Slave trade and
Due to its strategic location, Bagamoyo (68km north of
Dar-es-Salaam) became a staging point during the ivory
and slave trading era.
It is the eighth World Heritage site of Tanzania (others
being Kilimanjaro Mountain, Ngorongoro crater, Serengeti
National Park, Selous game reserve, Zanzibar Stone Town,
Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara, and the Olduvai Gorge).
The name Bagamoyo is said to be derived from the cry
of slaves brought here after a long march from the
hinterland to await auction and export, and means "bwaga
moyo -here I lay down my heart"
The somber history of this once-great city is evidenced
by remnants of the slave trade -shackle rings set in
stone pits in which slaves were kept. Efforts are
underway to develop its African Diaspora Heritage Trail
Bagamoyo was also the first capital of Tanganyika during
the German colonial rule until it was shifted to Dar-es-Salaam in 1892. While in Bagamoyo, visit the Kaole
ruins, the Roman Catholic historical museum and the
chapel which housed Dr. Livingstone's body
before it was shipped to Westminster Abbey in London.
There is also a palm fringe sand beach with
international hotel resorts.
History of Old Town
rice and copal (used to make varnish in Europe) became
important trade in items, and the routes for this trade
followed the old high-ground elephant routes,
later taken by ivory traders, slavers, the roads
and the railways.
As Kaole, only an hour's walk to the South, declined,
Bagamoyo grew. The timing coincided with the industrial
revolutions in Europe and North America and the
increased demand for ivory they endangered. Large
quantities of ivory were exported from Bagamoyo
to Zanzibar and a American town in
the state of
Connecticut was called Ivory town. There, and in Europe,
the ivory was fashioned into billiard balls, piano keys,
handles for cutlery, and trinkets.
India, however, was the major beneficiary of the ivory
trade. The ivory from Africa was softer and easier to
carve than its more brittle Asian counterpart and the
trade in ivory led to expansion of caravans from the
interior, with such activity remaining the most
important theme in Nyamwezi history.
Gradually as the demand of slaves increased to meet the
needs of the burgeoning plantation economies of
many countries, slaves and not ivory became the main
the caravans. In Bagamoyo several prominent
people profited from the trade. One such person was
Sewa Haji who paid for several of the prominent
buildings including the town's first hospital and
In March 1868, land was given to the French Holy
Ghost fathers to build a Mission Station. They later
built a village for freed slaves, a school and workshop.
Despite their social activities, their proselytizing
message with it's obvious Victorian overtones elicited
little reference from Africans, with over 85 percent of
those on the coast being Muslims.
Amidst the obvious decay of Bagamoyo, the few visible
and preserved signs of yesteryear include the Catholic
mission, its museums, the statue of saints, and the
giant cross on the foreshore to mark the spot where in
1868 the first head of mission, Horner landed.
The destiny of the wealthier non-Africans members of
Bagamoyo's community was very much linked with that of
the Sultan of Zanzibar. As more Europeans arrived on
Zanzibar and the formal trade in slaves gradually
abolished, the fortunes of the Sultan and the leaders of
the Bagamoyo community declined.
Bagamoyo was to see action briefly during the first
World war. On 16 August 1916, British forces attacked
and took the town. But any solace the local population
may have taken from the demise of German colonialism was
to be extinguished in the next 45 years by being British
After independence on 9 December 1961, Tanzania had many
priorities and restoring Bagamoyo was among them. The
liberation wars against colonial and minority domination
in Africa and domestic development after many years of
colonial neglect came first.