Kilwa Kisiwani

Kilwa Kisiwani

Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara

State Party =
Type = Cultural
Criteria = iii
ID = 144
Region = Africa
Year = 1981
Session = 5th
Danger = 2004
Link =

Kilwa Kisiwani is a community on an island off the coast of East Africa, in present day Tanzania.

In the 9th century it was sold to a trader Ali bin Al-Hasan and over the following centuries it grew to be a major city and trading centre along that coast, and inland as far as Zimbabwe. Trade was mainly in gold and iron from Zimbabwe, ivory and slaves from Tanzania, and textiles, jewellery, porcelain, and spices from Asia.

By the 12th century, under the rule of the Mahdali family, Kilwa had become the most powerful city on the East African coast, and its influence stretched as far south as Mozambique. Abu Abdullah Ibn Battuta recorded his visit to the city around 1330, and commented favorably on the humility and religion of its ruler, Sultan al-Hasan ibn Sulaiman. From this period date the construction of the Palace of Husuni Kubwa and a significant extension to the Great Mosque of Kilwa.

In the early 16th century, Vasco da Gama extorted tribute from the wealthy Islamic state, but not soon after, another Portuguese force took control of the island (1505), and it remained in Portuguese hands until 1512, when an Arab mercenary captured Kilwa. The city regained some of its earlier prosperity, but in 1784 it came under the rule of the Omani rulers of Zanzibar. After the Omani conquest, the French built and manned a fort at the northern tip of the island, but the city itself was abandoned in the 1840s. It was later part of the colony of German East Africa from 1886 to 1918.

Serious archeological investigation began in the 1950s. In 1981 it was declared a World Heritage Site, and noted visitor sites are the Great Mosque, the Mkutini Palace and some remarkable ruins.

Inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger: 2004. There is a serious rapid deterioration of the archaeological and monumental heritage of these two islands due to various agents like erosion and vegetation. The eastern section of the Palace of Husuni Kubwa is progressively disappearing. The damage to the soil caused by rainwater wash is accentuating the risks of collapse of the remaining structures on the edge of the cliff. The vegetation that proliferates on the cliff has limited the progression of the rain-wash effect, but also causes the break-up of the masonry structures. The World Monuments Fund included Kilwa on its 2008 Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites because of the threat of climate change to the site.

The town is located within the Kilwa District of the Lindi Region.

It is possible to visit the island of Kilwa Kisiwani and see the remains. The coastal town of Kilwa Masoko can be reached by bus from Dar Es Salaam, and is served by Coastal Aviation. There are numerous basic guesthouses and at least two tourist hotels there. Kilwa Masoko is also served A permit is needed to visit Kisiwani itself, and can be easily obtained from the local government building on the main road in Kilwa Masoko. Once the permit has been obtained it's easy to arrange dhow transport over the narrow channel to Kisiwani. There are information boards installed near all the remains, labeling the various features (in Kiswahili) and it should be easy to find them all alone.

External links

* [ Kilwa Kisiwani Site Page from the Aluka Digital Library]
* [ World Monuments Fund Watch Page for Kilwa]

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