What to see in Dodoma
Dodoma city – located in the wine region of central Tanzania – embodies nationalistic ambition as a capital. Its grand street plan and imposing architecture however, differs from everyday life and the rural environment.
The rare and wondrous Kondoa Rock-Art Sites (UNESCO World Heritage Sites), scattered along the slopes of the Rift Valley, are among the main attractions of the Dodoma region.
It’s hard to tell the story of Dodoma from the perspective of tourism. Every now and then you come across the shortcomings of Tanzania’s artificial capital which highlight the city’s slow development. But, of course, it also has many positive sides that are worth seeing in person or, at least, learning about them remotely, just through reading and looking at the pictures.
Mosques and Cathedrals
One of the sights worthy of attention in Dodoma is Gaddafi Mosque, named after the Libyan politician who gave the money to build it. It is the largest mosque in Tanzania, which can accommodate up to 3000 visitors. The beautiful bright building with arched walls on the perimeter stands under the open African sky and is generously lit by the sun almost all year round. Next to the mosque, there is a small green area, which contrasts interestingly with the pink walls of the prayer building. Inside, even a traveler far from religion will find peace, an opportunity to rest, and coolness, much sought-after in Africa.
If you travel to Dodoma by plane, it will take you only minutes to get from the airport to the mosque. The airport is very conveniently located not far from the city center. But this, among other things, is a also problem the authorities are struggling to solve. The airport’s position does not allow for an increase in the length of the runway, and thus it is impossible to receive large planes (which is necessary for the further development of the city). And here we return to the question of why officials, bankers, foreign consuls, and entrepreneurs are in no hurry to move from Dar es Salaam to the inner-continental capital.
There is a project to build a new, modern airport for Dodoma, with international status. It should be located just to the north, in Msalato, with a longer runway, better-equipped infrastructure, and be able to accommodate much larger passenger and cargo airliners. Hopefully, the project will soon come to fruition, attracting people and finance to Dodoma, which will make the capital even more attractive to travelers.
If you go down the Nyerere Road from Gaddafi Mosque, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the city – Nyerere Square with a monument to… you’ve guessed who, of course. Julius Nyerere was the first president of Tanzania, who did a lot for the independence of the former colony from Britain. He was also responsible for the development of the republic at the dawn of its modern history. Don’t forget to take selfies in front of the smiling Baba Wa Taifa, i.e. the Father of the Nation.
You can find several other mosques near Nyerere Square. And there are also quite a few scattered all over Dodoma, so you can make a quest to find the most beautiful ones. Be sure to look for Sunni Mosque – a beautiful white building, recognizable from afar by its green domes (if you find the mosque during the day, don’t forget to return to it in the evening to see the beautiful place of Muslim worship highlighted by the illumination).
Nearby you can find the impressive Anglican Cathedral building and the rather simple red-brick Lutheran Cathedral. By the way, the Tanzanian branch of the Anglican Communion has founded its own private university – St. John’s University of Tanzania, around which an entire unique area has developed – very green and resembling an oasis in the middle of the sun-dry African land. It is located in the south of Dodoma.
The biggest university in Dodoma and in the whole of Tanzania is the University of Dodoma (UDOM), which is responsible for the education of the country’s highly qualified future cadres. The University of Dodoma surpasses the University of Dar es Salaam in terms of campus size and student enrollment. Along with the infrastructural development of the capital, the progress of local education is a good factor for Dodoma’s continued growth. However, we wouldn’t specifically advise you to go out of town just to visit the campus.
What other sights are there in Dodoma?
When you’re in town, take a stroll through the streets and check out the Central Market (Soko Kuu) on Ndowu Road. You can find fresh fruits, vegetables, and other produce there, as well as all kinds of small things needed in the households of the capital’s residents. Maybe you’ll find something for yourself, too.
The parliament building – The National Assembly of Tanzania, also known as Bunge la Tanzania, is of some interest also. But the catch is that the parliament meets in Dodoma only four times a year (the rest of the time the lawmakers work in Dar es Salaam), which means that getting into the Bunge building itself is problematic. Nevertheless, finding and photographing this unusual architectural structure at least from afar is a worthy challenge for any inquisitive traveler.
Dodoma travel brochures also mention the so-called Geological Museum. Be warned right away, don’t expect to see something exciting if you go there. In fact, it’s a government agency – a geological survey service, which routinely does research in its own laboratories. They have exhibition samples of various rocks, minerals, and fossils, but those are likely to be of interest only to specialists.
In general, the city is not particularly rich in tourist attractions, if we’re being honest. Perhaps the most interesting thing to do here is simply walk the streets of Dodoma, noticing the peculiarities of African architecture, and discovering pretty buildings or green spaces. Until recently you could see the whole town from the Lion Rock overlooking Dodoma, but now this area is closed by the city authorities, so don’t waste your time looking for it.
We only have one last peek at the train station before heading out to the outskirts of the capital and other remote areas of central Tanzania. The Dodoma train station building is considered one of the city’s landmarks because it was built in the early 20th century. This bright building dates back to the colonial period of the country’s history and is a reminder of the times when these lands were ruled by the Germans.
How to get to Dodoma
There are many daily buses from Dar es Salaam. Driving time is seven to eight hours with a stop in Morogoro. There are plenty options for luxury buses through out the day. There are buses to and from Arusha via Kondoa to the north. The road is paved and very comfortable, there are buses all the way to 1:00pm. The highway is known as the Great Northern Highway. Travel time is often in excess of 5 hours, and breakdowns are not common.
There are also buses to and from Iringa. Travel time is about six hours on a winding gravel road of varying quality. The road passes right over the Mtera Dam which is worth a look. Dodoma is situated on the Central Railway Line which goes from Dar Es Salaam to Mwanza or Kigoma.
If you are in a hurry the better choice is by bus. If the train service is running again and you are heading west, train is better, especially in the rainy season. Air Tanzania/ Precision air flies daily with the between Dodoma and Dar es Salam for 250.000 TSH on Monday and Thursday, also to Mbeya.