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Shopping in Tanzania – Top Things to Buy

Tanzania is a great place to shop for souvenirs. From woodwork to unique beadwork from the Maasai people, you can pick up some unique gifts at reasonable prices. Here is our countdown to the top five souvenirs to buy in Tanzania.

Shopping in Tanzania Number 5: Tanzania’s Artwork

Buy Tingatinga paintings, hand-carved woodwork, Maasai beadwork, and musical instruments.

Tanzania is known for a unique art form established by Edward Tingatinga in 1968. Tingatinga paintings depict the wildlife of the Serengeti in bold colors.

Ancient tribal myths and stories of the Makonde people are told through beautiful, hand-carved woodwork made from deep brown or black ebony wood. You can also purchase unique souvenirs such as wooden masks, wooden sculptures, pottery made by the Pare people, soapstone artifacts, Arab-influenced swords, Sultan style knives, gourds, and shields, and handmade beadwork, emblematic of the Maasai people. Local musical instruments such as African drums and a variety of string instruments also make great souvenirs.

You will find artwork primarily in Arusha, the gateway to Tanzania’s famous wildlife parks and Mount Kilimanjaro trekking, and the capital city of Dar es Salaam, the gateway to Tanzania’s southern wildlife parks.

Shopping in Tanzania Number 4: Mount Kilimanjaro Coffee

Arabica coffee is grown on the fertile, volcanic slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, under the shade of banana trees. The bananas give the coffee aromatic hints, while the volcanic minerals in the soil give the coffee balanced acidity and rich body. The city of Arusha is a great place to purchase coffee as Arusha is located close to Mount Kilimanjaro.

Shopping in Tanzania Number 3: Zanzibar Island’s Tropical Spices

Zanzibar Island is the place to go to experience tropical plantations of nutmeg and mace, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, lemongrass, turmeric, vanilla, pepper, and more. You can also purchase spices in the aroma-filled souks of Stone Town, located on Zanzibar Island.

Shopping in Tanzania Number 2: The Tanzanite

The Tanzanite is a gemstone mined nowhere else but in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. It was given its lovely name by none other than one of the world’s most famous jewelers, Tiffany and Company.

This gemstone is a cross between lush blue, vibrant violet, and rich purple. A pleochroic gem, its crystals glow in different colors when viewed from different angles, giving cutters the freedom to fashion the gemstone artistically. This is why cutting the Tanzanite requires great skill and knowledge. The city of Arusha is the best place to purchase the Tanzanite gemstone.

Shopping in Tanzania Number 1: Tanzania’s Textiles – Unique Twist

While it is difficult to choose between the Tanzanite and Tanzania’s textiles, Tanzania’s textiles win, because of the one quality that truly makes them unique. In addition to bold and bright prints, batik work, and the art of how to wear rectangular pieces of cloth around the body, Tanzania’s textiles tell stories.

A Kanga is a rectangular piece of cloth, 100% cotton, very light, and decoratively printed in bright and bold colors. What makes it so unique is that kangas are printed with proverbs such as, “Mtaka yote hukosa yote,” or one who wants all usually loses all. Another proverb is “Tunaipenda Africa yetu” or we love our Africa. Women personalize kangas with their favorite proverbs to communicate their personal beliefs, a unique way to use clothing. Kangas are very versatile. They can be wrapped like sarongs or skirts, tied as head wraps, or used to carry babies in. A traditional kanga worn by brides is called a “kisutu” and is white, black, and red in color.

The Kitenge is a 100% cotton fabric that is manufactured using the batik technique originally invented in Indonesia. Batik uses molten wax during the printing process. The print designs vary from season to season and tell stories. The designs are even given names. The “speed bird” design has multiple birds flying in the same direction. The meaning behind this is that you can be rich today and poor tomorrow as money can easily fly away. Another design called “Nsu Bura” depicts ripples of water. The meaning behind this design is that whatever you do, whether good or bad, it will impact everyone around you. Thicker than a kanga, the kitenge is generally sold in pieces of six yards in length by 46 to 48 inches in width.

The Maasai tartan blanket or “shuka” is famous all over the world. Made of hand-woven cotton in bright and bold colors, it is characteristic of the Maasai people. The shuka is a durable, strong, and thick fabric.

Top things to see and do in Tanzania

Quick Guide to Tanzania

Tanzania’s Street Food – Ultimate Guide

Tanzania’s Covid-19 Requirements

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