Regional specialities and unique finds include Masaai beadwork, gourds and spears from northern Tanzania, and Makonde woodcarvings of people and wildlife. Woven mkeka mats make good floor coverings – the plain, straw-coloured kind are woven from sisal by craftsmen in Karatu, near the Crater Highlands. On the coast, the women of Mafia Island are particularly renowned for their colourful mkeka weaving and incorporate colours and designs (among them ‘gecko’s backbone’, ‘the Arab’s scarf’, and ‘popcorn’) into the mats they make from dried and twisted palm fronds. Baskets often make great storage places for magazines and newspapers back at home and often double as handbags – the best come from Singida, and most craft shops in Dar es Salaam and Arusha will carry them. In Zanzibar, old tiles, bowls, and carved wooden chests make fantastic souvenirs of your journey to the coast.
Aside from regional specialties, there are a variety of smaller local items that make great presents and take-home souvenirs. Bright printed clothes called kangas are worn by women all over Tanzania. They’re sold in pairs and emblazoned with a witticism or traditional proverb. Kangas go in and out of style – look around and you’ll see this season’s fashions on women from Dar es Salaam to the shores of Lake Victoria. Kikois are similar in shape and size to kangas, but are traditionally worn by the men of the Swahili coast as wrap-around sarongs. Woven with vertical stripes, kikois make popular gifts and are simpler and more demure than the bright colours and prints of women’s kangas. If you’re looking for special food or delicacies of Tanzania, pick up bags of Zanzibar spices direct from the market – vanilla beans fresh off the tree, bags of whole cloves and round nutmegs laced with mace make great gifts for cooks back home. Honey direct from Tabora in central Tanzania is also a special delicacy.