An ancient Swahili coastal city
An ancient Swahili coastal city
Category: Historical sites
City tour, cultural tourism, snorkeling and scuba diving
Throughout the year.
A lot of available hotels and lodges with Old Boma (built in 1895) being the standout
Mikindani is a small coastal town found in the southern part of Tanzania, in the Mtwara region. The city was a prominent trading hub, with Arab traders settling there as early as the 9th century, and later again in the 18th and 19th centuries. What remains now are mostly structures and architecture from the latter period of Arab trading.
Mikindani has its name from mikinda which translates, in Swahili, to immature coconut trees. Before the Arab settling in the 9th and later 17th century, the main inhabitants of Mikindani are the Makonde people. Due to these interactions, Mikindani has a blend of beautiful Swahili, Indian, Arabic, and European architectures.
Trade in the region's natural resources, such as oil seed, coconuts, sisal, and rubber, increased after the region joined German East Africa in the late 1880s. A fort (boma), a prison, a port, a memorial slave market, the governor's residence, and a variety of office and residential structures were added at Mikindani. This continued even after the British took over the city after the first world war.
Mikindani started to rapidly crumble after the relocation of the government centre from Mikindani to Mtwara, about 10km South, by the British administration in 1947. This was due to some factors such as the natural depth of the port in Mtwara being more favorable for the transportation of peanuts in a special scheme that was being executed at the time. Mikindani was therefore left with nothing much, in terms of trade, and therefore reverted to fishing and farming.
One of the standout structures at Mikindani is The Old Boma. It was built in 1895 and used as an administrative building by the Germans and British before being converted to a hotel in 1990. The hotel/fort attracts a lot of tourism in the area and still has some of the facilities used during the time such as the doors, the courtroom, and some canoes. Apart from the accommodation, they also coordinate the tourism services in Mikindani
One of the reasons why Mikindani, and the Southern strip, have been less explored is the fact that the regions were not connected by proper road network for a long period of time. However that has now changed and one can get to Mikindani, from Dar es Salaam via:
- Tarmac roads using buses or private transport. The journey takes about 7 to 8 hours. It's good to be careful as most part of the road is thin compared to other roads in the country. I don't recommend driving at night the first time
- Scheduled flights from Dar es Salaam to Mtwara region. This is faster and takes just about an hour to get there
I used my historic rig to get to this historic town (felt surreal when my 1985 rig was snapped in front of an 1895 building). The journey took about 7 hours; we left Dar some minutes past noon and arrived at Mikindani around 8pm. To make the journey more historic and memorable, we checked in at The Old Boma hotel. I loved the ambiance and the overall experience. Each room is named after a famous historic figure and the overall feel is a blend of the Swahili culture and old-time age.
The tour around Mikindani Mikindani takes about two to three hours. Our guide was so good, informed and so friendly. We visited some old structures and monuments and learned about the Makonde culture and ways of living. After the day's tour, you may visit the yacht club, Mtwara town, and the beach along the town. On your way back you may also visit Kilwa