Tanzania’s first interaction with the outside world was with seafaring traders from the Red Sea and the Arabian Peninsula (bringing with them the Islamic religion). Islam was eventually adopted by locals at the ports where the Arab traders flourished. The first European explorer who arrived in Tanzania was Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama (1498), who was on his way to the Orient. With trading posts established on Tanzania’s coasts, the Portuguese maintained a presence there, until two centuries later (when Omani Arabs drove them out of Tanzania). The Omani Arabs had taken control of Kilwa and Zanzibar, setting up governors at the country’s coastal towns. Those Arabs had set up trading routes as far inland as the Great Lakes region (Rwanda) – exchanging cheap clothes & firearms for slaves and ivory.
Full-fledged colonization of Tanzania didn’t occur until the late 1800s, when the Germans set sight on Tanzania as one of the African colonies that it sought. The Berlin Conference of 1885 (where the European powers negotiated which colonies they would formally possess) helped seal Tanzania’s fate as a German colony by the late 1890s (Germany would also possess areas that are now Rwanda and Burundi, Southwest Africa/Namibia, Cameroon, and Togo). The island of Zanzibar (located off the mainland coast of Tanzania) became a British protectorate at the time. When World War I ended in 1918, the Germans lost Tanzania and its other African colonies (mainly to Britain).
Tanzania was granted independence from the British in 1961. The island of Zanzibar was granted its independence from UK two years later (1963) as a constitutional monarchy under its Sultan. Soon afterwards (early 1964), locals revolted against the Sultan. The end of the revolt resulted in the union of Tanzania and Zanzibar in April 1964. The country’s president (Julius Nyerere) took steps to minimize future ethnic-based tensions in the country by instituting one-party rule, and established Kiswahili as the national language.
Compared to countries in other African regions like Angola (which incurred a decades-long civil war after gaining independence in 1975), Ethiopia (which went through famine and war in the 1980s) and Zimbabwe (which went through bouts of hyperinflation in the late 2000s), Tanzania was never plagued with the war, famine and economic instability (that afflicted other African countries).
Tanzania has achieved high growth rates based on its vast natural resource wealth and tourism with GDP growth in 2009-17 averaging 6%-7% per year. Dar es Salaam used fiscal stimulus measures and easier monetary policies to lessen the impact of the global recession and in general, benefited from low oil prices. Tanzania has largely completed its transition to a market economy, though the government retains a presence in sectors such as telecommunications, banking, energy, and mining. According to the World Travel Tourism Council, tourism represented 9.0% of the country’s GDP in 2017 (generating 446,000 jobs). Tanzania’s commitment to tourism growth is underscored by the fact that over 44% of the country’s land mass is set aside for national parks and game reserves.