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Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Great Mosque
State Party Flag of Tanzania.svg United Republic of Tanzania
Type Cultural
Criteria iii
Reference 144
Region** Africa
Inscription history
Inscription 1981  (5th Session)
Endangered 2004
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

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


In the 14th 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, jewelry, porcelain, and spices from Asia.

By the 12th century, under the rule of the Mahdali, 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 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 Ki 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

Coordinates: 8°57′28″S 39°31′22″E / 8.95778°S 39.52278°E / -8.95778; 39.52278


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Kilwa article)

From Wikitravel

Kilwa is a city in Southeast Tanzania.

Kilwa Masoko sprang up as the market town associated with the thriving Arab city-state of Kilwa Kisiwani on the large island surrounded by the Kilwa Bay. Over time the city-state collapsed and the brunt of the population moved off the island to Kilwa Masoko. Today it is the capital of the Kilwa district in the Lindi region.

Get in

Flights on Coastal Airways arrive in the late afternoon and depart early the next morning back to Dar es Salaam, therefore you MUST spend the night.

Driving can be very difficult in the rainy season.

Get around

Most hotels will arrange pick-up from the airport.


The fantastic ruins on Kilwa Kisiwani (which means "Kilwa of the Island"), a UNESCO world heritage site [1]. Most hotels will provide you with a boat to the island and a guide. Guides with detailed knowledge of the history and archaeology are sometimes hard to find (but they ARE around), but there are extremely informative signs to help you out if your guide only knows the location of each of the ruins and not the story behind them. There is also a useful book available with the history of the island and a detailed description of the ruins, which makes a good guide and a nice keepsake. See the Wikipedia page for more information.


The newest hotels have dive centers.

Several hotels cater to sport fishermen- and often serve up the day's catch at dinner!!

Kilwa is a safe, sleepy little town with dirt streets, making it very nice for a morning or late afternoon stroll around to see the market and port, and get the feel of this wonderful Swahili town.


There are a few downmarket hotels downtown (not recommended, even by backpacker standards) and a string of very expensive resort-style hotels along the beach.

Up Market (all prices in USD)

  • Kilwa Seaview Resort, +255- 22-2650-250 (, fax: +255-22-2650-250), [2]. $90-$190.  edit

M: +255-(0)-784-624-664 Prices are by room based on occupancy: room with 1 person is $100 w/ full board, room with 4 people is $190 w/full board, therefore a good choice for families!

Mostly caters to sport fishermen from Europe and South Africa. Rooms are very simple, food very basic, bar is well stocked. Not the most inviting family spot. Prices are per person, per day, $80 for a "fishing banda" and $100 for "beachfront banda"

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