A Historical Tour of Tanzania

A Historical Tour of Tanzania

Any attempt to analyse the history of Tanzania before the 19th century without mentioning the coastal area may not yield much. Evidence indicates the arrival of traders from Arabia, Persia, India, Greece, and Rome to the Tanzanian shores as early as 5th century BC.

The growth of trade between the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa resulted in the establishment of many Arab and Asian trade settlements along the coast and this opened routes to the interior of what is now mainland Tanzania. Many trading centres were Arab-controlled. This encouraged good relations between Arabs and their African neighbors.

Arrival of Portuguese

When the Portuguese arrived in the 15th Century, the Arab influence was gradually undermined. The Portuguese were not eager to penetrate into the interior. A few years later, the French started the slave trade at the town of Kilwa in 1776. Arab traders saw profit in the slave trade and began to penetrate further into the interior around Lake Nyasa. At this time, together with slaves, ivory became a major attraction.

In 1825, the ruler of Muscat, Said Ibn Sultan transferred his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar and gave great incentives for his Arabian countrymen to pursue both slaves and ivory. As a result, the Arabs opened strong trade routes for both slaves and ivory in Lake Tanganyika, Tabora, and Ujiji.

Europeans show interest

In the late 19th century, Europeans started to show interest in then Tanganyika and missionaries from the Church Missionary Society, Johannes Rebman, and Johann Ludwig Krapf reached Mount Kilimanjaro in 1840. Later on, British explorers showed interest and sent Richard Burton and John Speke. They traveled from Bagamoyo to Lake Tanganyika in 1858. Both were keen to establish the fact that the great river Nile rose from Lake Victoria.

German East Africa

The scramble for Africa saw an awakened interest from the Germans in the 1840s, and they sent Carl Peters, Count Joachim, and Von Pfeil to the mainland to contact chiefs in the Usambara area. At this time friction had risen between the Germans and the Sultan of Zanzibar and in 1886 the Sultan, who had no desire to face the German military might, offered to oversee the establishment of German East Africa.

Due to weak administrative structures, the German East Africa Company did not succeed in administering the large area, and so the German government declared Tanzania a protectorate under its sphere of influence and over the entire coastal strip.

Introduction of sisal

Sisal was introduced to Tanzania by the German agronomist, Richard Hindorff in 1892 and for some time this was the most prominent economic activity in the protectorate. Sisal plantations became so large that they forced construction of a railway line from Dar es Salaam to Lake Tanganyika in 1896.

The country has a rich history and is not just about safaris, mountains and beaches. Though tourism plays a major part in the economy of the country, the rich culture that has sustained over the years cannot be overlooked.