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Tanzania: Kaole Ruins

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Kaole Ruins | Tanzania | Africa

[Visited: July 2009]

After a visit to the nearby crocodile farm, the driver I had arranged in Dar es Salaam parked our car under a tree at the entrance of Kaole ruins. I bought a ticket, not just for myself, but also for the driver, as he had never visited Kaole himself. Right at the entrance, we walked up to the remains of a 13th century mosque. Made of grey coral stone, it was easy to recognize the structure, the stairs leading up to the spot where calls for prayers were once made five times a day, and after walking through the entrance, the layout of the mosque was still very clear. I inevitably wondered what the mosque would have looked like when it was operational. This is supposedly one of the oldest mosques in East Africa.

Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Several of the more than 20 graves at Kaole cemetery

Right next to the mosque is a well, once used for ablutions, which still contains water. According to some, the water of this well is capable of working miracles, and they would wash themselves in it. Despite the closeness to the ocean, the water is supposed to be fresh. After the mosque, I ventured into the cemetery next to it, with typical graves made of coral stone. Some of the graves have pillars denoting an important person being entombed. Then, there is a double grave for a couple who drowned at sea on the same day, and were buried together in this Love grave. Probably most remarkably of all is the Sharrifa grave, resting place of a girl claimed to be direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. It is interesting to wander around the cemetery and note details like Arabic inscriptions at some of them. From here, you can have a look at what once used to be the port - but now is a mangrove forest. On the other side, you can see a giant baobab tree, some 500 years old, and from here, walk on to more graves and the ruins of a 15th century mosque of which almost nothing is left.

Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Grave at Kaole ruins

It is thought that the first settlement here dates back to the 7th century by Muslim settlers. Later on, Shirazi traders from Persia arrived on this coast. After the Shirazi, others, including Omanis, Indians, Chinese, and Europeans, arrived as well, all leaving their traces. But it was nature that decided on the fate of Kaole: when the sea receded here, and the port of Kaole could no longer be used, nearby Bagamoyo was developed into a town of importance. It is assumed that houses were made of wood, as nothing remains other than the cemetery and mosques. The small museum at Kaole, basically a small house, contains some very interesting artefacts and information about the site and its history. Here, you can find old pictures, maps, and items found in the area, like Chinese pottery. When I walked back to the entrance to pick up my driver who had long before shown little interest in this historical place, a group of students was given a lecture under a big tree.

Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): This enormous baobab tree is claimed to be 500 years old
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Grave at Kaole ruins
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Part of the ruins of the 13th century mosque: the Mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): One of the graves with pillars, suggesting an important person was buried here
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Old cemetery of Kaole with graves, some with pillars
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Ruins of a water well
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Detail of one of the graves
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Ruins of the 13th century mosque
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Sideview of one of the tombs
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Shared lovers grave for a couple who died at sea on the same day
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Burial place of Sherrifa, thought to be a direct descendant of Muhammed
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Not much is left of this 15th century mosque
Picture of Kaole Ruins (Tanzania): Kaole ruins seen from a distance

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