Shopping in Dar es Salaam
With the modernisation of the city, the first air-conditioned shopping centres started to appear in Dar es Salaam from 2006. However, it is best to look beyond the regular shops here and dig out bargains in the city’s local markets instead.
The local artists' cooperative Nyumba ya Sanaa (Nyerere Cultural Centre) on Ohio Street sells good-quality textiles and regional crafts. It also gives visitors the chance to watch the artisans at work. Wood-carvings and paintings can also be bought from the Mawazo Art Gallery in the YMCA grounds on Upanga Road.
Vibrantly colourful Tingatinga paintings, as first marketed by Edward Said Tingatinga, can be bought from the Tingatinga Centre on Haile Selassie Road. Artists can be seen working on projects here too.
The Kariakoo market district is arguably the real heart of Dar es Salaam. A sprawling collection of stalls and shops west of the city centre, it sells everything from fruit and spices to widescreen televisions. It’s invariably crowded, and visits here can be overwhelming, so ideally leave your valuables at home and come with a local or a guide.
The more intrigued traveller might also try visiting the Kivukoni fish market, located on the quayside in central Dar. The smell is intense, but the sheer volume and variety of fish and seafood is a sight in its own right.
For something calm and tourist-friendly, try the Weekend Craft Market at Slipway on the Msasani Peninsula, where the quality of goods is generally high. If you want to see crafts actually being made, ebony carvers still chisel in person at the Mwenge Craft Market, opposite the Village Museum on the Bagamoyo Road.
Mlimani Shopping Centre (University of Dar es Salaam, Mwalimu Nyerere Campus) is Tanzania’s largest shopping centre and is located in northwest Dar es Salaam. It mainly contains outlets for South African brands. While there isn’t enough here to make the trip worthwhile on its own, as a hassle-free place to shop for clothes or swimwear, it’s worth considering.
Dar es Salaam opening hours are typically 0900 to 1730, though some shops stay open until 1800.
Traditional carving and handicrafts are perhaps the best gifts to bring back from Dar. The city has become one of the best places in Tanzania to find wooden masks and statues, with places like the Mwenge Craft Market allowing visitors to watch actual artists at work. The Dar region’s long history as a spice producer also makes the likes of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper good buys. For the best flavours, avoid ground spices in favour of whole ones, which keep their flavour longer.
VAT in Tanzania is 18%. Duty free shopping is available at the airport.