Tongoni Ruins

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The Tongoni Ruins south of Tanga in Tanzania Tongoni Ruins.jpg
The Tongoni Ruins south of Tanga in Tanzania

The Tongoni Ruins are 15th century ruins of a mosque and forty tombs in Tongoni, a small fishing village 17 km south of Tanga in Tanzania. The area was a different place four to five centuries ago. Contrary to its almost unnoticed presence today, it was a prosperous and a respected trading centre during the 15th century.

Fishing village village with an economy based on catching fish and harvesting seafood

A fishing village is a village, usually located near a fishing ground, with an economy based on catching fish and harvesting seafood. The continents and islands around the world have coastlines totalling around 356,000 kilometres (221,000 mi). From Neolithic times, these coastlines, as well as the shorelines of inland lakes and the banks of rivers, have been punctuated with fishing villages. Most surviving fishing villages are traditional.

Tanga, Tanzania City in Northern, Tanzania

Tanga is both the name of the most northerly port city of Tanzania on the west of the Indian Ocean, and the surrounding Tanga Region. It is the Regional Headquarters of the region. With a population of 273,332 in 2012, Tanga is one of the largest cities in the country. It is a quiet city compared to, for example, Arusha or Moshi with a comparable number of inhabitants.

Tanzania country in Africa

Tanzania, officially the United Republic of Tanzania, is a country in eastern Africa within the African Great Lakes region. It borders Uganda to the north; Kenya to the northeast; Comoro Islands at the Indian Ocean to the east; Mozambique and Malawi to the south; Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is in north-eastern Tanzania.


One tradition claims that Tongoni was established by the Shirazi people (originally of Persian descent), who established many Islamic settlements in Southeast Africa such as Kilwa and Mafia. There are also claims that the settlement of Tongoni was once dominated by the Wadebuli, a population believed to be of Indian origin that come from Dabhol, situated off the West Coast of India. Dhabol was a seaport in the 15th century belonging to the Bahmani rulers of the Deccan Plateau. The Bahmani had extensive trading links with Kilwa, which was then the largest trading centre in Southeast Africa.

The Shirazi people, also known as Mbwera, are an ethnic group inhabiting the Swahili coast and the nearby Indian ocean islands. They are particularly concentrated on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Comoros. Their origins are linked to Shiraz and the southwestern coastal region of Persia. The Shirazi are notable for helping spread Islam on the Swahili Coast, their role in the establishment of the local Arab-Swahili sultanates, their influence in the development of the Swahili language, and the wealth they accumulated from trading commodities and Bantu-speaking African slaves. The East African coastal area and the nearby islands served as their commercial base.

The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group that make up over half the population of Iran. They share a common cultural system and are native speakers of the Persian language, as well as closely related languages.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country as well as the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese sailor, first visited Tongoni in April 1498. He had the opportunity to eat the local oranges, which he said were better than those available in Portugal. He made a second visit the following year, and spent fifteen days in Tongoni.

Vasco da Gama Portuguese explorer

Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His initial voyage to India (1497–1499) was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and therefore, the West and the Orient.

The ruins at Tongoni are under the Antiquities department. The ruins are open to the public but there have been no Phase III excavations. Decades ago, a small test excavation was conducted at the site and a site plan was drawn. In 2006, an American archaeologist conducted additional test excavations and mapped the site using modern methods of site survey. A resident guide, Mr. Job Tengamaso is available to show visitors around. A more recent ruin of a mosque (of about one hundred years) at the other end of the village, on the beach, can also be visited.

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Pemba Island is a small island off the coast of Tanzania. Inhabited since 600 AD, the island has a trading, agricultural, and religious history that has contributed to the studies of the Swahili Coast trade throughout the Indian Ocean.