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Kilwa Ruins

Kilwa Ruins

There is more to see in Tanzania than the animals that can be seen in the wide range of national parks while on your Tanzania Safari, there are some great historical wonders including the little visitied UNESCO World Heritage site in the form of the Kilwa ruins. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kilwa Kisiwani (known as the Kilwa Ruins) is a world renowned archaeological site that chronicles the emergence of the Swahili culture in East Africa.

The Kilwa Kisiwani ruins mark the site of the port that was once part of the biggest and most powerful empire on the East African Coast. Kilwa Kisiwani ruins tell a story of a time long past featuring palaces and mosques, once impressive and magnificent, now crumbled to ruins. The ruins stretch over the whole island and comprise a total of 30 buildings.

The Kilwa ruins found on the island now include the vestiges of the great mosque, constructed in the 12th century of coral clay, the remains of the palace built by Sultan Al Hasan in 1310 and numerous smaller mosques from the 12th and 14th century.

From the Portuguese era the ruins of a fortress and an entire urban complex with houses and public areas remain. The archaeological artefacts found at the site bare testimony to the commercial and consequently cultural exchanges of which Kilwa was the theater.

The island that the Kilwa Kisiwani ruins stand on is now largely uninhabited, only a few local fishermen live on the island, but for the most part, it remains deserted.The Kilwa Ruins are only 2km away from Kilwa Masoko harbour, just outside of the town. You can travel by a motorised ferry or traditional dhow, however during certain seasons sailing dhow trips are not possible due to bad wind.


Kilwa Kisiwani in 10th Century

The Kilwa Sultanate began in the 10th century. Ali ibn al-Hassan was once the son of Emir of Shiraz and an Abyssinian slave. Caught in an inheritance fight along with his six brothers, Ali fled his homeland along with his Persian entourage. He settled on the island, then inhabited by the indigenous Bantu, and began constructing his own metropolis.

 Legend claims that he purchased Kilwa from a local king, who exchanged it for enough fabric t