Bagamoyo Weekend Trip

Sunday Jan. 29, 2023

We spent this weekend in Bagamoyo, a town about a 90 minute drive north of Dar es Salaam also directly on the Indian Ocean. The town is much smaller than Dar, but was the setting of some major historical events in Tanzania’s history. On Friday morning we met at the Mwenge bus stand in Dar, then took a daladala to Bagamoyo where we spent the first half of Friday resting and exploring the beach, which included many fishermen repairing their boats.

Bagamoyo is currently known for its dhow boat industry, art college, and tourism. In the afternoon we walked to the Institute of Arts and Culture (TASUBA) for a dance and singing performance specially prepared for our group. We were treated to 30 minutes of traditional drumming, dancing, and singing, culminating in a group dance with the Goshen students on stage!  Hosted by mwalimu Perpetual and her staff, it was an energetic, warm, engaging cultural interchange! Friday evening we returned to our hotel for dinner and a relaxing evening in our bandas, which were spread among lush, tropical gardens.

On Saturday morning we took a bike tour through Bagamoyo to visit various historical sites. Our first stop was Kaole ruins dating to the earliest Shirazi Arab settlement in the 13th-14th century, which demonstrates the trade and connection Bagamoyo had with the broader world. We also visited Stonetown in Bagamoyo, where slaves were housed as they were brought from the interior to the coast where they were shipped via dhow to Zanzibar. Our guide indicated that 50,000 slaves per year went through Bagamoyo, totaling around 1 million through the several decades when the slave trade was at its peak.

After colonization by the Arabs and later Portuguese, the Germans arrived in Tanzania in the early 1900’s and set up their capital at Bagamoyo due to its proximity to Zanzibar and its port. (It was later moved to Dar es Salaam). In 1871 the first Christian missionaries in East Africa arrived at Bagamoyo and set up the first church.

We came away from Bagamoyo dazzled with the breadth of history enshrined in its ruins and even its people (up to 50% of the slaves stayed along the coast and Zanzibar). Images of lively singing and dance remind us of the resilience of the human spirit and the hope embodied in creativity and art. The juxtaposition of Bagamoyo’s dark history, its stunning natural beauty, and its dynamic and growing art community are testament to the complexity of the human story.

– Ryan for the entire team