Walking the streets of this city and gazing at the remains of old colonial barracks and ruins makes you feel like a real-life time-traveler. History in African cities is not right on the surface, as we are used to see it Europe. Here, you will not find elegant churches or fortresses that survived through centuries, but if you know where to look, Bagamoyo is probably one of the most historical places in the area, since it served as the first capital of German East Africa. Once a simple fisherman village, Bagamoyo was largely occupied by Arab traders in the 18th century, followed by German colonists who started to build churches and port facilities in order to ship slaves and ivory arriving from mainland Tanganyika [former name of mainland Tanzania], in route to Zanzibar and beyond.
The name of this town in Kiswahili means ‘Lay down you heart’ – most likely a reference to Bagamoyo being the final stop for thousands of traders who’ve come a long way from Tanganyika, and many slaves bidding farewell to their land and freedom. Christian missionaries started their activity in the city in the middle of 19th century, founding the church shelter and school for children rescued from slavery, and the crumbling walls covered in climbing plants are still standing there, reminding of the fascinating yet troubled history of the town.
Nowadays, Bagamoyo is famous for its dhow-building culture and Arts College where you can learn traditional painting, dancing and crafts. As a seaside town, it is also popular for its quiet and nice resorts that will introduce you to local lifestyle, cuisine and traditions. Its mix of indigenous tribal, Arab and German colonial style gives Bagamoyo the unique feeling that makes it so special.