I've been doing my research on Kilimanjaro for ~15 years. But not until this trip became a reality that I have begun researching customs and traditions in the country itself.
I've been reading Tanzania - Culture Smart!: The Ultimate Guide to Customs and Culture and have found it VERY useful. Especially for the $.99 it cost me for the Kindle.
I'm probably more paranoid than the 'average' traveler about knowing customs, but this is my first venture (and I'm solo) into a country with a large Muslim population. My number one goal is to not offend anyone. I am not going to 'fit in' - I may as well wear a sign that says American!!
I've been using a Swahili computer program to learn a few words. I want to be able to at least greet people and ask where the restrooms are. When I was in Spain a few years ago, those were really the only useful phrases I used. The problem when learning to ask just a few things -- if the person doesn't choose to answer you in English, then they speak WAY too fast and with words that you don't understand. But those that do speak English seemed to appreciate the attempt at using their language.
Can I tell you how much I wish I had taken a language different than French? And as someone who was always linguistics-focused, I believe the theory that it is MUCH harder to learn a language as you get older!
Happy New Year! I cannot wait to kick off 2014 with all of the exciting things we have planned this year - not just this trip. And it's kind of neat to think of turning 41 in 14.