Plan a trip to Arusha, Tanzania, with the help of local resident Ree Pashley. She highlights a plethora of women-owned businesses in Arusha that you can support during your trip.
Previously, Arusha, Tanzania, was simply a stop-over point for safari-goes on their way to the national parks. Over the years, it has grown into a bustling city with plenty of attractions and entertainment options.
Ladies considering an East African safari should put Arusha on their list, especially if you want to support women-owned businesses when you travel.
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Why visit Arusha, Tanzania?
Arusha is a fun city close to several world-class destinations, including Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, and Ngorongoro Crater.
This small city offers cultural attractions, museums, and galleries, as well as great food! You’ll also find fun activities not found anywhere else, like horseback riding in the Serengeti or private dance lessons from an indigenous Maasai woman.
Visitors can participate in yoga classes or poetry nights during their stay in Arusha, too.
With many so many activities available and a sea of safari companies to choose from, it can feel overwhelming to make a decision on what to do in Arusha.
To help you decide, here are some of the best women-owned and operated companies in and around Arusha, as well as some not-for-profit programs with a particular emphasis on supporting women in Tanzania.
Women-Run Activities in Arusha
Rukia Kurwa is the “Annoyin’Artist,” a spoken-word poet and creative soul who hosts art-inspired events across Arusha. From open-mic nights to interactive murals, residents and visitors to Arusha can check out the Facebook page for current happenings around Arusha.
If you attend an event, be sure to grab a wine and snap for some inspired words – or be brave and share some of your own poetry!
Anna Bussey is the founder of Ibuka Dance, a local Tanzanian dance company offering classes and dance-related events around Arusha.
Their mission is “to educate and employ disadvantaged youth with a focus on empowering girls and young women in Tanzania.” They offer scholarships for dancers with promise to become professional dancers.
Throughout the year, they offer fun days of open dance classes or other scheduled classes for regular attendance. The Afro-contemporary dance and performances are especially popular.
Ibuka Dance Foundation has been recognized locally and internationally for their creative endeavors in dance.
Visit their website for upcoming events.
This not-for-profit yoga community was created by Emma Bonnici Kanga and provides yoga training to equip local Tanzanians as yoga instructors.
They offer yoga classes for adults and children.
Happy Yoga’s goal is to prepare and educate new yoga instructors and teach the next generation the beautiful practice of yoga as a lifestyle.
Contact them on their Facebook page to connect, or to participate in a training course or a drop-in class.
Rehema Masoud offers a community yoga class at Njiro Center every Saturday at 10:00 am. The class is donation-based and, with Rehema’s unique approaches that sometimes involve partners, it is a great way to meet a new friend!
Rehema is a certified instructor through the Africa Yoga Project and she also offers regular weekend and evening yoga classes throughout the city, at 10,000 Tsh for each hour-long class.
Via Via Cultural Cafe does everything: food, drinks, excursions, movie nights, operates as a disco and hosts concerts and events.
An adjoining door connects the cafe to an art studio and gallery, where you can watch the artists paint as you peruse the paintings, fresh juice in hand.
On Thursday Nights, the Cafe becomes a night club and disco with two dance floors: one with reggae and popular Tanzanian beats, and another open-air stage with popular UK and North American songs.
They regularly host concerts and events on the weekends, so check out their page for updated events, including the Annoyin’Artist Festival, Ibuka Dance, and local live music.
Visit Via Via in person (next to the Museum of Natural History) to see some of the recent cultural excursions offered, including learning how to cook traditional Tanzanian food, or a hiking tour led by an Arusha resident.
Women Tour Operators in Arusha
Owned by Tanzanian sisters Neema and Jacqueline, Memorable Safaris is a tour company offering awesome safaris across Northern Tanzania.
They are family-friendly and understand the unique challenges involved when traveling with children.
Memorable Safaris makes sure to include extra little touches, including assigning guides who are parents themselves to take a family vacation in Tanzania over the top!
Skip the middle-man: Memorable Safaris has all the required licenses to climb Tanzania’s epic peaks, including Mount Kilimanjaro. There’s no need to pay an extra party when seeking a climbing adventure in Tanzania.
Women looking to climb the highest mountain in Africa should consider booking with this local, female-owned tour operator.
Mama Africa was founded by a man named John Mack, a professional nurse who was inspired by his strong, single mother and started the tour company in her honor.
Mack’s background in nursing has inspired him to participate in various projects across Tanzania, including family planning, prenatal care, skilled birth attendance, access to clean water, and addressing domestic violence, to name a few.
Mama Africa operates Tanzanian safaris to national parks, such as Tarangire and the Serengeti.
Beyond the typical tourism, Mama Africa has a strong emphasis of empowering women and firmly believes that women can and should hold the same positions and have the same opportunities as men.
Mama Africa hires mostly women and has switched-up the demographic, boasting an office with more female employees than male! They advocate for females to pursue careers as drivers and guides, and have a program focused on female entrepreneurs as well.
Please see here for more about Mama Africa’s projects.
Of course, with Mack’s nursing background, there is also a women’s health initiative, which receives funding as a charitable arm of Mama Africa.
Mama Africa Tours encourage international female travelers to get to know local Tanzania and meet Tanzanian women through cultural tours and city excursions.
Boutique Safaris run bespoke tours of all kinds, but one unique tour that sets them apart is Women’s Safaris.
Women’s Safari tours are guided by women and feature special programs for women, such as visiting a Maasai girl’s school and a cultural program led by community leaders.
A key feature is that these tours are entirely guided by female guides, which make up a very small percentage of all guides in Tanzania. That makes this tour a great way to promote females in this growing profession.
Joanna Westermark is the founder of Kaskazi Horse Safaris, an awesome way for travelers to get deep into the bush and experience ‘raw Africa’ from horseback.
‘Jo’ grew up in Kenya and Sweden, and studied and worked in South Africa where she became a professional equestrian guide. Later, she moved to Tanzania and set up her own operation, Kaskazi Horse Safaris, just outside of Arusha town.
Today, she continues to share the magic of Tanzania from an equestrian viewpoint and leads tours as Kaskazi’s lead guide. Adventure-seekers are able to get closer to wildlife, going deeper into nature away from the roads and the traditional safari cars.
Guests can go on multi-day horse packing trips deep into the African bush or choose a day ride at the foot of Mount Meru, near Arusha National Park. You’ll have the chance to see zebra, eland, wildebeest, and many more animals, all while riding a specially-trained safari horse.
Ladies seeking an exhilarating experience deep in Tanzania’s wildlife should consider booking a day or multi-day ride with Kaskazi Horse Safaris.
Accommodations for Women in Arusha
Run by the tour company Asilia Africa, this luxury camp is situated in the Serengeti National Park.
Visitors looking to take in the Great Migration or enjoy the rugged nature of the Serengeti should consider staying at this gorgeous camp.
Most importantly: it is run entirely by women.
Even if your safari is booked with another tour operator, some work in partnership with Asilia, so ask about staying at this lovely tented camp when booking your accommodations.
Food and Drink in Arusha
Open only for lunch, this vegetarian buffet is surrounded by lush gardens near Arusha’s Clocktower area. Open-air and outdoors, the garden is the center of attention for this eatery.
The “Eat Wild” Restaurant offers vegetarian and vegan dishes created from vegetables grown either directly in the gardens or in local fields operated by Okios, a local agricultural NGO.
The focus of the initiative is two-fold: local, sustainable gardening and providing income for female caregivers. All Themi Living Garden’s staff are women, and many are caregivers to disabled relatives.
A lunch at this sweet buffet means a lovely, cool garden to wander before sitting down outdoors to a delicious vegetarian lunch, complete with inspired fresh juices (think watermelon with a dash of pepper, or pineapple-avocado juice). Visitors leave satisfied from a healthy meal in a quiet garden within busy Arusha.
Themi Living Garden’s “Eat Wild’ lunch buffet doesn’t have a website, but the gardens can be found just beside “Mafao House” and the New Arusha Sheraton Hotel, along the Themi River. Recently, they have partnered with a local artist group, and guests can peruse unique paintings, or even take a painting class offered by some of the artists before or after lunch.
The mix of relaxing nature and beautiful paintings makes this outdoor restaurant a wonderful spot.
“The cutest cafe” in Arusha is Kitamu: a cozy cafe offering a fun ambiance and great food.
Owned and operated by Leah Assenga, Kitamu offers traditional Tanzanian dishes and great desserts in the center of Arusha town. Leah started out working in the coffee industry by training baristas across East and West Africa before she took the leap and started her own cafe.
Leah is making waves in Tanzania as she volunteers with Kiwakamori Specialty Coffee Group, which assists over 25 women in the Kibosho area to start their own coffee farms.
Leah’s vision is to see women across Tanzania empowered through coffee farming, owning their own farms and achieving sustainable livelihoods. Leah is also an active member of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (Tanzania Chapter).
Apart from excellent coffee, the food at Kitamu Coffee is delicious. Cakes and delicacies pair perfectly with tea or coffee (the author’s personal favorite is the carrot cake).
For hungry guests looking for a full meal, there are plenty of options from traditional Tanzanian eats to great burgers and sandwiches. They serve all-day breakfast and have plenty of vegetarian options as well.
Stop by Kitamu Coffee for some great food and delicious coffee, and know that you are supporting a wonderful female-owned business that is further impacting the community.
Travel from Home: Learn to make an African Sunrise cocktail
Shop From Women Artisans in Arusha
The Maasai Women Development Organization (MWEDO) was founded in 2000 by Ndinini Kemesera Kisar, Maria Kaheta and Josephine Gabriel Simon – three incredible Maasai women who would not be silenced.
This organization is entirely women-led and membership has surpassed 5,000 women.
The focus of MWEDO is to provide Maasai women with access to education, maternal health education, and economic empowerment.
Items sold at MWEDO’s shop include traditional carvings, lovely beaded necklaces, and home items with a Tanzanian twist.
All handicrafts are made by local Maasai women following fairtrade standards. A portion of proceeds goes toward MWEDO’s programs, including a health clinic and an educational access program for girls.
Shanga began as a small enterprise created by Tanzanian resident Saskia Rechstieiner. The initial necklaces were made with beads created from her son’s marbles and were immediately popular.
As business expanded, Saskia was intentional about providing employment opportunities for disabled Tanzanians, an emphasis that has gone on to shape Shanga.
Over the years, Shanga has grown to produce not only unique jewelry but a plethora of home decor items that make perfect gifts for friends and family. These include woven blankets and one-of-a-kind blown glass vases.
Shanga uses recycled items as much as possible, such as recycled glass and aluminum.
As a testament to their beautiful jewelry, Amal Clooney has been featured in one of their necklaces, and the workshop has been visited by the Clinton Foundation.
Today, Shanga is known for its quality jewelry, handmade decor items, and ongoing support of disabled individuals.
Their lovely workshop is located within Arusha Coffee Lodge, near Arusha Domestic Airport. Visitors may watch as artisans work the loom to weave a scarf or glass blowers create a unique item.
They also offer classes where guests can make their own glass-bead necklaces and learn more about the process of using recycled materials.
The gift shop is open from 9 am – 5 pm, Monday-Saturday, and 9 am – 3 pm on Sundays. They also offer online options and international shipping.
Sidai Designs’ mission is to “build a design-driven, sustainable, ethical business that provides a true living wage for artisans through the preservation and elevation of their indigenous craftsmanship”.
Sidai Designs focus on empowering women, specifically Indigenous Maasai women, to elevate their craft of beading to be professional silversmiths and earn a fair wage through their work.
The gorgeous necklaces and earrings reflect the local, Tanzanian Maasai fashion. The focus is on the use of white beads, instead of the popular Kenyan Maasai style that typically uses bright reds.
If you are visiting Arusha, you can find their shop located in the Gymkhana Area, where you can shop in-person.
Sidai Designs are available at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and they have also worked in collaboration with Anthropologie. Check out their stunning “Warrioress” Line for female-warrior inspired pieces.
Beyond jewelry-making, this incredible company provides monthly community workshops to further empower women. Topics include raising cattle (which is typically seen as a man’s role in the Maasai community), education about women’s rights, and health workshops. Sidai Designs is using traditional beading as a means to uplift, educate, and employ women.
Support Local Education
The School of St Jude was founded in 1998 by Gemma Sisia, an Australian woman who calls Tanzania home. Today, the school educates both primary and secondary students at two campuses in or near Arusha.
There is a special focus on educating girls and breaking social and educational barriers local women face. The unique aspect of this ‘charity school’ is that it offers entirely free, quality education for underprivileged children in Tanzania.
Further, the alumni program supports graduates. Some have gone on to study in US institutions or other universities on full or partial scholarships.
Families are interviewed to determine their true financial need. Candidates that qualify receive their entire education – primary through secondary school and sometimes beyond – completely free because of international sponsors.
The school encourages visitors and allows guests to tour or even participate in a class such as music or art. Potential sponsors are invited to a home visit with a local Tanzanian family and learn more about life in Tanzania, sometimes joining in dances at a Maasai boma!
Travelers interested in learning more about the education system of Tanzania, or sponsoring a student, particularly a female student, should check out The School of St Jude.
Home Foundation assists students to reach their full potential in a rural area outside of Karau, near Ngorongoro Crater.
The foundation assists students and teachers in locations that are under-funded and where students face increased barriers to education.
Some of their work includes providing desks and a daily hot lunch for students.
Each year, Home Foundation focuses on one attainable project to benefit students.
The most recent project was a new girl’s toilet for students at Kilamatembo Primary School. This small pink building means that girls on their periods have private, clean facilities and will not avoid school during their monthly cycle. They can instead continue to pursue their education without interruption.
Further, Home Foundation offers housing to a few select students with barriers to education, such as distance from home to school. Students live at the center during the school year and are supported to focus on their studies.
Contact Home Foundation to learn more or for a chance to tour the schools and meet some of the teachers in rural areas.
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