A Land of Rich History

Historical Sites

Tanzania has long history of tribal habitation stretching back on our most distant ancestors. Tribal migrations, occurring between 3000 to 5000 years ago, brought agricultural and pastoral knowledge to the area as competing tribal groups spread over the country in search of fertile soil and plentiful grazing for their herds.

European missionaries and explorers mapped the interior of the country by following well-worn caravan routes, including Burton and Speke who in 1857 journeyed to find the source of the Nile. Traditional ways of life remained largely intact until arrival of German colonizers in the 19th century.

On the Swahili Coast, Indian Ocean trade began as early as 400BC between Greece and Azania, as the area was commonly known. Around the 4th century AD, coastal town and trading settlements attracted Bantu-speaking people from the African hinterland. They settled around mercantile areas and often facilitated trading with the Arabs and Persians, who bartered for slaves, gold, ivory and spices, sailing north with the monsoon wind. Between the 13th and 15th century, the civilization of Kilwa Kisiwani and the Zanzibar Archipelago reached their peak, with a highly cosmopolitan population of Indian, Arabs and African merchants trading in luxury goods that reached as far as China. The completion of Portuguese domination in 1525 meant that trade, for a short time was lessened but rival Omani Arab influences soon took control of the caravan routes and regained complete control of the islands, even go so far as to make Zanzibar the capital of Oman in the 1840s.

In the late 19th century, British influence in the Zanzibar Archipelago, in contrast to German influence on the Tanzanian mainland, slowly suppressed the slave trade and brought the area under the influence of the Empire. Local rebellions in German East Africa, most notably the Majimaji rebellion from 1905 to 1907, slowly weakened the colonizer’s grip on the nation and at the end of World War One, German ceded Tanganyika to British administration. Under the leadership of Julius Nyerere, popularly referred to as Mwalimu, or ‘teacher’, Tanganyika achieved independence in 1961. Meanwhile a popular revolution in Zanzibar ousted the Omani Arabs and established majority rule in 1963. A year later, the United Republic of Tanzania was formed, unifying Tanganyika mainland with the semi-autonomous islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago.


Mysterious ruins of complex irrigation systems span the area around Engaruka, the remnants of a highly developed but unknown civilization that inhabited the area at least 500 years ago – and then vanished without a trace.

Kilwa Kisiwani

The island of Kilwa Kisiwani and the nearby ruins of Songo Mnara are among the most important remnants of Swahili civilization on the East African coast. The area became a center point of Swahili civilization in the 19th century, when it controlled the gold trade with Sofala, a distant settlement in Mozambique. In the 14th century, Arab traveler Ibn Battuta described Kilwa as being exceptionally beautiful and well developed. After brief decline under the rule of the Portuguese, Kilwa once again became a center of Swahili trade in the 18th century, when slaves were shipped from its port to the islands of Comoros, Mauritius and Reunion.


The port town of Lindi in south-western Tanzania was the final for slave caravans from Lake Nyasa during heyday of the Zanzibari Sultans. In 1909, a team of German paleontologists unearthed the remains of several dinosaur bones in Tendanguru, including the species Brachiosaurus brancai, the largest discovered dinosaur in the world.


Another central port in the Swahili Coast’s network of Indian Ocean trade, in the 15th century, Mikindani’s reach extended as far as the African hinterlands of the Congo and Zambia. The area became a center of German colonial administration in the 1880s and a chief exporter of sisal, coconut and slaves.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Human and their distant ancestors have been part of Ngorongoro’s landscape for millions of years. The earliest signs of mankind in the Conservation Area are at Laetoli, where hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock 3.6 years old. The story continues at Olduvai Gorge, a river canyon cut 100 m deep through the volcanic soil of the Serengeti plains. Buried in the layers are the remains of animals and hominids that lived and died around the shallow lakes amid grassy plains and woodlands. These remains date from two million years ago. Visitors can learn more details of this fascinating story by visiting the site, where guides give fascinating on-site interpretation of the gorge.