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Tanzania: Bagamoyo

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Bagamoyo > Tanzania > Africa

[Visited: July 2009]

Of course I had to haggle hard, but in the end, I managed to get a good price with the driver and we were on our way to the north from Dar es Salaam. After visiting the old ruins of Kaole, we went to Bagamoyo, parked the car, and I walked into the tourist office. A pleasant chat with the director who appeared to be a historian and author of an interesting booklet about the history of this town, put me on the right track and we started exploring the town on foot. Unfortunately, the British Overseas Management Administrative, or Boma, one of the prime colonial buildings of Bagamoyo, was under reconstruction and could not be visited, and I could only see the upper part of it. We continued to the German Fort, which has now turned into a museum. This is where the German garrison was based back in the time when Tanzania was a German colony, until 1916 when the British conquered the town. Although Bagamoyo had been a capital, its importance began to decline when the Germans moved the capital to Dar es Salaam, and decided to build a railway from the new capital to the interior.

Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Bagamoyo is a natural port: boats docked on the beach

The German Fort is mainly interesting as a building, as the inside of the building is virtually empty. The views from the top are pretty good. From here, it is a short walk to the German cemetery - a small area adjacent to the beach where the Germans have left some neatly lined graves. The German hanging place is close by - this is the place where the old colonizers used to hang their opponents, as an example to the rest of the population. From here, we continued walking along the coast, passed quite a few old German buildings like the Customs House, and turned inland again to walk towards the Catholic mission. On the way, we passed a mosque and madrasa, and I was once again reminded of the religious diversity of this town. The Catholic mission actually was an idea of the Muslim rulers, majumbe, and was partly sponsored by a rich Muslim. In the mission, I saw the bell tower in which the remains of Dr. Livingstone were kept for a day in 1883, awaiting him to be taken back to London for burial. At the Catholic mission of Bagamoyo, I also saw a baobab tree where, after it was planted a the opening of the mission in 1868, a French nurse tied her donkey to the tree with a chain, but the chain swallowed more and more of the chain - today, you can only see the last part of it, stuck to the tree forever.

Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Bell tower of the oldest church of East Africa at the Catholic mission

While settlers arrived in the Bagamoyo area many centuries ago, it was only in the 19th century that the city gained importance. Originally settled by Muslims from Oman, others arrived soon thereafter, as it turned into a trading port, mainly for ivory and slave trade. Its location opposite Zanzibar means that it was a logical choice to make it the capital of the German colony. The name supposedly comes from the Swahili for "Lay down your heart": Bwagamoyo. Apart from its economic significance, Bagamoyo was also a major port through which many explorers, like Richard Burton, John Speke, and Henry Stanley passed. Currently, apart from its historical significance, Bagamoyo is a centre for dhow building - evidence of which can be found by going to the beach where many boats are parked. It is here that you can also see fishermen come ashore with the latest catch, which includes some pretty big fish. Although I had liked to stay longer in this interesting town, I had to return to Dar as the sun was on its way down.

Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Looking into the courtyard of the German Fort
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): One of the many remaining examples of German colonial architecture: the Liku house
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Entrance door of the German Fort: detail
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Walking the beach at Bagamoyo: three colourfully dressed women
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Buying fish on the beach
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Some of the tombs of the German cemetery
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): German colonial buildings in ruins
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Tree-lined road in Bagamoyo
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Baobab tree with a history near the Catholic mission
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Bagamoyo madrasa
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Reconstructing the Boma, the German headquarters
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): Catholic Church which some claims was once used by Dr. Livingstone
Picture of Bagamoyo (Tanzania): German Fort: stairs and window

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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