The ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara located on two islands close to each other just off the Tanzanian coast about 330 kilometers south of Dar es salaam. The name Kilwa takes its origin from the ancient medieval coastal city state Quila (a Portuguese word) and the word Kisiwani (a Swahili word) means an Island;
Songo Mnara originated from two words; Songo representing the the local natives of the place known as Wasongo and the language spoken is Kisongo; and Mnara means a Pillar. With its twin island of Songo Mnara, Kilwa Kisiwani known by its rich history and Swahili cultural heritage blended with African and Arabic cultures from the 9th to the 19th centuries. They are the remains of two ports that had an important position in East African trade between the 13th and 16th centuries.
Their prosperity was based on control of Indian Ocean trade with Arabia, India and China when gold and ivory from the hinterland was traded for silver, carnelians, pearls, perfumes, Persian faience and Chinese porcelain.The substantial standing ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara built of coral and lime mortar, include the Great Mosque, the palace Husuni Kubwa, Husuni Ndogo, numerous mosques, public squares, the Gereza (prison) constructed on the ruins of the Portuguese fort and an entire urban complex with houses, etc. The start of its decline came in the 16th century, when the Portuguese established a fort on Kilwa Kisiwani, and came to dominate trade in the region.
The two small islands of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara located in Kilwa district, Lindi region, about 330km south of Dar es salaam. Kilwa is one of the five districts of Lindi Region of Tanzania. It is bordered by Indian Ocean on the East, Pwani region on the North, Selous Game Reserve at Liwale district on the West and Lindi rural District to the South. The area located on Latitudes 9° South and Longitudes 39° East.
Tourism activities conducted in the area are walking tour at Historical ruins (Kilwa Kisiwani, Songo Mnara, Sanje ya kati and Kilwa Kivinje), bike tour, boating, bird watching, cruise ship safaris, filming and beach tourism.
- The World Heritage Committee had approved the Kilwa Kisiwani and ruins of Songo Mnara as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Kilwa Kisiwani standing among the leading, earliest trading towns on East African coast and it minted its own currency in the 11th to 14th centuries.
- Although today Kilwa is in ruins, historically it was one of the most powerful city states on the Swahili coast. According to great Muslim traveler Ibn-Buttuta, a Moroccan explorer who visited and stayed in Kilwa Kisiwani between 1331 and 1332, described the town as ‘one of the most beautiful towns in the world’ during that time.
- The islands bear exceptional testimony to the expansion of Swahili coastal culture and the Islamisation of East Africa.
- Historical buildings in the island constructed with coral stone mixed with limestone materials which had made the architecture beautiful and stable to survive weather conditions characterized by humid and hot temperatures for hundreds of years.
- The awesome view of Indian Ocean- Kilwa Masoko is one of the Tanzania's most beautiful beaches and is worth visiting.
There is average numbers of hotels and lodges that can be categorized as Luxury, standard or economy.
The best time to visit the ruins is on June to September, however it can also be visited throughout the year.
Approximately Four (4) hours from Dar es Salaam to Kilwa Masoko.
Approximately 40 minutes from Julius Nyerere International Airport flight to Kilwa Masoko
Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara,