Introduction

First an obscure fishing village, then an empty shell of a city after the failed East African Groundnut Scheme, sprawling Mtwara is now southeastern Tanzania’s major town. The commercialisation of Mtwara's natural gas reserves that started in 2006 sparked a flurry of building and investment. Now, however, with the construction of the gas pipeline to Dar es Salaam, many of the rapidly built high-rises are standing vacant, and the city's somnolent, sunbaked atmosphere is slowly returning. For travellers, Mtwara lacks the historical appeal of nearby Mikindani and other places along the coast. However, with its good infrastructure and easy access, it makes a useful stocking-up point between Tanzania and Mozambique. Mtwara has also become a popular resting point for those travelling between Dar es Salaam and Songea via the newly paved highway between Masasi and Tunduru.