This blog entry is written byNancy Brinker, Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State.Tanzania, Africa (First Day)
We boarded plane in Benin and departed for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. President Jakaya Kikwete and Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda were there to greet us along with U.S. Ambassador Mark Green and his wife Sue.
The President and Mrs. Bush received an enthusiastic welcome here. The malaria programs and the Millennium Challenge Account grant program have made President and Mrs. Bush very popular. There was a large crowd gathered at the airport and many of the women wore dresses made of fabric with President Bush’s picture. Even Mrs. Kikwete, the First Lady of Tanzania was wearing this type of dress.
At the arrival ceremony we were greeted with dancers performing dressed in khanga and vitenge. The dancers represented more than five tribes and the dancing was fascinating and celebratory. The streets were lined for miles with probably a hundred thousand of Tanzanians. The Tanzanian Chief of Protocol told me that this was the first time in recent history that an American President has come to Dar es Salaam. On the way to hotel there was a giant billboard thanking President Bush for the AIDS programs.
Dinner that night hosted by President Kikwete and was very interesting. The food was all local and delicious - Tanzanian shrimp followed by squash soup, chicken and beef and vegetables and bananas cooked slowly. There weren’t any sweets as I was told the Tanzanians don't have big taste for sweet food. The food was seasonal and my dinner partner told me very natural.
Tanzania is slightly smaller than New Mexico and Texas combined and the mainland is adjoined by Zanzibar with the executive capital being Dar es Salaam and the legislative capital is Dodoma. The mainland population is approximately thirty-nine million and one million in Zanzibar. The official language is Kiswahili and English as a sub-language. The African population consists of more than 120 ethnic groups of which five of them have more than a million each and more than eighty percent of the population lives in rural areas. Although much of Zanzibar’s population came from the mainland, one group descended from early Persian settlers.
Tanzania has rich evidence of fossil remains of some of humanities earliest ancestors. Some even suggest that East Africa may have been the site of human origin. The interior of the country is believed to have been settled by ethnic groups using a click tongue language similar to that old Southern Africans Bushmen and Hottentots. Only remnants of theses early tribes exist today.
The coastal area first felt the impact of foreign influence as early as the 8th century. By the 13th century, traders and immigrants came from Persia (which we now know as Iran) and India. European influence and exploration followed Vasco De Gama explored the East African coast in 1498 and in 1506 the Portuguese claimed control of the entire coast. This was followed by German Colonial interests and British spheres of influence.
Zanzibar’s spices attracted traders from all over the world as far away as the U.S. and our consulate was establishes on the Island in 1837. It was made a British protectorate in 1890 and remained unchanged until the late 19th century until after WWII. The first elections were held in 1957 and Zanzibar received its independence from the United Kingdom in 1963 as a constitutional monarchy under the sultan. In 1964, after a rebellion against the sultan Tanganyka united with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
Significant measures have been taken to liberalize the economy along market lines. Overall real economic growth has averaged about four percent a year and is much better than previous years but not enough to improve the lives of the average Tanzanians. However, Ambassador Mark Green is confident that the economy is moving in the right direction. Political stability of recent years is an encouraging factor. He is very optimisitc about the future of the country.
The main industrial activities are small and medium size businesses specializing in food and dairy products. The hope is that in terms of mineral resources and an effort to reduce debt, and build upon an untapped tourism industry, Tanzania can host a more vibrant economy. Tourism is also a promising sector for Zanzibar with a number of new hotels and resorts which have been built o the island. The beautiful weather, green grass and palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze suggest a very prosperous tourist environment.