Tanzania Cultural Heritage Sites

Kondoa Rock Art
Better known for its legendary wilderness areas Tanzania nonetheless provides a rich cultural and historical aspect. Ruins from the days of trading and slavery, and a history of colonialism, show not only Tanzania history, but the history of Africa in vibrant detail. Aside from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with its features of our earliest ancestors Tanzania has three other Cultural Heritage Sites.

Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara - Date of inscription 1981

The Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara are the remains of two ports situated on the coast of East Africa. They held an important position in East African trade and their influence stretched into Zimbabwe, Mozambique and as far as Asia. From the 13th to the 16th century, the merchants of Kilwa dealt in gold, iron, ivory, silver, pearls, perfumes, Arabian crockery, Persian earthenware and Chinese porcelain and hence most of the trade in the Indian Ocean thus passed through their hands.

The ruins on the two islands were declared World Heritage Sites due to their archaeological significance in understanding the origins of the Swahili culture, the influence of Islam on the African east coast, and commercial practice in the medieval and modern eras.

The Kilwa ruins show evidence of one great mosque and many smaller ones, an Arabian palace, and a large urban complex. Songo Mnara has only five mosques and a few domestic dwellings. Ornaments, cowrie shells and pearls of glass and quartz have also been discovered at the sites.

Archaeologists and historians consider Kilwa and Songo Mnara one of the most important sites of Swahili civilization in the region.

Stone Town - Date of inscription 2000

Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar City and its Swahili architecture incorporates elements of Arab, Persian, Indian, European and African styles. The town was named for the coral stone buildings that were built there during the 19th century, on the site of a very old fishing village.

Stone Town was the centre of trade on the East African coast between Asia and Africa before the colonization of the mainland in the late 1800s. For many years Stone Town was a major centre for the slave trade; Slaves were obtained from mainland Africa and traded with the Middle East. The Anglican Cathedral is built on the site of a former slave market and some holding cells still exist at this site.

Today there are 51 mosques, six Hindu Temples and a Catholic and Anglican Cathedral in this multi-ethnic town. There are many burial places around the outskirts of town, with interesting headstones and graves, and some important graves in the town itself, usually of religious leaders.

Kondoa - Date of inscription 2006

On the eastern slopes of the Masai escarpment bordering the Great Rift Valley are natural rock shelters whose vertical planes have been used for rock paintings over several millennia. The Kondoa Rock Art Sites include over 150 natural caves/shelters and the spectacular rock paintings have high artistic quality and were made with a brush-like instrument.

The rock art sites at Kondoa are an exceptional record to the lives of hunter-gathers and agriculturalists that have lived in the area and reflect a unique variation of hunter-gather art from southern and central Africa. Some of the rock art sites are still used by the local communities for a variety of ritual activities such as rainmaking, divining and healing.

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