Bagamoyo was recently designated as Tanzania’s seventh world heritage site and is the oldest town in Tanzania. Bagamoyo's history has been influenced by Arab and Indian traders, the German colonial government and Christian missionaries. Although Bagamoyo is no longer the busy port city that it once was, Tanzania’s Department of Antiquities is working to revitalize the town and maintain the dozens of ruins in and around Bagamoyo.
Bagamoyo was the major slave trading post in East Africa. Bagamoyo, which means ‘lay down your heart’ in Swahili, was probably given this name because Bagamoyo was the last place the slaves would stay in Tanzania before being shipped off to foreign lands. Although the slave trade officially ended in 1873, slaves continued to be sold and traded in Bagamoyo through the end of the nineteenth century. During the slave trade, it was not uncommon to see hundreds of slaves walking through the streets of Bagamoyo chained together by the neck. Slaves were collected from the interior by capture, purchase or trade and then shipped to Zanzibar or Arab countries
Activities and Sites of Interest
The Kaole Ruins, located about five kilometers south of Bagamoyo, date back to the thirteenth century. The ruins comprise remnants of two mosques and several tombs, showing the importance of Islam in early Bagamoyo. All of the structures were built with coral stones. There is a small museum at Kaole Ruins.
The Roman Catholic Mission is a picturesque mission, and the oldest Roman Catholic Church in East and Central Africa. The first Catholic Church was built in 1868. In 1874, Dr. Livingstone’s body stayed at the Catholic mission before being sent to England for burial. In the 1800s, Christian missionaries established a ‘Freedom Village’ at the mission to protect freed slaves.
Bagamoyo Art College (Chuo cha Sanaa) is the most famous art institute in Tanzania. Students come from all over the world to learn traditional Tanzanian drumming, sculpture, carving and painting. You can arrange to take a class or hear an African drumming performance at the college.
The official residence of the colonial governor was the German Boma. During German colonial rule, Bagamoyo was the capital of Tanzania. Although you cannot enter the building, you can walk around the outside.
Additional historical sites include the German Hanging Place, the site where the German colonial government hanged Africans who rebelled against the German colonial government in the late 1800s.
The Mwanamakuka Cemetery's oldest tomb dates from 1793, representing the first evidence of a permanent settlement in Bagamoyo. Many colonial soldiers who were casualties in the Maji Maji Rebellion are buried in the German Cemetery. The cemetery is one hundred meters from the beach and is worth seeing when you are visiting the older Arab tombs or the Bagamoyo Art College.
Beach and Water Activities
Bagamoyo has pristine white sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters. From Bagamoyo it is possible to take boat trips to the Ruvu River Delta. From the boat you will see several species of mangroves and water birds. Hippos also swim in the Ruvu water and you'll catch glimpses of them along the shore and in the water.