Until the middle of the 18th century, Bagamoyo was a small, rather insignificant trading center. Trade items were fish, salt and gum among other things. Most of the population consisted of fishermen and farmers.
In the 8th and 9th centuries, the first Arabs settled on the East African coast, whom most historians refer to as "Shirazi". Another wave of Shirazi immigrants began in the 10th century and a third after Mongols conquered the Persian city of Shiraz in 1352. The historian Mturi assumes that today's kaole can also be assigned to the Shirazi.
The importance of the place changes suddenly when the Arab slave traders use Bagamoyo as the end point of their slave caravans from the interior of the country. At the end of the 18th century, around 12 Muslim families settled in Bagamoyo, all of them relatives of the Shomvi la Magimba from Oman. These families earn their livelihood not only through the collection of taxes (taxes are levied even for the slaughter of goats or for fishing), but also through the trade in salt, which is won in Nunge, three km north of Bagamoyo.
In Bagamoyo, slaves are imprisoned and brought to the slave market in Zanzibar by ship at night. Accordingly, Bagamoyo ("Bwaga-Moyo") also means "lay down your heart". Anyone who is deported from Bagamoyo will never have another chance to see their homeland again.
The impressive story "Tears of fear, tears of joy - the story of the slave girl Siwema", published by the Catholic Mission Bagamoyo, is recommended in this context.
In 1868 Muslims donated land to the "Fathers of the Holy Spirit" in order to build a mission north of Bagamoyo - the first mission in East Africa. The resistance of the indigenous Zaramo people against this surrender of land is stifled by Sultan Majid after the intervention of the French consul in Zanzibar and by Sultan Barghash after 1870.
In 1892 the area of the mission was expanded by a gift of land from the Muslim and philanthropist Sewa Haji, originally from what is now Pakistan and immeasurably wealthy as the owner of numerous shops in Bagamoyo, caravan outfitters and dealers in textiles, copper, gunpowder, ivory and rhinoceros . He is handing over 20,000 hectares of land and a three-story school for multiracial education (Africans, Asians, Europeans) in the center of Bagamoyo (today's Mwambao Primary School) to the mission. Sewa Haji also builds the Bagamoyo hospital, which is later taken over by the Germans.
But Bagamoyo is not only a transshipment point for slaves and goods (e.g. ivory or copra from coconuts for soap production) and a center for boat building, but also the starting point for the first European "explorers". You start in Bagamoyo to find the sources of the Nile from here or to explore the inland lakes, which were still shrouded in mystery at the time. Starting in Bagamoyo include: Livingstone, Burton, Speke (together with Grant to solve the problem of the Nile springs), Stanley (1871 with 192 companions and 6 tons of equipment to find the missing Livingstone and in 1889, when he and his 708 crew reduced to 196 people from a 3-year expedition) and Grant.
The writer Ilija Trojanow has set a literary monument to the British explorer Richard Burton, who, together with Speke, was the first European to see Lake Tanganyika with his bestseller "Der Weltensammler", for which he was awarded the 2006 Leipzig Book Fair Prize for Literature.
Bagamoyo also became famous through the return of Livingstone: After a march of 9 months from Zambia, Livingston's Zanzibar helpers Abdullah Susi and James Chuma brought his dead body, dried out from the sun (and missing the heart that had already been buried in Zambia) to Bagamoyo on February 15th, 1874 ("Mwili wa Daudi" - "the Body of David"). 700 slaves took their leave of him before he was taken to England where he was buried in Westminster Abbey.
In 1880 Bagamoyo probably has a permanent population of around 1,000. But even in 1889, when the slave trade was already being fought, 1,305 caravans with 41,144 people passed through Bagamoyo on the way inland.
The urban population at this time consisted of members of the indigenous peoples Zaramo and Doe, Shomvi Muslims from Oman, immigrant Hindus from India (who work in administration, in the coconut plantations and in boat building), and Baluchi Muslims from Mombasa and Zanzibar (engaged in trade, caravan finance and land trade) as well as other Muslims, including the Ismailis who settled in 1840 and who numbered 137 in 1870, Zanzibar Sunni (shopkeepers) and Persian merchants. A small group of Catholics mainly work in tailoring.
In 1888 the German-East African Society signed a contract with the Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Khalifa, which allowed the society access to the coastal region. Immediately after the contract was signed, on August 16, 1888, the Sultan's flagpole was cut down in Bagamoyo, against the resistance of his local representative (who refused to hoist the Sultan's flag).
When the Usagara house built on the beach in Bagamoyo is occupied after a conflict between German society and the townspeople, the SS Möwe landed 200 navy soldiers who put down the revolt. Over 100 city dwellers (approx. 10% of the population) are killed.
The conflict between the urban population and the German colonial rulers escalated in 1988/89 when the Germans introduced the registration of land and property. Such registration had never before been carried out among the locals, and it is feared that the Germans are stealing land from the population.
The Arab Bomboma then organized the uprising in Bagamoyo with the help of the legendary Bushiri bin Salim al-Harthi, who had previously led the Arab troops against the Germans in Tabora (inland). Bushiri is very successful at first. Large parts of Bagamoyo are burned down and Bushiri gathers his troops in front of the city for a general attack.
The German government then felt compelled to provide support to the German-East African Society and instructed Hermann von Wissmann to knock down Bushiri with his infantry, which had been increased by Sudanese and Zulus from South Africa. In order to bridge the time until the arrival of the German troops, the German admiral Denhardt is conducting sham negotiations with Bushiri, who is demanding the post of governor of the coastal region, monthly payments and the right to his own army.
In May 1989 Wissmann gathered his troops and built several fortifications. After several battles, the uprising was put down, the city of Pangani (north of Bagamoyo) was conquered in July 1889 and Bushiri was executed in Pangani. The same fate meets the leader Bomboma and others.
In October 1890, the Germans received official land rights from the Sultan of Zanzibar for four million marks. In the spring of 1891 German East Africa also formally became a colony.
For a transitional period from the beginning of 1891 to the beginning of 1892, Bagamoyo becomes the seat of the imperial governor and thus the seat of the few central authorities. In the "Directory of the German Archives" in the Tanzanian National Archives (Franz and Geißler, Marburg 1894) it is stated that the command and administration of the protection troops were initially stationed in Bagamoyo on January 26th, 1891, while the maritime department was stationed directly in Dar es Salaam. In the spring of 1891 the first civil governor Freiherr von Soden probably arrived in Bagamoyo.
The flat beach in front of Bagamoyo is one of the main reasons why Dar es Salaam with its deep-water port becomes the new capital of German East Africa as early as the beginning of 1892.
The boma was built in the years 1895-1897 and, after its completion, served as the official seat of the German colonial district administration until World War I. In December 1897 it was handed over to its destination.
During the First World War, in which Germany loses all colonies, the German troops in Bagamoyo are also attacked by the British. The Germans entrench themselves on the neutral mission area and thereby endanger the lives of the 2,000 civilians housed there. These miraculously remain unharmed while the rectory and the new church are destroyed. The German soldiers are soon overrun and the position is taken by the British.
With the withdrawal of the Germans from East Africa, Bagamoyo's role as a trading center also ended. For almost 100 years, Bagamoyo will once again be a sleepy city of fishermen and farmers with slowly decaying colonial buildings, which today are mostly only reminiscent of the heyday of Bagamoyo as the region's most important coastal city as ruins.
With a population of over 50,000 today, Bagamoyo has been the capital of the very large Bagamoyo District since 1961, which is roughly the size of Lebanon.
In 1962 a school and a training center for fighters of the Frelimo liberation movement from Mozambique are founded in Bagamoyo. The future President Samora Machel, who became Frelimo chairman in 1970, also stayed in Bagamoyo for several years and set up the Frelimo headquarters here. His wife Graca Machel, who will marry Nelson Mandela after the death of her husband, works as the deputy headmistress at the camp. Also in Bagamoyo lived Machel's successor as President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, and (still as a child) Nyleti Mondlane, the daughter of the first chairman of the Frelimo, who was murdered in 1969 by a letter bomb. She has been the Youth and Sports Minister of Mozambique since 2017.
From Bagamoyo, the struggle to liberate Mozambique from Portuguese colonialism is waged. The camp was only dissolved when Mozambique gained independence and Samora Machel was sworn in as president in 1975.
In 1970 the first Frelimo Secondary School was opened in Bagamoyo. One of the teachers was the German Hans-Jochen Roos, who worked as a biology and chemistry teacher on behalf of the German Democratic Republic from 1973-78 at the Frelimo School. One of his students was the future Minister of Culture of Mozambique, Miguel Mkaima. Roos wrote a report about his years in Bagamoyo:
Hans-Jochen Roos, "Lessons under palm trees. As a biology teacher at the Frelimo School in Bagamoyo" (in German)
From: "Wir haben Spuren hinterlassen", Lit Verlag, Münster/Germany 2005
Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zanu) from what was then Rhodesia also received his training here to fight for an independent Zimbabwe. During a visit to Bagamoyo in July 2018, the current President of Zimbabwe reported that 59 leading cadres from Mozambique, 6 from what was then Rhodesia and 6 from South Africa were trained in the Bagamoyo military camp.
An official city partnership is agreed between the Californian city of Vallejo (USA) and Bagamoyo. It is the first foreign twin city of Bagamoyo. In 2013, the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete from Bagamoyo visited Vallejo.
On the initiative of the Swedish development aid organization S.I.D.A. an International Bagamoyo Conference will take place in 2003 with the aim of applying for a new UNESCO World Heritage Site "Central Slave and Ivory Trade Route" including Bagamoyo. In 2006 the proposal will be officially submitted to UNESCO.
It was not until 2005 that the first preparations in Bagamoyo for the official granting of city rights by the state of Tanzania began. Swedish development aid supports the establishment of its own city administration, which has not yet been set up to date (2020).
The new President and former Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, who was elected by an overwhelming majority in December 2005, comes from the Bagamoyo District. He lived in Bagamoyo for many years. Members of his kin still live here.
The district capital Bagamoyo is developing: Numerous new hotels, especially in the north of the town, are preparing for Bagamoyo's future as a conference center and destination for foreign cultural tourists. The construction of a port south of Bagamoyo (currently put on hold) would create the conditions for tourists to be guided directly from Zanzibar to Bagamoyo in the future.
With the support of Swedish development aid, the Indiastreet is being re-paved. After Sweden has already renovated some historical buildings (including the former caravanserai and in 2009/2010 the old Arab tea house next to the Boma), the renovation of other buildings is also being financed from Germany: The Catholic Mission Museum (Catholic Church with the support of the Federal Republic of Germany) , the Bagamoyo District Hospital and the Mwanamakuka Primary School (each Freundeskreis Bagamoyo eV) as well as the Mwambao Primary School, the historic Old German School in the center (Marienschule Ahlen and Freundeskreis Bagamoyo eV with the support of the Federal Republic of Germany).
A planned new trunk road Dar es Salaam - Bagamoyo - Sadaani National Park - Tanga - Mombasa / Kenya should enable a connection between cultural tourism and safari visits and make a further contribution to urban development in the long term.
At the 34th UNESCO General Conference on October 22nd, 2007 in Geneva, the Tanzanian President campaigned for the creation of a new UNESCO World Heritage Site "East African slave and trade route" from the great inland lakes to Zanzibar as well as for another UNESCO -World cultural heritage "Road to Independence", which is to be settled in southern Africa and would also include Bagamoyo as the starting point of the liberation struggle in Mozambique (this is where the Frelimo under Samora Machel had its headquarters for years). However, since this initiative was only half-heartedly pursued by the Tanzanian side in the course of the following years, it is on hold until today (2020).
There are signs of hope in the fight against the malaria epidemic: children and infants, etc. Vaccine tested on the premises of the district hospital in Bagamoyo shows for the first time a significant protection against infection with the malaria pathogen. The world's first field study in Bagamoyo with the new malaria vaccine PfSPZ developed in the USA is announced for August 2013. Several years later, a rapid malaria test (mRDT) can actually be performed within 20 minutes. The lab technicians at Bagamoyo District Hospital perform about 15-20 of these tests daily. The Bagamoyo District Council estimates in 2017 that 15,080 malaria cases were reported in the previous year.
As a result of the scientific advances, the incidence rate of malaria in the worst affected districts in the Bagamoyo district will drop to below 10% as early as 2017. Two decades earlier it was 80%. However, as the WHO admits, the number of malaria cases has been oversubscribed in the past. However, despite recent improvements in diagnosis through the use of mRDTs, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed.
In 2011, Bill and Melinda Gates visit the Ifakara Institute in Bagamoyo to see for themselves the progress made in the use of a vaccine against malaria. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested millions of dollars in the research project over the years.
In March 2013, the new Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Tanzania. It is his second visit abroad after Russia. An agreement is signed in Dar es Salaam according to which China and Oman will finance the construction of a large container port south of the city and the construction of a special economic zone between Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam for around US $ 10 billion. Part of the planning is the construction of a train station and a railway line from Bagamoyo to the Central Railway and the TanSam Railway. A new highway is to connect the new port with Chalinze and thus with the TanSam Highway.
In December 2013, the city council of Ahlen unanimously declared the diverse civic relationships between Ahlen (Germany) and Bagamoyo as "city friendship". Mayor Benedikt Ruhmöller had previously paid a private visit to Bagamoyo. In 2019 his successor Dr. Alexander Berger placed a symbolic signpost to Bagamoyo at the town twinning square in Ahlen. A few months later, the Tanzanian Minister of Culture, Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe, Deputy Ahlen mayor Rita Pöppinghaus-Voss and representatives of the Freundeskreis Bagamoyo e.V. put a signpost from Bagamoyo to Ahlen on the premises of the Bagamoyo College of Arts (TASUBA).
In June 2018, the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, paid a visit to the former training camp and headquarters of the liberation movement Frelimo (Mozambique) in Bagamoyo. As part of a two-day state visit, Mnangagwa wanted to return to the camp where he had received military training together with leading freedom fighters from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa in May / June 1963.
Mnangagwa: "The local people were very friendly to us at the time and gave us a lot of support. I would like to thank the government of Tanzania and President Magufuli for preserving this historic place." According to the President, 59 cadres from Mozambique, 6 cadres from what was then Southern Rhodesia and 6 cadres from South Africa belonged to his training group.
President John Magufuli surprisingly publishes the contractual terms for the mega-port in Bagamoyo in parliament and describes them as unacceptable. The project will be put on hold for now.
Speech by John Magufuli in Parliament in Dodoma in June 2019 (in Swahili, Film 4:50 Min.)
Rais Magufuli wa Tanzania akataa mkopo toka China kujenga Bandari mpya ya Bagamoyo