Morogoro: 'City with no ocean' making waves in hospitality

Monday June 06 2022
The Nashera Hotel in Tanzania.

The Nashera Hotel in eastern Tanzania with the Uluguru Mountain in the background. It has indoor an garden dining and bar area. PHOTO | APOLINARI TAIRO | NMG


Located between Tanzania's capital Dodoma and the commercial city of Dar es Salaam, Morogoro is the country's "central" meeting point.

For centuries, it has been a rest stop for overland travellers between the coastal ports and the southern highlands, and even those going beyond the border to the Great Lakes region countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and DR Congo.

Morogoro is also the first station for the railway line snaking its way from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, and Mwanza along Lake Victoria. This has made the town a melting pot of cultures.

The town’s main thoroughfare, Boma Road, is a mango-tree lined avenue going back to the days of slavery. The trees are said to have been planted by Arab traders in the 1800s to mark the route and provide shade for them and their merchandise. It was a rest stop on their journey from Bagamoyo on the coast, to Tabora and Kigoma in western Tanzania during the slave and ivory trade treks, according to my host and guide, Alfred Mkude.

Hardly featured in travel blogs and tourist magazines, "Moro" as the town is affectionately called by hip Tanzanians, is a slow-paced idyllic destination, perfect as a getaway for those from Dar es Salaam or Dodoma seeking to unwind in cool temperatures and crisp fresh air from the Uluguru mountain range.

I departed Dar at 6am by bus at Tsh10,000 ($4.3) for a one-way ticket. I arrived in Morogoro at 10am because of traffic congestion caused by long distance trucks on this crucial transport artery. Most of the traffic was headed to the Great Lakes region.

The Commonwealth War Grave memorial in Morogoro.

The Commonwealth War Grave memorial in Morogoro. PHOTO | APOLINARI TAIRO | NMG

The residents fondly refer to Morogoro as "Mji kasoro bahari" (Swahili for "a town without an ocean") to explain its prominence, Mkude said.

Morogoro is a rich agricultural area and the main market was full of traders and their fresh produce.

According to historic accounts, the town was established by Chief Kisebengo or "Kingo" of the Waluguru community who controlled the area. The place where the town stands was his palace, the centre of his fiefdom, and he is said to have had good relations with the Arab traders of Bagamoyo in the East and Ujiji to the West.

Tourist attractions include the present-day Saint Patrick Church on the Old Dar es Salaam road, marked as the place where Welsh journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley camped after paying a courtesy call to Chief Kisebengo on his way to Ujiji in search of David Livingstone in 1871.

When German invaders took over the town in 1890 they built a fort or "boma" on the foothills of the Uluguru Mountains. It is still standing.

During the German and British rule, Morogoro was where people condemned to death were hanged. The hanging ground is now occupied by the elite Field Force Unit (FFU) of the Tanzania Police Force, the Regional Police headquarters.

There is also a World War 1 memorial cemetery on Boma Road, now under the Commonwealth Graves Commission.

On the slopes of the Uluguru mountain range is the "Morning Site", a scenic picnic and view point from where one can see the town below.