Bagamoyo was named by the slaves, as they left heart broken and worrying about their families they had left behind - the name means `lay down your heart’ in Kiswahili. Although the slave trade officially ended in 1873, slaves continued to be sold and traded in Bagamoyo through the end of the nineteenth century.
During the slave trade, it was not uncommon to see hundreds of slaves walking through the streets of Bagamoyo chained together by the neck. Slaves were collected from the interior by capture, purchase or trade and then shipped to Zanzibar or Arab countries. The town of Bagamoyo was the centre of the 19th century slave trade.
This costal area opposite to Zanzibar was first settled in by fishermen and cultivators. Towards the end of the 18th century Muslim Diwans from Oman settled here, built dwellings and established their families and retinues of slaves. Its closeness as a mainland port to Zanzibar led to its development as a center for caravans and an expansion of commerce in slave and Ivory soon followed.
Bagamoyo is one of the most fascinating towns in East Africa many of European explores passed through this town, including Burton, Speke, Grant, Stanley and Livingstone.
Sites of Interest
The Kaole Ruins
Located about five kms south of Bagamoyo, date back to the 13th century. The ruins comprise remnants of two mosques and several tombs, showing the importance of Islam in early Bagamoyo. All of the structures were built with coral stones. There is a small museum at Kaole Ruins.
The Roman Catholic Mission
This is a picturesque mission, and the oldest Roman Catholic Church in East and Central Africa. The first Catholic Church was built in 1868. In 1874, Dr. Livingstone’s body stayed at the Catholic mission before was sent to England for burial. In the 1800s, Christian missionaries established a ‘Freedom Village’ at the mission to protect freed slaves.
Bagamoyo Art College (Chuo cha Sanaa)
This is the most famous art institute in Tanzania. Students come from all over the world to learn traditional Tanzanian drumming, sculpture, carving and painting. You can arrange to take a class or hear an African drumming performance at the college on weekends.
German Hanging Place
The site is where German colonial government hanged Africans who rebelled against the German colonial government in the late 1800s. The Mwanamakuka Cemetery's oldest tomb dates from 1793, representing the first evidence of a permanent settlement in Bagamoyo.
The First Church
Built in 1872 and it was here on 24th February 1874 that the porters brought the body of Dr. Livingstone, famous British explorer and missionary, after a journey of 1500kms from Ujiji. There is a cemetery where the early missionaries are buried and a small shrine built by freed slaves in 1876.
The German Government colonial administration headquarters was the first capital town of German East Africa and the governor's residence. It is an impressive two-storey building topped by crenulations, constructed in a U shape. They are pointed arches on the ground floor, also served as German administrative centre from 1897. In front of the Boma is the UHURU MONUMENT celebrating Tanzania's independence in 1961 and a bandstand.
From Bagamoyo it is possible to take boat trips to the Ruvu River Delta. From the boat you will see several species of mangroves and water birds. Hippos also swim in the Ruvu water and you’ll catch glimpses of them along the shore and in the water.