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The 120 ethnic groups that inhabit Tanzania have adapted to a wide range of geophysical and climatic conditions.
The specific habits, customs, and life-views of each group have been influenced by tribal traditions and alliances, European invasions, population movements over the centuries, and introduced and endemic diseases.
Tanzania also shares three great lakes—Victoria, Tanganyika, and Malawi—with its neighbors.
The country is comprised of a wide variety of agro-ecological zones: low-lying coastal plains, a dry highland plateau, northern savannas, and cool, well-watered regions in the northwest and south.
In 1964, Tanganyika was joined with Zanzibar, an offshore archipelago of islands, to form the present United Republic of Tanzania.
Because of a unique combination of historic and cultural factors, Tanzanians share strong feelings of national pride and cohesion.
Equally important, of course, is Tanganyika's independence and subsequent unification with Zanzibar to form the United Republic.
It shares borders with Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and the Indian Ocean.In 1890, Zanzibar became a British protectorate while the mainland became part of German East Africa.The period of German rule was extremely heavy-handed; when the Africans fought back during the Maji-Maji rebellion of 1905, tens of thousands were killed.The use of a single common language has greatly facilitated trade, political debate, nationalism, information dissemination, and conflict resolution. Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, and the magnificent wild animals (including lions, elephants, rhinoceros, giraffes, leopards, and cheetahs, to name only a few) draw millions of tourists to the country every year.The landscape and animals are valued national treasures, symbolized on coins and as brand names for manufactured products.After the defeat of Germany in World War I (1914–1918), German East Africa was made a League of Nations Mandated Territory, called Tanganyika, controlled by the British.Following World War II, Tanganyika became a United Nations trusteeship of Great Britain.There are heavy population concentrations in the urban centers (including Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Tabora, and Mbeya), in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, and along the coast of Lake Malawi. While each ethnic group speaks its own local language, almost all Tanzanians are also fluent in the national language, Swahili ( Kiswahili in Swahili), a coastal Bantu language strongly influenced by Arabic.The second official language is English, a vestige of the British colonial period.This sense of nationalism has served to keep the country at peace for over two decades, while most of its neighbors have been involved intermittently in catastrophically destructive civil and cross-border wars.Tanzanians have been able to resolve most internal problems without resorting to violence because of a shared language, the lack of political or economic dominance by any ethnic group, and the strong leadership provided by Julius Nyerere (1922–1999), the first president of Tanzania.