Life in Arusha, Tanzania — Land of the Maasai

Arusha, the land of the Maasai and their culture, is located in the northern zone of Tanzania and is the fourth largest town in Tanzania after Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Tanga. The northern zone is comprised of four administrative regions: Arusha, Manyara, Kilimanjaro and Tanga.

Until about five years ago, Manyara and Arusha were one region, but the region was split into two because of its geographical vastness.


According to the 2002 census, Arusha had a population of 1,292,973. Given the national annual growth rate of 3 percent, the population of this region was more than 1.5 million by the year 2009. The population of the town alone is about 400,000, but the people who visit the city every day for business, shopping and school make the real number of inhabitants there much more than that.

Arusha is the administrative town of Tanzania’s northern zone and commands a lot of income-generating activities of sizeable scale, such as mining, agriculture, cattle rearing, light industries and tourism.

several children wearing traditional Maasai dress


Though there are now many people groups in Arusha, the Maasai hold to their culture and love to put on their traditional clothes.

The common language spoken is Kiswahili, which is the compulsory teaching language in primary school. English is also spoken to some degree, especially by young people because of interaction with the guests and tourists who flock to the town as tourism increases.

Economic Activities

Economic levels in Arusha differ a lot and the more affluent are business people who benefit from the tourism industry, mining, and farming sectors. Arusha is home to the world famous tanzanite, the precious gemstone that is mined only in Tanzania.

Arusha is the second government revenue collector, with the highest gross national product (GNP) after Dar es Salaam. It is also the hub of tourism, which is concentrated in northern Tanzania. Arusha is the gateway to the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, where visitors marvel at the great wildebeest migration.

The presence of the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, East African Community Headquarters, East and Southern African Management Institute, East, Central and Southern African Health Secretariat, African Court of Appeal, International Postal Union, and the like make Arusha a cosmopolitan town that brings about 100 nationalities together in one place. However, the growth of this international community makes living costs high for the locals who don’t work in these offices.

Food Crisis Update

While Arusha has not experienced widespread hunger and no child in our Child Sponsorship Program has suffered severely from hunger pangs, several families have been touched by the price surge due to the general food crisis in the country.

Food prices have gone high in the past two years. The price for a loaf of bread has nearly doubled, and a kilo of cow beef, which used to sell at $1.70, now sells for $2.65.

Local Issues

The pandemic of HIV/AIDS is still claiming the lives of parents and guardians, leaving an increasing number of children as orphans without support. This might be one of the reasons that Arusha has such a high number of street children, now estimated to be 7,000.

city scene with tall office building

Due to its geopolitical position, Arusha is attracting more people and growing quickly, which has caused an increase in the crime rate. It is well connected by tarmac roads to the major cities of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. These cities have a direct influence on what happens in Arusha.

Water needs have increased in recent years, and this poses a challenge for the municipal authority to devise ways of solving the city’s water problem.

Home Life

Arusha has embraced both local and modern lifestyles and this is reflected by the types of buildings seen in the city and its environs. There are squatter areas as well as posh houses where affluent people live. New hotels are being built to cater to the increasing number of visitors who come to the town for various engagements.

Most of our sponsored children come from the squatter and periphery areas where the centers are located.

Schools and Education

Arusha is endowed with many government and private primary schools. The government has made it compulsory for all children to attend primary school, but this has triggered another problem. Those who finish primary school cannot attend secondary school because of insufficient classrooms, teaching facilities and teaching staff.

The government is encouraging individuals and the business community to contribute and assist in building enough classrooms for the increased number of secondary school students.

Church and Religion

Arusha has many churches, and religious activities are vibrant and alive in the town. People like to go to open-air gospel crusades and the presence of the Christian community is widely felt in Arusha.

The churches have seen a wave of revival from the late 1990s to the present, and although people identify themselves with their religious denominations, there has been a noted increase in the degree of religious tolerance and understanding.

The presence of Islam is seen in town and coexists with Christianity in peace but not friendliness.

11 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Ambrose Ghwanga July 28, 2017

    I love to see some good people sponsor us,Tanzanians in one way or another.It was interesting to the passion in your communication.
    Hope you still have the same passion of coming to sponsor some miserable children amongst us.

  2. jean jordan September 18, 2014

    I sponsor a chid in Tanzania through Anne and Steve Street. i have lost the Leeds, UK address for writing to them and the little boy I support. ( I have been very ill ). Could you please let me have the Leeds Forget Me Not address.
    God bless

    1. Susan Sayler September 18, 2014

      Hello Jean! This is the Compassion International blog. Compassion’s main office in the UK is located in Weybridge, Surrey. Anne and Steve Street run another organization by the name of Avail Ministries. I believe you can contact them by visiting: Their postal address in Leeds is also listed on this page. I hope this is helpful. God bless you!

  3. Rebecca A. Reilly February 23, 2011

    I visited my Compassion child in Jan of 2009. I traveled with a driver for over 3 hours to visit Agnes. I was able to meet her at the Compassion site and then went with her and a Compassion representative to visit her family. It was an awesome experience. My Kiswahili is VERY limited and neither Agnes or her family speak any English, but we had no problems communicating!! The Compassion Rep did translate somewhat. Her family was very welcoming and her grandmother was very fun! We exchanged gifts& enjoyed a COLD soda. Many neighbors and especially children came also. the children are adorable. I have since sponsored another child from Mburiashi and hope to meet her in the next year or so.

  4. alice uale February 7, 2011

    I have been invited to speak to the women in the villages in the Masai lands. I cannot wait to go,+ Praise God for the opportunity of a lifetime. JEsus lives!!!!!

  5. Megan – Faith Like Mustard February 3, 2011

    This is great! Our Happyness is in a center near Arusha. I love learning more about the countries Compassion serves!

  6. Beverly Reese January 29, 2011

    My husband, Bruce, and I had the extraordinary privilege of traveling to Tanzania in Feb., 2009 and got to meet our 2 sponsored children who are from different areas of the country. We also had the blessing of being able to interact with the Masai in the Center where our one sponsored child, Moteti, is a regular attender. To say that it was magical, heartbreaking, wonderful and inspiring only begins to touch the emotions that today, 2 years later, I feel well up in my heart and soul.

    1. Gale January 4, 2013

      I have a sponsored little girl in Tanzania, and would love to one day soon visit her. If anyone knows how much this kind of trip would cost coming from the US please let me know. Also is it safe there for someone like me me coming from the US.

      1. Susan Sayler January 4, 2013

        We are taking a Group Sponsor Tour in March 2013 and there are positions still available. For more information on this tour and other tours, please visit Compassion constantly monitors the safety of our destination countries and will make any adjustments necessary to protect our tour participants, sponsored children and in-country staff. We believe it is important to provide safe, comfortable accommodations, traditional meals and reliable transportation so that your focus can be on what God is teaching you and the impact of the experience rather than concern for your personal safety and well-being. -Susan

  7. Rebecca January 28, 2011

    Love this type of email that gives so much great info on a specific area where there are sponsor children. Thank you!

  8. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies January 28, 2011

    Such beautiful people! Our newest CI child is from Tanzanina, a young man names Mkapa. I can’t wait to learn more about his country! Thanks for starting me off, on my journey to learn more!

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