The Tongoni Ruins are 15th century ruins of a mosque and forty tombs in Tongoni, a small fishing village 17 km south of Tanga in Tanzania. The area was a different place four to five centuries ago. Contrary to its almost unnoticed presence today, it was a prosperous and a respected trading centre during the 15th century.
One tradition claims that Tongoni was established by the Shirazi people (originally of Persian descent), who established many Islamic settlements in Southeast Africa such as Kilwa and Mafia. There are also claims that the settlement of Tongoni was once dominated by the Wadebuli, a population believed to be of Indian origin that come from Dabhol, situated off the West Coast of India. Dhabol was a seaport in the 15th century belonging to the Bahmani rulers of the Deccan Plateau. The Bahmani had extensive trading links with Kilwa, which was then the largest trading centre in Southeast Africa.
Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese sailor, first visited Tongoni in April 1498. He had the opportunity to eat the local oranges, which he said were better than those available in Portugal. He made a second visit the following year, and spent fifteen days in Tongoni.
The ruins at Tongoni are under the Antiquities department. The ruins are open to the public but there have been no Phase III excavations. Decades ago, a small test excavation was conducted at the site and a site plan was drawn. In 2006, an American archaeologist conducted additional test excavations and mapped the site using modern methods of site survey. A resident guide, Mr. Job Tengamaso is available to show visitors around. A more recent ruin of a mosque (of about one hundred years) at the other end of the village, on the beach, can also be visited.
- Urithi Newsletter, Vol 1 No 1, Sep. 2000
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