Kaole Ruins

Old mosque in Kaole
By Dana Ungureanu
Published on 02 Apr 2018, viewed 2999 times
Category: Places to see
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Three miles to the east of Bagamoyo, on the coastline of the Indian Ocean, lies Kaole, a small town and archaeological site in Tanzania. The Kaole Ruins include the remains of a 13th century mosque, which is one of the oldest in the whole of East Africa. It was built during the time of the Sultan of Kilwa who also held power over coastal trade, and long before Bagamoyo had earned any authority. Not very far there is a second mosque, which dates back to the 15th century and around 22 graves, a significant number of which date from the same period.

Kaole minarett

The ruins are what is left of what once used to be a Muslim Shirazi settlement. As a fragmentary reminiscence of the tumultuous past of the city, among the graves and breaking with the ‘design’ of the Kaole Ruins, there are several Shirazi pillar-style tombs, which somewhat resemble the ones at Tongoni, as well as a small museum that houses a tiny collection of Chinese pottery fragments and other remnants. These artefacts reflect the ancient commercial past of the settlement, reminding of the trade relationships between the Swahili/Shirazi civilization and the Far East. 

Kaole ruins

Apart from its rich historical past, the site provides a perfect spot for recreation, situated amidst amazing beach resorts and hotels overlooking the Indian Ocean. 

East of the ruins, across a dense cluster of mangroves, is the old harbour, which was jammed with people and tradesmen during the golden age of the city. Now it is no longer in use. 

If you’re more of a walker than a driver and want to get the feel of your journey on foot, the easiest way to get to the Kaole Ruins is by heading off south for about 5km along the road that runs from Bagamoyo town along the coast to the sign-posted Kaole turn-off at the southern end of Kaole village. 

Otherwise, you can take a bajaji or tuk-tuk from the town, which will cost you about Tsh5000 or double of this by taxi.