Arusha is a major international diplomatic hub. The city hosts the East African Community. From 1994 to 2015, the city also hosted the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, but that entity has ceased operations. It is a multicultural city with a majority Tanzanian population of mixed backgrounds: indigenous African, Arab-Tanzanian and Indian-Tanzanian population, plus a small White European and a white American minority population. Religions of the Arushan population include Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.
The current site of Arusha was first settled in the 1830s by the agro-pastoral Arusha Maasai from the Arusha Chini community, south of Mount Kilimanjaro. They traded grains, honey, beer, and tobacco with the pastoral Kisongo Maasai in exchange for livestock, milk, meat, and skins. Demand for Arusha's foodstuffs increased substantially during the 1860s when the Pangani Valley trade route was extended through Old Moshi, Arusha, and ultimately to western Kenya. Although it was not yet a town, it was a regional centre and had a number of urban features.
Arusha was conquered by the Germans in 1896 after the murder of the first two missionaries who attempted to settle on nearby Mount Meru. The Germans established a permanent presence in 1900 when a military fort (a boma) was built and soldiers were garrisoned there. "The boma was a solid statement, meant to impress German moral and political order on the surrounding countryside. Set on a rise overlooking the plains, the fortress-like building dominated the surrounding landscape" complete with a machine gun. Many Africans were forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands by the Germans and forced to dig lime or carry stones to construct the fort.
The British took Arusha from the Germans in 1916 during World War I. German officials left the area, the British deported German missionaries and settlers, and only a skeletal military administration of the town remained. But slowly during the 1920s, civilian administration was implemented, missionaries from the United States arrived, British and Greek settlers reoccupied the former German farms, and the town grew, especially after the British moved the regional administration from New Moshi to Arusha. The extension of the railroad from Moshi to Arusha in 1928-29 greatly increased commerce. The Great Depression soon thereafter, however, squelched commerce, and Arusha in 1940 had less than 2,000 residents. Growth resumed during World War II and by 1948, the population had increased to more than 5,000.
In the 1960s parts of the movie Hatari! with John Wayne were filmed at Momella.
Arusha has been a crucial city in the history of modern Tanzania. Official documents ceding independence to Tanganyika were signed by the United Kingdom at Arusha in 1961. Also, the Arusha Declaration was signed in 1967 in Arusha.
The Arusha Accords were signed at the city of Arusha on August 4, 1993, by representatives of competing factions in the Rwandan civil war.
The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi was signed on 28 August 2000 as part of a process forging peace in that country through power sharing and establishing a transitional government. The January 2015 Arusha Agreement for South Sudan created a framework for the reunification of South Sudan's ruling SPLM party, which had splintered into three creating a humanitarian crisis as fighting between factions intensified. It provided that all SPLM members who were dismissed be reinstated to their previous positions and a secret ballot system be adopted.
In 1994 the UN Security Council decided by its Resolution 955 of 8 November 1994 that Arusha should host the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The establishment of the tribunal with its foreign employees has influenced the local economy of the city increasing the cost of living for residents. The tribunal has downsized due to its closure in 2014, but its legal successor, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966, will continue entertaining a branch in Arusha, opening on 1 July 2012.
Arusha was officially declared a city on 1 July 2006 by the Tanzanian government.
The primary industry of the city is the service sector. The city hosts numerous small and large businesses, banking, retail and commercial enterprises thus making it the financial and cultural capital of the Arusha region. The city of Arusha is home to the largest manufacturing sector in the region with breweries, tyre manufacturing and agro-forest processing, and a large pharmaceuticals maker.
Tourism is also a major part of the economy of the city of Arusha, and the largest dollar-earning economic sector in Tanzania. The city is located on the northern safari circuit near some of the greatest national parks and game reserves in Africa, including Serengeti National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Arusha National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, and Tarangire National Park.
The city of Arusha is the headquarters of the East African Community, and plays host to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The city is home to the famous Arusha International Conference Center, host to many international meetings.
Arusha is also a well known destination for Non Governmental Organizations that operate out the city in a variety of regions and aid areas such as HIV and AIDS Awareness, children's education, and micro-finance.
Among Arusha's notable districts are the Central Business Area, located by the clock tower; Sekei in the northwest, which is largely residential with a vibrant nightlife; Njiro, a middle-class rapidly growing suburb in the south; and Tengeru, a lively market-town in the east.
North of Arusha are the districts of Karatu, Ngorongoro, Monduli, Arumeru and Longido, about 90 minutes north of Arusha by daladala along the Arusha-Nairobi Road.
Arusha's clock tower 03°22′20.5″S 036°41′40.1″E / 3.372361°S 36.694472°E / -3.372361; 36.694472 (Arusha Clocktower) is popularly supposed to be situated at the midpoint between Cairo and Cape Town, therefore representing the halfway point between the two termini of the old British Empire in Africa. However, the actual great circle midpoint between these two cities lies in central Congo. The clock tower is currently adorned with the logo of the Coca-Cola Company.
Arusha is served by Kilimanjaro International Airport for international air travellers, some 60 kilometres (37 mi) east, approximately halfway to Moshi. The airport provides international and domestic flights. Arusha Airport is a regional air hub in the west of the city and serves more than 87,000 passengers yearly. Travel by road can be done through privately run coaches (buses) to Nairobi, Dodoma and Dar Es Salaam, and other major cities in the nation.
Arusha is known for its vibrant night life, with popular local night clubs.
The city hosts the National Natural History Museum, which contains three exhibits on early man, plants and animals of the region, and the history of the city. The natural national history museum, which is found in a 'boma', used to be an administration outpost for the Germans in the 1900s. It was opened in 1987 as a public museum and displays important assets to the scientific community such as models of Australopithecus people, human ancestors that lived over 2 million years ago.
A small museum adjacent to the Uhuru monument displays information about the proceedings of the Arusha Declaration in 1967.
Arusha is also the headquarters of the African Great Lakes region's first local media center, Aang Serian Drum.
Masai Market is the local handicrafts and curios market. The Cultural Heritage Center has a large handicrafts store, Tanzanite, and art gallery.
The city's cuisine is a blend of dishes from various parts of Tanzania as well as global culinary traditions. Ugali (stiff maize meal polenta) with meat sauce, beans, and greens is a staple dish. Nyama ndizi (a soup of meat and starchy cooking bananas) is also popular. Nyama choma, kiti moto, and kuku choma are popular barbecue dishes usually served with local cold beer and pili pili. Chips mayai is another popular local dish of chips (fried potatoes) and egg. Indian and Chinese cuisines are also widely available.
Most Arushan children attend public schools located in almost every ward of the city. There are five international schools in and around Arusha: International School Moshi (Arusha Campus), Arusha Meru International School, Braeburn School, St Constantine's International School, and Kennedy House International School.
The city of Arusha is home to the National College of Tourism - Arusha Campus, Arusha Technical College, Tengeru Institute of community Development, The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, Eastern and Southern African Management Institute, MS Training Centre for Development Cooperation (MS-TCDC), The Institute of Accountancy Arusha, Forestry Training Institute, Olmotonyi, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Tumaini University Makumira, The Arusha University and The Mount Meru University. Planning for Aga Khan University-Arusha Campus is in the initial stages.
The Arcadia University hosts a film course that has led to the creation of the Arusha African Film Festival, which allows people to come and watch films created by local people. The guidelines allows a multitude of filmmakers to be taken into account for awards, and each year a new theme is chosen for the festival. The AAFF is connected to the East African Film Festival, which also gives ample opportunity for awards and credit to young filmmakers.
Arusha is home to the largest medical hospitals in Arusha Region. Mount Meru Hospital and Arusha Lutheran Medical Center are among the largest in the city.
Despite its proximity to the equator, Arusha's elevation of 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) on the southern slopes of Mount Meru keeps temperatures relatively low and alleviates humidity. Cool dry air is prevalent for much of the year. The temperature typically ranges between 5 and 30 degrees Celsius with an average annual high temperature around 25 degrees. It has distinct wet and dry seasons, and experiences an eastern prevailing wind from the Indian Ocean, a few hundred miles east. Under the Köppen climate classification system, it has a temperate highland tropical climate with dry winters (Cwb). Areas to the south and west of Arusha away are classified as tropical savanna climates (Aw).
The record high since records began in 2000 is 39 degrees Celsius (102 F). The record low is 7 Celsius (45 F). Arusha averages 29.8 days per year above 32 Celsius (90F) – all between November and March. Arusha's annual precipitation average is 123 cm (48.7 inches), mostly coming during the long rainy season from March to May. Areas immediately to the north and northeast of Arusha can see more precipitation and cooler temperatures due to the influence of Mt. Meru, whose rain shadow extends toward the southeast side of the mountain.
Arusha and the northern highlands of Tanzania experience a bimodal rainfall pattern, with two rainy seasons. Many crops are planted twice per year. The long "masika" rains from March through May are more reliable in Arusha than in surrounding areas because of the influence of Mt. Meru. The short "vuli" rains are less reliable, usually coming in November and December. The dry "kiangazi" season is June to October. Higher elevation areas north and northeast of the city are home to farmers growing bananas, coffee, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, and other vegetables. Cultivation in areas to the northwest, west, southwest, south, and southeast focuses on maize, beans and wheat. There is a significant horticulture industry, with several companies growing flowers for export to Europe.
The city is home to the Tanzanian rugby national team. The city hosts international rugby matches as well. Joshua Peterson, who played for the national team, was the second youngest international rugby player ever, behind Johnny Wilkinson. Southern Pool A of the 2007 Castel Beer Trophy was hosted here as well.
The city is home to Arusha FC, playing in Sheikh Amri Abeid Memorial Stadium, which represents the city in Tanzanian league football.
The city also hosted the Mount Meru Marathon, held from 1985 to 2004. The "all-comers" record for the fastest marathon performance in Tanzania, 2:13:46, was set at the event by former long-distance runner Benedict Ako on August 1, 1993.
On May 21, 2011, the Drake University Bulldogs beat the CONADEIP All-Stars 17-7 in the first ever American football game in Tanzania.
Arusha is home for the Arusha Motor Sports Club (AMSC), which provides motor entertainment for the city of Arusha. It was created in 1996 with the purpose of providing "motor rallying", which was a new concept at the time for Tanzania, as a new form of entertainment. The AMSC is the largest club in Tanzania that invites foreign competitors to rally and compete for AMSC.
Arusha was the setting for the 1962 film Hatari!, directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne.