gifts back home. The creativity of the local people and the diversity of cultures ensures that there is something to suit every taste and budget, you will be spoiled of choice.

Wood Carvings

Carved souvenirs and gifts are the most popular items for tourist and visitors in Tanzania; wood carving is popular in southeast of Tanzania (with the Makonde people). The Makonde people are well known for their creative African wood carvings; they major in house decoration and furniture, figures, masks and the Makonde art work. The Makonde art work is very popular and is one of the major wood carvings region in Africa.

Ceramic art and Pottery

Pottery is an old tradition with most community in Tanzania and is still practiced widely. Major pottery is done by the Pare and Kisi community in northeast and southwest of Tanzania; major pottery items include ceramic cups, plates and the cooking pots.

Stone Carvings

Stone carving is popular in eastern Tanzania by the Kisi people, they use the local soapstone to produce nice house hold decorations, souvenirs and gifts; the items would include animals carvings, chess pieces, egg cups, soap dishes, coasters, ash trays among others.

Jewelry and bead-work

The Masaai jewelry and bead-work has also become famous to visitors and tourist in Tanzania; the beaded jewelries are used for physical decoration and have significant traditional meaning within the communities. The beaded items include bracelets, belts, watchstraps, sandals, mobile phone covers, ceremonial adornments necklaces among others.

Traditional Clothing and Textiles

One of the popular fabrics or traditional cloth is the Masai Shuka, it’s a decorative fabric made of hand woven cotton, they are found in different colors and patterns but mostly in red/black and red/blue. Normally they were worn by both men and women within the Masai community but today they also used by tourist on safari as a blanket to protect themselves from cold and dust.

The other common fabrics is the Kanga and Kikoi, they are traditional garments worn by both men and women in the coastal region and the great lake region. The Kanga has a center part called mji in swahill; mji usually contains a strip with a riddle or proverb message on it.

Artifacts

Most regions have their own traditional artifacts, but regions in the northern parts of Tanzania (Masai, Kisi, Pare, Sukuma) have most outstanding artifacts. This includes Gourds, Neck Pillows, Shields, Spears, bow and arrows, wrist knives, traditional swords (simis) among others.

Paintings

Tinga Tinga art work, was first established in mid 1960s by the late Edward Tingatinga. He first started with simple wildlife and landscape oil paintings and late after his death in 1972 , the center was taken over by his relatives and friends. Today Tinga Tinga painting are very popular and sold worldwide. Its a great place to inspire photographers and animal lovers.

Music and Music Instruments

Every region have its own type of music and instruments, the most common one is the African drums; the drums comes in different sizes and shapes depending on the region, most drums are round and are covered with an animal skin, they can be flat based or three legged, they were used in traditional ceremonies or in passing sound messages. Other famous instruments are the string instruments; most popular one is the Zeze, which is similar to guitar or a fiddle and the other one is the Mariba.

If you want to watch traditional music, you can visit Alliance Francaise de Dar es Salaam or Tasuba Theatre and Conference Centerfor a live traditional music concert or organize with the locals for a concert. If you want to buy Tanzanian music; you can do so in any local music stall, shopping malls and shopping centers.

Shopping Tips

  •  Bargaining is a norm and part of doing business in most countries in Africa; so if you are planning to shop, then be prepared to bargain. Normally after the seller gives you his offer, you need to assess the item and respond with a counter offer that you feel is fair, it should be between 60% - 90% of the initial offer.

  •  Deforestation and environmental, if you are planning to buy wood carvings and you love the environment then you need to think about this issue, in order to sustain both industries we need to encourage carvings made from renewable trees such as the Jacaranda, Neem, Mango, Blue Gum, and Grevillea, and avoid carvings made from indigenous trees such as Ebony trees, Mahogany, Rosewood and Olive wood.

  •  Avoid illegal raw material; insist and avoid items made from illegal raw material such as ivory, rhinoceros horns, snake skin among others.

 Shopping places in Tanzania

Where to Shop

In Tanzania, there are various places to buy the African souvenirs and gift; below are some of the top places.

In Dar es Salaam:

  • Nyumba ya Sanaa (House of Art); located on Upanga Street near the entrance to the Gymkhana Club, its a non-profit handicraft center supporting young artists. They major in African paintings, chalks, clothing designs, earrings, cards, batiks, pottery and weaving. Guest visiting the center, can watch the young artists working on the souvenirs, from the row materials to the end product.
  • Kariakoo Market; Located on Tandamuti Street, the market has various African items, such as the traditional furniture, clothes, utensils and so on.
  • The Village Museum; Located on Bagomoyo road (about 10Km from Dar), its more of a museum with traditional houses representing various villages of different ethnic groups, each village as they show case their traditions, they also have their own ancient carving, weaved items, paintings, furniture and cloths for sale.
  • Mwenge Handicraft Center; located on Mpakani road, near the Village Museum. This center is mostly occupied by the Makonde carving community, there various craftsmen displaying their carving skills, as well as selling them. they specialize in wooden carving, soapstone items like chess sets, masks, jewellery and figures.

In Arusha:

  • In Arusha, the best African craft shops are between the clock tower and Ngoliondoi Road. Here you can find shops with the Makonde carvings, batiks, Maasai beaded necklaces, the meerschaum pipes among others.

In Zanzibar

  • Stone Town; There are alley of shops selling various Arabic and African artifacts made from wooden, metal or stone.
  • Zanzibar Market; its a very old market on on Creek road, it was first opened in 1904. The market majors in various souvenirs and combines with fresh fruit, flowers, spices and vegetables.
  • Spice Shop of Zanzibar; a spice shop situated on Kiponda area, in Stone Town. The shop sells a wide range of spices, craft and art work, postcards and books. Their is also a restaurant offering excellent light meals complimenting the spices.