Dar Es Salaam Historic Center

World Monuments Watch
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

2014 World Monuments Watch

Situated within a large, protected harbor, Dar es Salaam sits on flat land along the northern bank of an estuary. Sultan Majid of Zanzibar established the town in 1862, and for the past 150 years its dynamic and vivid history, combined with its privileged location, has created a built environment that reflects the diversity of powers that have occupied the city. Dar was once the traditional home of the Zaramo, the ethnic group most closely tied to the city’s development, but its morphology has also been largely shaped by decades of Omani, German, and British colonial administration. The old German street plan, implemented by the German East Africa Company, stills defines the basic urban framework of Dar. The older city center is still thriving and attracts artists from all over Africa for its art and music events.

Urban development has become increasingly rapid in the city since the 1990s and has hastened the demolition of many of Dar’s most significant monuments and historic structures. The city was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch in order to raise awareness about the threats to its heritage and build the capacity of its decision-makers and residents to steward its future. In order to maintain the integrity of the historic city center, it will be necessary to create an integrated master plan that focuses on conserving landmark buildings and traditional community spaces. With its rich architectural heritage, Dar has the potential to benefit from a robust tourism industry that could sustain and improve the economic livelihoods of many in the local community.

Watch Day

Watch Day was celebrated at Dar es Salaam in September 2015 as the inaugural “Dar Heritage Days” event, which will be held annually. During a one-day forum stakeholders, heritage professionals, and members of the public discussed the benefits of preserving urban heritage. Artists from Nafasi Art Space set up a two-week public exhibition of their work throughout the historic center, which children toured in school groups.

Since the Watch

Demolitions continue in Dar es Salaam, but in 2014 the Tanzanian government pledged to identify historic buildings for protection. In February of the same year the Dar es Salaam Centre for Architectural Heritage (DARCH) was established through the collaboration of the Architects Association of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam’s Ardhi University, and the Technical University of Berlin. The institution’s mission is to save and promote the appreciation of historic architecture in Dar es Salaam. The European Union provided €927,000 toward these efforts.

Last updated: July 2017.

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