Sunday, March 16, 2014

#700 Bagamoyo, Tanzania

One of the most important 19th century settlements along Tanzania's (and East Africa's coast), Bagamoyo is a dirt-path ghost town in comparison today. Once upon a time it linked Lake Tanganyka to the coast on an old caravan route of trade in slaves, ivory, salt, and copra. It was an exploration hub, with the likes of Richard Burton, Henry Morgan Stanley, John Hanning Speck, James Augustus Grant and David Livingstone all passing through (although Livingstone only after his death!). French missionaries established Freedom Village here as a shelter for ransomed trades and its church and works continue albeit with a different slant. Now, despite its 30,000 inhabitants, it has a very rural, unhurried, tropical beach fishing village sleepy charm and has been considered as a UNESCO world heritage site. "Bwaga-Moyo" means "Lay down your Heart" in Swahili, a tribute to the slave trade that thrived here (although it was officially ended in 1875) or to the heavy loads that were carried from the interior.
1. Bagamoyo Kaole Old Town 
South of the European center with a silted up port, lies the older settlement of Bagamoyo. At the center of these ruins lies a 13th century mosque, which sends Bagamoyo several centuries back into the past when the East African coast was an Omani-controlled trade hub. The mosque is one of the oldest in Tanzania and East Africa dating from the days of the Sultan of Kilwa. Another 15th century mosque is nearby with 22 graves from a similar period, with Shirazi pillar-style tombs similar to Tongoni further north. The settlers were originally Persians from Shiraz after the Mongol hordes attacked their home. Remains of staircases and Suria verses can be found amongst the ruins. Later pillars were decorated with Chinese porcelain, now removed to the National Museum. "According to local tradition Shaykh Ally bin Tumo is buried in one of the pillar tombs, in the so-called "Love Grave" after their ship was wrecked between Kaole and Zanzibar." 
 2. Bagamoyo Fort
While it was the capital of German East Africa from 1887 to 1891 after it was transferred to Dar Es Salaam, the long decline of the site began. Being the center of the 1888 Abushiri revolt against the colonial government certainly didn't help its security. 

This fort dates from 1856, and was built over an Arab fort in the same location built by Abdallah Marhabi around 1793 and extended by Sultan Majid. A tradesman called Seva Haji bought the fort in 1890 and donated it to the Germans in 1894 who established a school in the building, but also used it as a garrison. The British used it as a prison in World War I. It has also been used as a police station and a prison since independence. In 1992 it was restored with EU funds.   

 3. Bagamoyo Beach and Town (Mji Mkongwe - Stone Town)
Cob-webbed portals, decaying old villas, mould-stricken German-era colonial houses mixed with decrepit modern shanties decorate Bagamoyo's modern town, right on the edge of the beach, where a tidal flat  is filled with fishing boats being repaired, dhow-construction, and other vessels in various situations. Ocean Road has the most interesting collections of remains, from the colonial administrative offices (1897), a 19th century (first multiracial) school, Liku House (administrative headquarters), the customs house (1895), an old caravanserai which was also the slave market, a hospital and remnants of the port, now a fishing market. The streets have Zanizibari-style carved doors, and similar styled abodes, unsurprising considering the Muslim families related to Omani Shavmi la Magimba settled in the new town in the 18th century. 
 4. Bagamoyo Catholic Mission
The 1868 Holy Ghost Catholic Mission (the oldest mission in Tanzania) has an excellent (if small) museum, and David Livingstone's embalmed body was held in the chapel here after its 1500km jouney from Chitambo, Zambia before being returned to Westminster Abbey via Zanzibar. When it was set up, it caused significant resentment among the local Zaramo people, despite the land being gifted by local rulers. 
Source: Lonely Planet Tanzania 4th Edition, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for visit the "photosphera" and chose the blog,very happy to reciprocate with your lovely space. A hug

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