Kilwa, an island located off the coast of East Africa in modern-day southern Tanzania, was the most southern of the major Swahili Coast trading cities that dominated goods coming into and out of Africa from and to Arabia, Persia, and India. Kilwa flourished as an independent city-state from the 12th to 15th century CE largely thanks to the great quantity of gold coming from the kingdom of Great Zimbabwe to Kilwa's southern outpost of Sofala. Kilwa boasted a huge palace complex, a large mosque, and many fine stone buildings at its peak in the 14th century CE. The arrival of the Portuguese in the early 16th century CE spelt the beginning of the end of Kilwa's independence as trade declined and merchants moved elsewhere.

The Swahili Coast

The term Swahili Coast refers the stretch of coastline along East Africa from Mogadishu in Somalia at its northern end to the Kilwa in the south. Major ports and towns in between, over 35 in total, included Vrava, Pate, Kismayu, Malindi, Mombassa, Pemba, Zanzibar, and Mafia. In addition to these main sites, there are some 400 other smaller ancient sites dotted along the eastern coastal area. The term Swahili derives from the Arabic word sahil ('coast') and so means 'people of the coast'. It not only refers to the coastal region but also to the language spoken there, a form of Bantu which emerged in the middle of the 1st millennium CE. Later, many Arabic terms were mixed in and Swahili became the lingua franca of East Africa, even if different dialects did develop. The language is still spoken today in East Africa and is the national language of Kenya and Tanzania.

From the mid-8th century CE, Muslim traders began to permanently settle in towns along the Swahili Coast.

Swahili coast peoples prospered thanks to agriculture and animal husbandry, aided by a regular annual rainfall and shallow coastal waters plentiful in seafood. Trade, conducted by sailing vessels, first began up and down this coast between the Bantu farming peoples living there in the first centuries of the 1st millennium CE during the region's Iron Age. Sea travel was aided by the long lines of coral reefs which protect the shallow calmer waters between them and the coastline, as well as coastal islands which provided both shelter and handy stopping-off points en route. In addition, the coast of East Africa provides many natural harbours formed by submerged former river estuaries.

Initially inhabiting the interior, Bantu people had gradually moved to the coast as the second half of the first millennium CE wore on, creating new settlements and using stone - typically coral blocks held together with mortar - instead of, or in addition to, mud and wood for their homes. They profitably traded coastal commodities such as shell jewellery for agricultural products from the more fertile interior. When trade networks spread along the coast, so too ideas in art and architecture went with them, as did language, spreading Swahili further afield.

A Meeting of Two Worlds

From the 7th century CE, trade networks expanded to include the Red Sea (and so Cairo in Egypt), and then Arabia and the Persian Gulf. Arab dhows with their distinctive triangular sails filled the ports of the Swahili coast. Trade was even carried on across the Indian Ocean with India and Sri Lanka, as well as China and Southeast Asia. The long-distance sea voyages were made possible by the alternation of winds which blew to the northeast in the summer months and reversed in the winter months.

The population of Kilwa at its peak was likely at least 10,000 residents.

From the mid-8th century CE, Muslim traders from Arabia and Egypt began to permanently settle in towns and trading centres along the Swahili coast. The Bantu and Arabs mixed, as did their languages, with intermarrying being common and a blending of cultural practices which led to their evolution into a unique Swahili culture.

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Shirazi merchants from the Persian Gulf arrived at Kilwa from the 12th century CE and so the influence of the Sunni Islamic religion and Muslim architecture was further strengthened. The Shirazi established their rule over Kilwa by around 1200 CE - by peaceful means according to medieval Arab sources - although the city-state did not exert any form of wider political control or even cultural influence over the mainland interior. As Kilwa could not produce its own food, though, there must have been some arrangement with local tribes on the mainland.

The social structure of Kilwa and other Swahili ports is here summarised by the historian H. Neville Chittick:

The inhabitants of the towns can be considered as falling into three groups. The ruling class was usually of mixed Arab and African ancestry…such also were probably the landowners, merchants, most of the religious functionaries and the artisans. Inferior to them in status were the pure-blooded Africans, probably mostly captured in raids on the mainland and in a state of slavery, who cultivated the fields and no doubt carried out other menial tasks. Distinct from both these classes were the transient or recently settled Arabs, and perhaps Persians, still incompletely assimilated into the society. (Fage, 209)

The population of Kilwa at its peak was likely at least 10,000 residents, perhaps double that figure. It was governed by a single ruler, but details of how he was chosen are lacking besides some cases of one ruler nominating his successor. Assisting the ruler or sultan were various officials, such as a council of advisors and a judge, who were all likely selected from the most powerful merchant families.

Kilwa's ability to attract foreign interest continued into the 15th century CE. In 1417 CE the famed Chinese admiral Zheng He (1371-1433 CE) made it to East Africa in one of his celebrated seven voyages of exploration. Zheng He took back to China such exotica as giraffes, gems, and spices. Foreign travellers and the accounts they wrote can be added to local documents to flesh out the history of Kilwa, notably the Kilwa Chronicle, a history of the area and its ruling dynasties which was likely written between 1520 and 1530 CE.

Trade - Kilwa & Sofala

In order to reach the resources of southern Africa's interior, Kilwa needed a trading post further south. This would be Sofala (in modern Mozambique), founded perhaps around 1300 CE. This southern Swahili outpost was important to such cultures as Great Zimbabwe (c. 1100 - c. 1550 CE) in modern-day Zimbabwe and vice-versa. Indeed, gold from Zimbabwe that reached Sofala helped make Kilwa the most prosperous of all the Swahili coast cities, overtaking Mogadishu. Sofala was also a manufacturing centre, too, producing large numbers of pottery and, to a lesser degree, smelting iron and copper before exporting these metals. Meanwhile at Kilwa, cotton cloth was manufactured and there were workshops producing goods made from ivory, glass, and copper.

Besides gold, Kilwa was able to gather and export ivory, tortoise shells, copper (often cast in x-shaped ingots), timber (especially mangrove poles), incense (e.g. frankincense and myrrh), rock crystal, grain, and rhino horns, which were then exchanged for such exotic luxury goods as Chinese Ming porcelain, precious metal jewellery, fine cloth and glass beads from India, silk, glassware and carved faience from Persia. Many of these items would have been traded on into Africa's interior along the coast and, of course, consumed within Kilwa itself. As wealth poured into Kilwa - via both exchange and duties on the movement of goods - the city was able to mint its own copper coinage from the 11th or 12th century CE. Great Zimbabwe's successor in that region, the kingdom of Mutapa (c. 1450 - c. 1650 CE) on the Zambezi River, also traded with Sofala and exchanged gold, ivory, animal hides, and slaves for imported luxury goods.

Kilwa Architecture - Husuni Kubwa

Kilwa had many fine and imposing buildings. The Husuni Kubwa Palace ('Large Fort' in Swahili) was located on a sandstone promontory just outside the city and was reached by a monumental staircase cut into the rock. The buildings were mostly of one story and constructed using dressed blocks cut from the natural rock faces of Kilwa. It was a large complex covering almost 10,000 square metres (1 hectare) and included a spacious audience hall, courtyard with tiered seating or steps, domed ceilings, storerooms (covering half of the palace's area), and a pool. Although the architecture is similar to buildings seen in Aden with its domes, pavilions, and barrel vaults, the Kilwa architects added their own unique twist by embedding pieces of Chinese porcelain into the white lime plaster of the exterior walls for decorative effect. The roofing was made from flat pieces of coral supported by a dense framework of mangrove poles. The palace and other buildings for the ruling elite and wealthy included such luxuries as indoor plumbing.

The palace walls and those of the mosque and one house have another point of interest, several examples of ancient graffiti which show both Arab and local trading ships. A different kind of wall writing, and just as important, is an inscription which reveals the name of the ruler who commissioned it, al Hasan ibn Suleiman (r. 1320-1333 CE), and thus we have an approximate date of construction.

The Great Mosque

The Great Mosque, also known as the Friday Mosque, was, like the palace, constructed from coral rock blocks with a mangrove and coral roof. All mosques on the Swahili Coast were relatively small and almost always without minarets but the Great Mosque at Kilwa, as its name would suggest, was grander than most. Again begun by al Hasan ibn Suleiman in the 14th century CE and then completed under Suleiman al Adil (r. 1412-1442 CE), the structure incorporated parts of an earlier mosque of the 10th-11th century CE. It has impressive monolithic coral columns which support a high vaulted ceiling, octagonal columns creating 30 arched bays, and a 4-metre (13 ft.) square room with a domed roof. There was, too, a small domed chamber separate from the rest of the building for the sultan to worship privately. Minimalist in decoration like other mosques of the region, it did have many carved coral bosses with very intricate geometrical designs.

Other Buildings

Another impressive structure is the Husuni Ndogo or 'Small Fort', which consists of a large rectangular courtyard with a stone well completely encircled by a sandstone circuit wall and only one entrance gate. Its precise purpose is unknown, but it may have functioned as a place for travellers to stay, a barracks, or even a market. The city boasted additional mosques as well as many small and well-watered gardens, some with orchards. Large warehouses were built of coral rock, too. Domestic housing typically consisted of a stone building with two very long rooms, smaller private chambers with many wall niches, an inner courtyard, and large windows. Decoration was achieved by adding carved wooden window and door frames, window grilles, or even setting rows of porcelain bowls into the ceilings. Buildings were constructed very close together, often sharing a wall, and so the city had very narrow and maze-like streets. The palace, Great Mosque, and general attention to architecture led the Moroccan explorer and traveller Ibn Battuta (1304 - c. 1368 CE), who visited c. 1331 CE, to famously describe Kilwa as "one of the most beautiful towns in the world" (quoted in Spielvogel, 233).

The Portuguese & Decline

The decline of Kilwa began with its own internal dynastic disputes and, consequently, the city was already weakened and in no way prepared for the threatening arrival of the Portuguese. These Europeans with their large sailing ships sought to establish a presence and then total control of the lucrative regional trade following the voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1498-9 CE when he went around the Cape of Good Hope and up the east coast of Africa. Another motivation besides trade for Portuguese intervention was the conversion of Muslim communities to Christianity.

Kilwa was attacked by the Portuguese in 1505 CE, leaving many of its buildings in ruins. The Portuguese, with their base at Goa, India, eventually gained control of the Indian Ocean and built fortresses to make sure they kept it, notably at Sofala in 1505 CE and Mozambique Island in 1507 CE. As a consequence of this presence, inland traders now conducted their business with more northerly Swahili ports such as Mombasa. Kilwa had other problems, too, such as the odd uprising from interior tribes like the Zimba cannibals who attacked the island in 1587 CE, killing 3,000 residents (how many they ate is unknown).

Half a century later, around 1633 CE, the Portuguese then chose a more aggressive policy to control the region's resources at the source and cut out their trade rivals. They attacked and conquered one of the chief sources of gold, the kingdom of Mutapa in Zimbabwe, which was already weakened by damaging civil wars, causing its internal collapse. In general, though, trade networks merely moved northwards and, in any case, the Europeans were quickly disillusioned with how little gold was available in East Africa compared to West Africa and Inca Peru. In the 18th century CE Kilwa, now under French control, became a major port of the East African slave trade as well as a significant exporter of ivory. Although Kilwa has survived in part, Sofala fared much worse and was destroyed by the incursion of the sea in the early 20th century CE.

Makutani berma ke gazik ke Umana bak XVIII -eafa decemda

Rawaks ke Kilwa Kisiwani is Songo Mnara. Moe toloya ewalama poke tanzaniafa krimta stabrega ke toloy moltap mafelayan gan taneaf europaf worasik lapted. Mali XIII -eafa decemda kali XVI-eafa dolekik ke Kilwa va moava is dilgava is marda is kofiga is porma ke Araba is isolaxa ke Persa is rigela ke Sinia moorteyed, nume va kipi ke kaza koo India Welfa batkane stujeyed.

(en) Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara. The remains of two great East African ports admired by early European explorers are situated on two small islands near the coast. From the 13th to the 16th century, the merchants of Kilwa dealt in gold, silver, pearls, perfumes, Arabian crockery, Persian earthenware and Chinese porcelain much of the trade in the Indian Ocean thus passed through their hands.

Stone Town ke ZanzibarRawaks ke Kilwa Kisiwani is Songo MnaraLekeraporugalaf yunkeyen aruleem ke Kondoa

Kilwa coins

Exploring the intertidal zone at Elcho Island in July last year, Hermes didn’t need his metal detector to find the small copper coin. He didn’t even need to dig. It was just lying on the beach, its crusted green surface staring out at him from the sand.

But the find was no accident. The Past Masters were following in the path of Morry Isenberg, an RAAF radar operator who discovered five Kilwa coins when he was stationed briefly on nearby Marchinbar Island in 1945.

Archaeologist Mike Hermes searching with local fossicker Dion McLean where he found what could be a 500-year-old Iranian coin at Buffalo Creek, Northern Territory.

Isenberg rediscovered the coins stashed away in a matchbox tin 40 years later, and they were handed over to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Although they were deemed the “earliest dated coins so far discovered in Australia” and thought to “represent an entirely new concept in early Australian history”, Hermes says there has always been some lingering doubt that Isenberg’s “x marks the spot might have been a bit shaky”.

So the Past Masters searched nearby locations they thought were feasible, and Hermes found his coin 100 nautical miles from where Isenberg claimed to have found his.

How the coins got to this part of the world is a much more perplexing mystery.

“Kilwa coins have only been found in Kilwa, the Arabian peninsula and the Wessel Islands,” Hermes says. “It’s a puzzling distribution.”

Historian Mike Owen, with the help of local fossicker Jess McLean, digs up a rifle shell casing from the second world war near the site where Dion McLean found what could be a 500-year-old Iranian coin at Buffalo Creek, Northern Territory.

Owen offers a few theories. It could indicate contact between Indigenous Australians and traders from Kilwa 700 years ago. The Wessel Islands were probably not the intended destination for the coins. There was trade between Kilwa and China, and possibly those traders were blown off course or escaping from pirates. Perhaps there was a shipwreck. But he says the most likely scenario is that the Portuguese, who looted Kilwa in 1505, went on to set foot on Australian shores, bringing the coins with them.

“The Portuguese were in Timor in 1514, 1515 – to think they didn’t go three more days east with the monsoon wind is ludicrous,” Hermes says.

So what does the potential discovery of a coin minted 500 years before James Cook’s arrival, and more than 300 years before the Dutch, mean for the pre-European history of Australia?

Numismatist Peter Lane says if this is a Kilwa coin, it adds an interesting dimension to Australia’s early history.

“The value of these discoveries is very important and underrated by most people,” he says. “When it comes to historical significance, how do you put a value on something like that?”

Kilwa Sultanate: a state based in Tanzania which traded as far as Australia

The word Kilwa translates loosely to Island. The full name of Kilwa Kisiwani, translates in Tanzanian to Isle of the Fish. The Kingdom of Kilwa is known as one of the great African empires in history. It existed from 960-1513 CE, and was based in Tanzania. In its heyday, its wealth and trading prowess was world-class.

The Sultanate was based mainly on the Island of Kilwa, which is just off modern-day Tanzania. Its power extended much further than just the Island, however. At its absolute peak, the Empire had control of the Entire Swahili coast, which includes not only Tanzania but parts of Kenya and the Northern tip of Mozambique as well.

It is partly because of the Kilwa Sultanate that the Swahili people have their own distinct culture.

The Empire began around 960 CE. A legend says that the founder of Kilwa, Ali Ibn al-Hassan Shirazi, was one of the seven sons of the King of Shiraz in Persia (modern day Iran). However, his mother was a slave wife (a concubine), and using that fact, his brothers robbed him of his inheritance. Unable to blend with the elite society of Persia and Somalia, he retired to Kilwa, which he bought by promising the King enough cloth to cover the whole Island. When the King tried to renege on the deal, he supposedly had the bridge to the mainland destroyed.

This legend helps explains why the Empire was Muslim, but also why it was African in heritage. The veracity of it though cannot be confirmed.

Suffice to say, that at its peak, the Empire stretched across the Swahili coast, and broke the dominance of Mogadishu over the East African Coast.

With the Emperor confined to Kilwa, a small town on the Island, he set it up as an economic rival to Mogadishu. This wealth helped Kilwa grow, and expand its armies.

However, it was not until Suleiman Hassan, the 9 th descendant from Ali Ibn al-Hassan Shirazi that Kilwa started truly expanding. He conquered Sofala, which was the center of trade with the Empire of Zimbabwe. Specifically, it was the main trading post for the trade of gold and ivory. With further commercial income solidified, the Kilwa Empire grew and, by the 15 th Century, they had control over the entire Swahili Coast. By itself, Sofala covered 68,000 square kilometres.

Kilwa Sultunate sphere of control (source)

The Empire was dependent on trade. Agricultural activities within the Empire were very limited, thus a lot of the food supplies were imported. Rice, along with poultry and Cattle were imported in large amounts from the Bantu people.

To pay for this, Kilwan traders developed Market Towns in the highlands of Kenya and Tanzania. With their dominance over the coastal areas, they imported luxury goods from India and Arabia, and effectively marketed them to the interior, and also obtained food supplies in the exchange. This helped Kilwan thrive and kept up their supplies, while netting them a good amount of money.

The only agricultural activity they undertook was the planting of palm trees that produced coconut. This helped provide them with fruit, but also with wood for building, along with material for weaving clothes.

They were also used to build the many ships that were used for transit from the Island to the mainland, and for their trade ships.

Along with this, the Kilwa were also known for their thriving trade in tortoise shells.


Kilwan ships used the monsoon winds to sail to India and then back to Africa, at a time when such voyages were extremely dangerous. For this reason, Kilwan pilots were renowned for their accuracy while sailing, and their use of navigational instruments such as the latitude staves. The Portuguese were a great sailing Empire in their own right, but were envious of the instruments used by the Kilwan, which they felt were much superior to their own. It is also said that they were the first Empire to discover Australia, and definitely the first Empire to trade with the Australians.

While their ships were not good enough to sail south, their navigational skills were second to none. For this reason, Inhambane – also known as Terra de Boa Gente (Land of Good People) – was the southern-most tip of the Empire.

The Kilwan people are also one of the first Empires to have great trading relationships with countries as far as China and also countries like Australia. Another amazing achievement of theirs is that they had their own currency, in a time when that was not common.

Their wealth was another thing that left the Portuguese stunned. They built huge cities and wore the finest of silk and gold, with the wealth they made with their trade. They are one of the oldest long range trading empires to exist.

Terra Cotta lamps were discovered by archaeologists, pointing to the use of these lamps for activities like writing and reading, showing how well read and developed the Empire was.

The decline of the Kilwa Sultanate was swift, and partly caused by one person. Emir Ibrahim’s usurpation of a previous King stunned those even in the colonies, and he was unable to gain the legitimacy and respect that the ruling family held. With his reputation in tatters, he refused to strike a deal with the Portuguese, in the belief, that he could hold on to power without them.

He had been advised by many to accept the deal, as the Portuguese could have helped him control the vassal states that were thinking of rebelling.

Sadly for him, the end was swift. A second Portuguese Armada came heavily armed and easily conquered an Empire that was already teetering on the edge of rebellion.

Thus, ended a great Empire, and the entire area fell to the brute force of Colonisation. Yet, at its zenith, this was an Empire that even the Portuguese would not have dared trifle with.

Current Descendants

The current Descendants of the Kilwa Sultanate are the Swahili people. They have their own distinct culture, their own distinct lifestyle and their own distinct history, having been part of the proud and great Kilwa Sultanate.

João de Barros (1552–59) Décadas da Ásia: Dos feitos, que os Portuguezes fizeram no descubrimento, e conquista, dos mares, e terras do Oriente., esp. Dec. I, Lib. 8, Cap. 6 (p. 225ff)

Strong, S. Arthur (1895) “The History of Kilwa, edited from an Arabic MS”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, January (No volume number), pp. 385–431.

Kilwa: a Portuguese Fort in Tanzania

Situated along the coast of Tanzania, Kilwa fort was built by the Portuguese in 1505 and was the first stone fort built by the Portuguese along the coast of East Africa. The construction of the fort was the work of the sailors and soldiers of the squadron of D. Francisco de Almeida, the first viceroy of Portuguese India. The fort was built soon after the conquest of the city of Kilwa (Quiloa), which took place on July 25, 1505. A few years later, in 1512, the Portuguese abandoned the fortress.

Today the remains of the fortress are made up of a small square fortification of about 20 meters on each side, the side facing the land is the best preserved, while the side towards the sea was largely destroyed in recent years. The fort still maintains two towers at its corners to the land side, while on the sea side, there are only a few remains of a tower and a bastion.

Entrance Gate, Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton…

The fort of Kilwa Kisiwani is on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1981.

Inscription criteria: Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara. The remains of two great East African ports admired by early European explorers are situated on two small islands near the coast. From the 13th to the 16th century, the merchants of Kilwa dealt in gold, silver, pearls, perfumes, Arabian crockery, Persian earthenware and Chinese porcelain much of the trade in the Indian Ocean thus passed through their hands.

In 2004 it was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton Fossilised coral that was used for the fort construction, Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton.. Entrance Gate, Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton…
Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton. Interior view of the Tower, Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton


– Various Authors “People of Zanzibar: The Portuguese period. The Portuguese legacy” Internet article.

– Various Authors “Documentos sobre os portugueses em Moçambique e na Africa central, 1497-1840. Documents on the Portuguese in Mozambique and Central Africa, 1497-1840” National Archives of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Centro de Estudos Históricos Ultramarinos, 1962-(1989), Lisboa. Includes indexes. “The sources have been drawn from archives and libraries in Portugal, Italy, France and other countries … Published in the original with an English translation. Contents: v. 1. 1497-1506.–v. 2. 1507-1510.–v. 3. 1511-1514.–v. 4. 1515-1516.–v. 5. 1517-1518.–v. 6. 1519-1537.–v. 7. 1540-1560.–v. 8. 1561-1588.–v. 9. 1589-1615.

– Axelson, Eric “South-East Africa, 1488-1530” 306 pp. 1940, JLondon, UK. – Axelson, Eric “Portuguese in South-East Africa, 1488-1600” 276 pp. Struik, 1973, Cape Town, S.A.

– Axelson, Eric “Portuguese in South-East Africa, 1600-1700” x + 226 pp. Witwatersrand University Press, 1969, Johannesburg, S.A.

– Boxer, Ch. R. “Moçambique island and the Carreira da India” In STUDIA N° 8, pp. 95 – 132, 1961, Lisbon, Portugal.

– Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P. “The Portuguese on the Swahili Coast: buildings and language” In STUDIA N° 49, pp. 235-253, 1989, Lisbon, Portugal.

– Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P. “The French At Kilwa Island: an episode in eighteenth- century East African History” Clarendon press, 1965, 243 pages plus illustrations.

– Gray, J. “Early Portuguese Missionaries in East Africa” 53 pp. illus, map Macmilland and Co., 1958. – Gray, Sir John “Visit of French Ship to Kilwa in 1527” Paper. Off Print edition.

– Pearson,M.N. “Port cities and intruders: the Swahili Coast, India and Portugal in the Early Modern Era� pp. 2 maps, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, Baltimore and London. Index: The Swahili coast and the Afrasian sea the Swahili coast and the interior East Africa in the world-economy the Portuguese on the coast.

– Penrad, J. C. “O encontros dos mundos. Islamismo, redesde confrarias e competiçao na Africa Oriental” In: “Oceanos” n° 34 Apr/Jun. 1998 pp. 132-140

– Rajab al Zinjibari, Khatib M. “Islam and the Catholic crusade movement in Zanzibar” Index: Pre-Islamic era in Zanzibar from Ethiopia to Zanzibar Zanzibar in Muslim historiography the origins of crusade in Zanzibar the Portuguese motive in Zanzibar Zanzibar Jihad for protection Portuguese legacy in Zanzibar Muslim liberation and Islamic revivalism.

– Strandes, J. “The Portuguese period in East Africa” xii, 325 pp., 5 plates, folding map, Edited by J. S. Kirkman, 1968, Nairobi, Kenya.

The history of Hamburg and Kilwa

Not only decades but centuries later, the history of Kilwa comes to a halt for the first time.

Therefore I wanna spread their incredible development.

How did it all start?

In 1444 a small nation, so-called Hamburg, was trying to spread their believes around Europe. There they encountered resistance for the first time. Therefore they started rethinking their cultural habits and political understanding. Nevertheless they came to the conclusion that their way of handling such matters was the right one for their people.

Their ambiguous diplomat tried it’s best. However his young age was exploited and the diplomatic relations were too weak to retain them from a huge misery.

The next few months were crucial ones for the Hamburger. The deaths were uncountable.

VALE DULCIS ANIMA. – not only the fearless warriors but also the good-natured population.

What should the last few living Hamburger do after their country collapsed?

More firm believing that the republic and humanistic ideas of the Hamburgers were the right one, just to early in history, the diplomatic and the former ruler searched for a nation that thought likewise.

Their search brought them around Europa until they finally found peace in Eastern Africa. The nation was so overwhelmed by their believes and history that they gave them the chance to rule their country. Even changing their political structure. A republic in Africa was born! When spreading this message, it should bring peace over the entire continent.

The diplomat, more eager than ever before to not making the same mistake, started good relations with the Ethiopians from the beginning. Their common believes seemed to be nearly congruent.

The history of Kilwa begins

Their new home was Kilwa – a small nation in Africa. Through their gentle ruler and gifted diplomat, they soon could convert big estates to their own tradition and could form a growing Kilwa.

But that’s not where the story ends, no.
Without the always ongoing struggle to survive in Europe, they started to even populate Australia and some smaller, but not less important and appreciated, islands.

Whilst in Europe a lot weird things were happening (Switzerland forming France, and then going back to calling it Switzerland), peace was spreading around the southern hemisphere. From nearly the entire south of America, over Africa, to Australia.

The threat is getting bigger

Because it would have been a way to boring – and not realistic – story, I also have to tell you about the struggles, that this bright nation had to face.

The internal struggle consists of rebels especially in Africa and the north of South America. But our capable diplomat could convince them slowly for what glorious things Kilwa is standing for.

Nevertheless the first real intimidation came by the Netherlands by conquering the Kap of South Africa. Out of fear the Kilwans sign a Non-Aggression Pact with the Netherlands and therefore could maintain the peace throughout their sphere of influence.

Sadly – oh who would have thought that – the fronts began to stiffen. Diplomats all over the world are working day and night to maintain peace. But it seems inescapable. The worlds fate is sealed. A world war will begin.

The world war starts

Swiss declares war on Prussia. A minor action you think? Oh well… Oh well… Wouldn’t there be numerous pacts, non-aggression clauses, nations supporting other nations and so on.

Once again the world war starts in Europa (I mean, where else should it start). The Kilwans had not to think long about it. Surely they joint war, to help not only because of their allies, but even more to help their friends. Therefore they are fighting on the side of Switzerland.

All the pacts are getting into actions and the war is now not only in Europa and Africa, but also America and Asia.

The Kilwan territories in South America are getting attacked by Britanny. We will never forget these brave citizens, who fought for their lives to maintain Kilwan – at least in their heart the Kilwan spirit will never die.

Kilwan achieved to hold the Andalusians away from Europe, therefore less troops could fight on the other side of the war for Prussia.

When the pope looked to be encircled in a hopeless situation – Kilwan ships accomplished to free him and numerous troops!

Also our brothers in arms, the Deccans, have fought unbelievable fights, seeming to have infinite power going through Asia and fighting in Europe. Everyone can be proud to be allied with them, their fidelity and strength.

To describe every battle int his war, there is not enough time. But I can say – it was definitely a world war.

How it ended you may ask? Well, I just can say, the answer will never be revealed. It was nerve-wracking for all nations. Could Prussia have been defeated? Was the Netherland World Bank too strong for the Swiss-front? What I can say? All the nations won their supporters and their respect by the other ones, indifferent wether these are allies or enemies, already defeated, still struggling or doing great.

What lies before us can not be apprehended by our minds. No matter what would have happened or will happen – Kilwan will live forever in our hearts.

Alea non iacta es per fortunam.

So what can I add?
A big thank you for all the other nations, for the fairplay, for forming an incredible world. On the map and off the map during the diplomatic and off-topic discussions.
Also I do not wanna forget the GMs and all the other people behind this project!
And also thanks to the viewers and the ones who lived with the nations through the game without being a player themselves.

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page 389 note 1 Here again the author is alluding to a fact not otherwise described or explained.

page 398 note 1 “Never Kulwā as in Ibn Baṭūṭa—probably a clerical error” (Burton, l.c. ii. p. 341).

page 399 note 1 Rigby, l.c. p. 27 cf. Burton, l.c. p. 419.

page 399 note 2 Tr. Stanley, Hakluyt Society, p. 291.

page 402 note 1 The commentaries of the great Afonso Dalboquerque, Hakluyt Soc. ii. p. xviii.

page 404 note 1 This ‘Micante’ is evidently the same as Muḥammad whose reign was described in one of our missing chapters.

Swahili City-States

Around the 8th century, the Swahili people began trading with the Arab, Persian, Indian, Chinese, and Southeast Asian peoples—a process known as the Indian Ocean trade.
As a consequence of long-distance trading routes crossing the Indian Ocean, the Swahili were influenced by Arabic, Persian, Indian, and Chinese cultures. During the 10th century, several city-states flourished along the Swahili Coast and adjacent islands, including Kilwa, Malindi, Gedi, Pate, Comoros, and Zanzibar. These early Swahili city-states were Muslim, cosmopolitan, and politically independent of one another.
They grew in wealth as the Bantu Swahili people served as intermediaries and facilitators to local, Arab, Persian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, and Chinese merchants. They all competed against one another for the best of the Great Lakes region’s trade business, and their chief exports were salt, ebony, gold, ivory, and sandalwood. They were also involved in the slave trade. These city-states began to decline towards the 16th century, mainly as a consequence of the Portuguese advent. Eventually, Swahili trading centers went out of business, and commerce between Africa and Asia on the Indian Ocean collapsed.


The variety of soils in mainland Tanzania surpasses that of any other country in Africa. The reddish brown soils of volcanic origin in the highland areas are the most fertile. Many river basins also have fertile soils, but they are subject to flooding and require drainage control. The red and yellow tropical loams of the interior plateaus, on the other hand, are of moderate-to-poor fertility. In these regions, high temperatures and low rainfall encourage rapid rates of oxidation, which result in a low humus content in the soil and, consequently, a clayey texture rather than the desired crumblike structure of temperate soils. Also, tropical downpours, often short in duration but very intense, compact the soil this causes drainage problems and leaches the soil of nutrients.

The sultanate falls

In the early 16th century, Portugal was looking to colonise the valuable regions along the Swahili coast. In 1505 Francisco de Almeida occupied Kilwa, bringing the sultanate to an end after it refused to pay tribute. In the years that followed, Portugal captured swathes of East Africa and west India to control the lucrative Indian Ocean trading routes. In their new colony of Kilwa, they built the Gereza, a military fort to protect the port. One of its towers still stands. (Tanzania's largest city is rapidly expanding. Here's how its planners are trying to keep up.)

In the early 1700s Portuguese colonies were invaded by the Sultanate of Oman, which rapidly occupied the East African coast. It was not enough to restore Kilwa to its former glory. The city was abandoned by the mid-19th century, but archaeological interest revived its fortunes. Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1981, Kilwa’s ruins stand today as testimony to the robust Afro-Arabian culture that bloomed centuries ago.

Watch the video: Kilwa kivinje Ruins. Magofu ya Kilwa Kivinje (January 2022).