A small fishing village on the Tanzanian coast some 47-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 centre on Africa’s east coast. The Germans subsequently made their presence felt, establishing it as their commercial centre and the administrative capitol of German East Africa.
In addition to the Arab and German trading centre 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 transhipment to the slave markets and spice and clove plantations of Zanzibar.
Bwagamoyo— “to throw off melancholy”, while slaves lamented it as Bagamoyo, Kiswahili for “crush down your heart”.
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 door frames 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. Marhubi 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, of information regarding the town’s history.
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 entrepot 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 (3 mi) 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