Bagamoyo Historical Town

Bagamoyo Historical Town

The town of Bagamoyo, Tanzania, was founded at the end of the 18th century. It was (also spelled Bagamojo) the original capital of German East Africa and was one of the most important trading ports along the East African coast. Today the town has about 30,000 inhabitants and is the capital of the District of Bagamoyo, recently being considered as a world heritage site.


Bagamoyo was the most important trading entry port of the east central coast of Africa in the late 19th century. Bagamoyo’s history has been influenced by Indian and Arab traders, by the German colonial government and by Christian missionaries. About 5 km south of Bagamoyo, the Kaole Ruins with remnants of two mosques and a couple of tombs can be dated back to the 13th century, showing the importance of Islam in those early Bagamoyo times.


In the first half of the 19th century, Bagamoyo became a trading port for ivory and the slave trade, with traders coming from the African interior, from places as far as Morogoro, Lake Tanganyika and Usambara on their way to Zanzibar. This explains the meaning of the word Bagamoyo (“Bwaga-Moyo”) which means “Lay down your Heart” in Swahili. It is disputed whether this refers to the slave trade which passed through the town (i.e. “give up all hope”) or to the porters who rested in Bagamoyo after carrying 35 lb cargos on their shoulders from the Great Lakes region (i.e. “take the load off and rest”). Since there is little evidence to support that Bagamoyo was a major slave port (Kilwa, much further south, has earned this status), and that tens of thousands of porters arrived at Bagamoyo annually in the latter half of the 19th century, it is more likely that the name of the town derives from the latter interpretation.


Bagamoyo Day Trip
0800hrs departs from Dar es Salaam city center to Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo has played various historical roles in Tanzania. Apart from being a slave and ivory port, it was also a German headquarters in 1891. Explorers such as Burton, Speke, Grant, Livingstone and Stanley all passed through this town. The name Bagamoyo comes from the Swahili words “bwaga moyo”, meaning “throw down your heart,” a despair expressed by people who were captured as slaves, knowing that they faced uncertain future. On arrival, visit the Kaole Ruins, ruins of the Shirazai trade town (13th- 17th century), Old ferry on the mighty Rufiji River. Lunch will be served at the restaurant. (Visit of the Bagamoyo School of Arts for a Ngoma (traditional dance) session may be arranged upon prior notice. Extra cost applies). The tour ends in Dar es Salaam city center at around 1730hrs.
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