Bagamoyo played various historical roles in Tanzania. Apart from being a slave and ivory port, it was also a German headquarter in 1891. Explorers such as Burton, Speke, Grant, Livingston and Stanley all passed in this town. Attractions of interest tell the story of Bagamoyo’s colorful and at times turbulent past: of fishermen and farmers; of traders, explorers and travelers; of slaves, their captors and owners, and of the succeeding waves of colonialists that preceded the founding of the independent African nation of Tanzania in 1961. Caravan porters praised the town as Bwagamoyo— “to throw off melancholy”, while slaves lamented it as Bagamoyo, Kiswahili for “crush down your heart”.
A small fishing village on the Tanzanian coast some 75-km north along the coast from Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo first gained commercial prominence and its multi-cultural nature during the late 18th- and early 19th centuries. The Omani Arabs and Indian merchants established Bagamoyo as a trade center on Africa’s east coast. The Germans subsequently made their presence felt, establishing it as their commercial center and the administrative capitol of German East Africa.
In addition to the Arab and German trading center for ivory, ebony, copra and other natural resources, Bagamoyo served as the mainland terminus for the lucrative and brutal slave trade. At its peak, an estimated 50,000 slaves per year were taken from the African interior to Bagamoyo for transshipment to the slave markets and spice and clove plantations of Zanzibar. Numerous sites and buildings dating back to these periods remain, remnants of a troubled, yet rich, past, a history peopled by Africans, Arabs, Indians and Europeans.
Buildings in Bagamoyo’s Old Town with beautiful, handcarved wooden doorframes of Arabian and Indian design– such as that of the Old Bagamoyo Tea House– offer glimpses of the town’s former splendour…and the relative luxury the traders’ were able to afford.
Remains of Bagamoyo’s past also include the Old Fort, the first stone structure built in the region. The fort was built by the Baluchi Indian A.S. Marhabi and was originally fortified by the Omani Arab Sultan Bargash. The Germans subsequently took control of it, using it to defend the East African coast during their tenure as 19th-century colonial rulers of German East Africa. Other historical sites of interest are the German Boma, which was built in 1897 as the German colony’s central administrative office and the residence of the German Colonial Administrator. The Catholic Mission of Bagamoyo is a repository of documentary, as well as other types, The Bagamoyo Church: It was was built in 1868 and considered to be the first church in East Coast of Africa. A cemetery, where the early missionaries were buried and a small shrine which was built by freed slaves in 1876 are all seen. “We are told that between 1934 and 1991, 35 Dutch priests worked here” The last of this long line of priests from the Netherlands was Father Frits Versteijnen who stayed in Bagamoyo for 30 years and started the first museum in the old Fathers’ House in March 1968.
The second Fathers’ House in Bagamoyo, constructed close to the Mother of all Churches in East Africa, has also fallen victim to the corrosive effects of the coast region’s relentlessly humid climate. Its ground floor was built in 1873, the first floor in 1877 and the second floor in 1903. Kaole was early known as Pumbuji, was the first settlement of the Arabs from Persia in 13th Century (1270). Mr. Neville Chittick excavated the place in 1958; a man from England with Mr. Samahani M. Kejeri now is a Professor.
This is the major attraction that Bagamoyo town has to offer.The ruins are located about 5km from the center, ruins have two mosques and several tombs, one mosque is the remnant of the oldest mosque in East Africa, dating between third and fourth centuries. The ruins are believed to be established around 13th century, indicating early contact that Bagamoyo had with Islamic world. The tombs were built from coral stones.
It is a small museum, which displays Bagamoyo history in relation to its contact with foreigners. It has old photographs, documents and relics from slave trade. On the same compound there is a small chapel know as Anglican church of Holly Cross. The church is famous for being a place where the remains of David Livingstone were laid before taken to Zanzibar en route to Westminster abbey for burial.
The Roman Catholic Museum:
North of Bagamoyo town, there is an interesting museum run by a Catholic church (mission). The museum has interesting displays on the history of Bagamoyo and a section of some of the European explorers. The museum curator maintains an amicable atmosphere by allowing good visitors register their names in the museum “friends’ book” and give them cards with “friends’ number” to be used in any future correspondence with the museum.
Admission is free but donation will be appreciated. On the same compound is the chapel where Livingstone’s body was laid before being taken to Zanzibar town en route to Westminster Abbey. The Catholic mission is as old as the establishment of freedom village by France in 1868 and the oldest mission in Tanzania. Scattered around town are some carved doors and various disrepair buildings dating back from the German colonial era.
The Kaole Ruins:
Which include the remains of an oldest mosque in East Africa dating from the 13th Century and gravestones estimated to date from the 15th Century, are situated about 5 km south of Bagamoyo along the beach. This mosque was built when Kaole was an important Arabic trading post, long before Bagamoyo had assumed any significance.
This was a place used by the German colonial government to hang to death the Africans who refused to follow the colonial rules in the late eighteen century. During the German rule Bagamoyo was a capital city of Tanzania.
The town has one of the most wonderful white sands beaches in Tanzania. You will find fish hawkers and people constructing dhows along the beach.