Kilwa Town : The history of Kilwa town : Tanzania has an abundance of tourist attractions and national heritages to the extent that some of the most fascinating destinations are buried behind the most popular and famous ones like the Northern Circuit of the Tanzanian wildlife safaris.

As much as Wild Safari is our beam of pride, we have some mind-blowing heritage and cultural tourism that can open a whole horizon of a holiday that will blend with the local community while understanding their living systems from as far back as a medieval period with true actual physical evidence. This is a true opportunity to first understand why some things happen the way they happen, and/or maybe do something about it for the better!

Kilwa town is located in the southeastern part of Tanzania. Kilwa was originally an Arab city-state surrounded by Kilwa Bay. Currently, it’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site given its rich cultural history and fascinating ruins. Kilwa dates back from when it was Kilwa Masoko to Kilwa Kisiwani, something which was greatly accelerated with the popularity of the main market at that time and the location between the mainlands and off to the island. The hamlets also include a less popular-politically inconsequential but very pleasant Swahili town, the town named Kilwa Kivinje.  In recent times Kilwa town has been politically and demographically classified as Kilwa district in the Lindi region of southern Tanzania in East Africa.

How to get to Kilwa

The best way to arrive in Kilwa is usually from Dar es Salaam which is a business city of the United Republic of Tanzania. While in Dar es Salaam, you can usually book your flight from one of the common flight agents found immediately within the Julius Kambarage Nyerere airport where you will most probably arrive from when you visit the country. There is only a one-trip flight, meaning you must spend at least a night which is an ideal minimum time to spend given the number of things you have to see and the culture that you have to immerse to fully have a sense of what it truly is.

There is an option for a road trip after reaching the city of Dar es Salaam. You can book your bus a day before and have your 4-6 hours’ drive down to Nangurukuru, 30km away from the actual Kilwa Masoko homesteads. From the drop-off center, you can get a minibus or shared taxi to either Kilwa Masoko or Kilwa Kivinje. Be aware to book a convenient seat for yourself, the buses may be packed, the seats may be too close to each other and the road may be a bit bumpy on the bits that aren’t paved. If you plan to visit Kilwa during the rainy season, the road trip is probably not one of the best options that you want to take.

While in Kilwa the navigation is usually through local transport be it a privately hired taxi, a tricycle/tuk tuk, or even a local bus that will squeeze in as many passengers as possible to maximize the petty collection of the money that they get in the to and from trips.

Kilwa Town
The history of Kilwa town

To get to Kilwa Kisiwani from Kilwa Masoko, you need a sailing boat! If you are in for an adventure and it’s a good day whether wise you may decide to go onto a 2km manually sailed boat and enjoy the experience, however for a first-timer and one in a tight schedule, it best to hop into an engine-powered boat to save time and uncertainties as well as cope up with the travel anxiety.


All foreigners need to obtain a permit to visit the ruins, usually available at the antique department office close to the port. The ruins have very detailed and extremely informative signs and posts for a second-timer, however, a first-timer may have to read about the detailed history of the ruins or get a very fluent English speaker and experienced guide for a very enjoyable tour. Others prefer to visit the ruins after having been briefed by a knowledgeable guide so as to take their time without the pressure to rush or the extremely commercialized explanation. Others prefer to just be taken to the location and explore the ruins on their own.

While at Kilwa Kisiwani, one of the most beautiful cities in the world as described by the great explorer of Morocco Ibn Battouta, you will be able to see the extensive-standing ruins, built of coral and lime mortar, including the Great Mosque constructed in the 11th century and substantially enlarged in the 13th century, and roofed entirely with domes and vaults and some decorated with embedded Chinese porcelain;

Also, the palace Husuni Kubwa was built between c1310 and 1333 with its large octagonal bathing pool; Husuni Ndogo, numerous mosques, the Gereza (prison) constructed on the ruins of the Portuguese fort and an entire urban complex with houses, public squares, burial grounds, etc.

Kilwa Kisiwani tour with East Africa Safari Guides will provide exceptional architectural, archaeological, and documentary evidence for the growth of Swahili culture and commerce along the East African coast from the 9th to the 19th centuries, offering important insights regarding economic, social, and political dynamics in this region. The Great Mosque of Kilwa Kisiwani is the oldest standing mosque on the East African coast and, with its sixteen domed and vaulted bays, will give you a sense of how religion played such an important role in early societies of Eastern Africa.


There is obviously a lot of seafood served locally but also available exquisitely within your booked accommodation. It’s very important to carefully select where you eat and always try to eat meals while they are hot! You don’t want a running stomach to ruin your long-awaited and planned trip besides comfortable washrooms may only be available in the accommodation that you will be sleeping in. An upset stomach means you may have to cancel a town tour!

Also always drink from bottled water or carry water from the accommodation after proving its safety. Tap water may be consumed by locals without any harm but that may be quite the contrary to your acclimatized self.

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