World Heritage Site
Kilwa Kisiwani, an authentic historical town in Real South, Located about 300km south of Dar es Salaam, Kilwa Kisiwani is the leading historical site in southern Tanzania.
A quick visit to Kilwa Kisiwani gives a thrilling memory when discussing the rich history of the Swahili coast that extends along the Eastern coast of the Indian Ocean in Tanzania.
Despite the beauty of this Island which is located in Kilwa District, Lindi Region, memories of the past civilization and early settlements could be a memoir of a lifetime for any tourist venturing this part of Tanzania.
With its twin island of Songo Mnara, Kilwa Kisiwani is the United Nations Scientific and Educational Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, known by its rich history and Swahili cultural heritage blended with African and Arabic cultures.
Kiliwa Kisiwani is a tourist site, standing among the leading, earliest trading towns on the East African coast. Historical buildings in the island were constructed with coral stone mixed with limestone materials which had made the architecture beautiful and stable to survive weather conditions characterized by humid and hot temperatures for hundreds of years.
The Island had its prosperity achieved from the control of the Indian Ocean trade with Arabia, India and China between the 13th and 16th centuries, when gold and ivory from the mainland Tanzania and Congo were traded for silver, carnelians, perfumes, Persian faience and Chinese porcelain.
Most attractive, are mosques built in 13th century and a Portuguese Fort, which are presently give the island its historical fame. These mosques are dating between 13th and 18th centuries.
Between each mosque, there are cemeteries and worship places decorated with early Chinese porcelain and Persian artifacts including ceramics materials from the Middle East. Kilwa Kisiwani was occupied from the 9th to the 19th centuries by Oman Sultans and Persian merchants. Between 13th and 14th centuries, the island thrived as a leading business center on the Indian Ocean coast.
According to great Muslim traveler Ibn-Battuta who visited and stayed in Kilwa Kisiwani between 1331 and 1332, the island was ranked among the most beautiful cities of the world during that time.
The Great Mosque of Kilwa was the largest mosque of its kind in East Africa. The mosque accommodates two mosques, all constructed in 11th century.
Ibn-Battuta had explained this mosque to have been built by the ruler of Kilwa Kisiwani, Sultan al-Hasan ibn Sulaiman.
Makutani palace is the other building of the past where the sultan of Kilwa Kisiwani resided. The building was constructed in 1516 and fitted with minarets to encounter invaders.
There are spacious rooms for women and bathrooms; all decorated with earthen-wares and ceramics. Orchids and green trees were planted to provide shade and beautifying the palace.
Another attraction at Kilwa Kisiwani is the Portuguese Fort. This beautiful building was later used as a garrison by the Arabs and Germans to punish Africans who opposed their occupation over the east coast.
Kilwa Kisiwani remains the old trading town of the Indian Ocean and that had attracted trade with Arabia, India and China, particularly between the 13th and 16th centuries, when gold and ivory trade from the mainland Tanzania thrived.
Silver, carnelians, perfumes, Persian faience and Chinese porcelain were the leading trading goods between Kilwa Kisiwani, Oman, China and Persia (Iran).
Most interesting, Kilwa Kisiwani minted its own currency in the 11th to 14th centuries.
The World Heritage Committee had approved the Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Things to do:
Cultural Tourism, Historical Sites
Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara ruins which are UNESCO’s World Heritage sites which was once the East Africa trading city port linking Mwanamutapa Kingdom (Zimbambwe) with Middle East, Persia, Indonesia and China. The cultural influence of all these communities can be witnessed at Kilwa today. Kilwa is located 300Km South of Dar es Salaam. The following activities are on offer to our esteemed visitors; A cultural insight of the surrounding communities Dhow boat trip around Kilwa Island.
- Kilwa historical tour
- Walk around the ruins and Coast people’s settlements while enjoying a cool breeze from the Indian Ocean..
- Traditional fishing experience
- Hippo pool tour
- Bird watching
- Canoeing safari
- Mangrove forest tour
- Beach experience
- Salt farm tour
Half day tour options:
Option 1: The tour starts with:
- Visiting the ruins where you will see German, Indian, English and Arabic architecture, the slave market, slave prison and the loading bay for slaves.
- Then proceed to Old port and a slaves hanging tree also used in German colonial times to hang rebels.
- Finally visit hippos where you will be given a welcome by hippo’s water splash.
Option 2: Start your tour with:
- Canoe where traditional fishing can be practiced and get magnificent view of Kilwa ruins from the ocean. While canoeing near the Mangrove forest try to explore water birds, Kingfishers and many other bird species found in the area.
- Proceed to Salt farm and learn how locals harvest salt from the Indian Ocean water.
- After your half day tour, relax and take a delicious local lunch with a lot of sea stuff. Remember, this is a home of Sea foods.
NB: Some food stuffs here have medicinal values. We advise you to taste it.
Full Day Tour:
- Visit the ruins and the village where you will freely interact with local people and then proceed to the hippo pool for watching hippos and birds.
- Canoe down the Indian Ocean to experience a nice view for the Kilwa Island decorated by Mangroves, Coconut, palm trees and the ruins that will take your memories back to explorer’s time.
- Learn local ways of timing and locating fish, actual fishing and try to catch a fish that will be prepared for your lunch or dinner.
- Enjoy coffee with local people under the Fig tree during the evening hours while listening to stories and get a real touch of authentic Swahili culture.
- Kilwa Cultural Tourism Enterprise is located in Lindi region 300 Kms South of Dar es Salaam.
- One can board daily buses leaving Dar es Salaam to Lindi and Mtwara and get off at Kilwa junction. From there follow the sign board indication to our office located 3kms.
- Flight options are available by local charters that can take you from Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Dar-es-salaam and Arusha.
- You can also access Kilwa by boat from Mafia and by road from Selous Game Reserve via Liwale route or Kibiti road.
Source: Tanzania Tourism Board