city large and elegant, its
buildings, As typical along the coast, Constructed of stones and
Houses were generally single storied, consisting of a number of
small rooms separated by thick walls supporting heavy stone roofing
slabs laid across mangrove poles.
Some of the more formidable structures contained second and third
stories, and many were embellished with cut stone decorative borders
framing the entranceway.
Tapestries and ornamental niches covered the walls and the floors
were carpeted. Of course, such appointments were only for the
wealthy; the poorer classes occupied the timeless mud and straw huts
Their robs a simple loincloth, their dinner millet porridge".
By late 15th Century AD, Kilwa's fortunes changed. Portuguese
conquered the island after one of their explorer "Pedro Alvares
Cabral" visited Kilwa and reported seeing beautiful houses made of
coral stones and terraces of "black moors" as Vasco da Gama called
it when he past the island. In 1505 Portuguese established full
control of the island with intention of taking absolute control of
the lucrative Indian Ocean trade. They built a garrison and
establish a strong trading post with Sofara (Beira in present days).
Today Kilwa has managed to preserve much of the scenery that
attracted Ibn Batuta, Pedro Alvares Cabral, and Vasco da Gama. To
preserve its beauty UNESCO declared Kilwa a World Heritage Site in
The island is separated from the mainland by a 3 kilometers wide
channels. The visitors should expect to see medieval ruins:-
· The mosque, is considered to be (at that time) the largest in East
African Coast. It has domed chambers, monolithic pillars, water
tanks, and slabs for prayers.
· Great House, which is believed to be the house of Imam or Sultan.
· Small domed Mosque, the best preserved and most ornamental in
· Mkutini Palace, built with great walls triangular in shape
· Gereza (prison) which was built by Portuguese, dominating the view
of the island from far.
· The remarkable ruins however, is the HUSUNI KUBWA overlooking the
Kilwa port, as early writers mentioned " it was the largest pre
-European building in Equatorial Africa.
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