Megacity in waiting: Dar es Salaam is basking in its post-millennial revival

The port city of Dar es ­Salaam – or Dar, as locals know it – named after Sultan Majid’s palace, the “House of Peace”, is said to be one of the fastest-growing in the world. If the all-day, slug-slow traffic, a favourite topic of frustrated foreigners and ­Tanzanians alike, is anything to go by, it shows. In a report, the African Development Bank projects that Dar’s current population of 4.1 million will leap to 6.2 million by 2025, an 82 per cent growth since 2010. Megacity status – 10 million people – is on the cards by 2030.

While Dodoma is the official capital of Tanzania, Dar remains the country’s economic, political and social hub. Its growing stature with African and foreign investors has rapidly lent the office buildings and high rises a sleek, modern look in parts – glass and steel twinkle against clear blue skies in the sagging humidity. The extensive expat community tend to congregate in leafy, gated communities serviced by nearby upmarket bars in Oyster Bay, mini malls and South African food chains.

But I’m not here to negotiate a business deal or to scope out private schools and house­keeper services for a move to the city. I’m in Dar to enjoy a slice of local life. To facilitate my access, I have hired Mejah Mbuya, a social campaigner and founder of Afri Roots, a tour and community upliftment organisation. The majority of locals live along the back roads of vibrant though ramshackle outlying neighbourhoods. Most business travellers and passers-by on the way to Zanzibar or Arusha and Kenya on safari don’t linger beyond the hotels, I’m told.