12 April, 2011

Masjid: Mosques of Eastern Africa III

In Eastern Africa, Tanzania has the largest Muslim population. The semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, which is a part of Tanzania, is almost wholly Muslim, while the mainland is about 50% Muslim. Hadharem, Omanis and Persians have all played a huge role in the spreading of Islam here. Islam has played an influential role in shaping the culture of most Tanzanians, even that of non-Muslims. Swahili, the national and official language of the country, is very much influenced and shaped by Islam. I do not know of any other country where Muslims live as peacefully with people of other faiths as in Tanzania. I do not know too, of any other country where the leadership of its country, peacefully and democratically changes from a Muslim to a Christian and vice-versa, as in Tanzania. Its current head of state, several of its cabinet minsters and many of its leaders are Muslims. Islam means mosques. The earliest concrete evidence of Muslim presence in East Africa is the foundation of a mosque in Shanga on Pate Island, Tanzania. The mosque dates 830 AD. And there are many other mosques in Tanzania: like in Kenya, some very old and some new. Some Mosques in Tanzania:

Kilwa is divided between Kilwa Kisiwani on the island, Kilwa Kivinje on the mainland and Kilwa Masoko also on the mainland. Some times in the 9th Century, Kilwa Kisiwani, under a Persian descended ruler: Al Ibn Al Hassan, grew to become the main trading center on the East African coast and the Indian Ocean. By the 13th Century, it was the most powerful city on the East African coast. In Kisiwani are the impressive ruins of a 15th Century settlement, including that of a mosque: the Great Mosque of Kilwa. The ruins are a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Unlike Kilwa which is popular and world famous, very few people know of the ruins of Kaole or visit it; the ruins are a few kilometers from Bagamoyo.  The ruins have ancient mosques and tombs, one mosque is believed to be the remnant of the oldest mosque in East Africa, dating back to between the 3rd and 4th centuries. The tombs were built from coral stones with stone pillars that marked some of the tombs.
Tanga, on the Tanzanian mainland coast, in many ways, is very much like Mombasa. Unlike the other major towns along the Tanzanian coast, Tanga was not founded by Arabs but by Germans in the 19th Century. As such, it hasn't any historical sites. But, it too, has many mosques.
Arusha: the capital of the East African community, has wonderful climate; is the most beautiful and most scenic city in Tanzania: mounts Kilimanjaro and Meru, the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro and the Tarangire are all a short distance a way. Arusha too, was founded by the Germans, as a military fortress, in the early 20th Century. There are fewer Muslims here than at the coast; and fewer mosques.
 Moshi: another city with pleasant weather and beautiful scenery all around. And it is neat. It too, was started by the Germans, as a garrison, in the early 20th Century. It has many tourists attraction, but non historical. It has a few, small mosques.
Most of Tanzania's Muslims live along the coast and it is along the coast that most of the country's mosques can be found. Mainly in the urban areas, north to south, in: Tanga, Bagamoyo, Dare es Salaam; and far in the south, in: Lindi and Mtwara.
Lindi, once, long ago, was a very important trading center and transit post for Arab merchants. Today, it is a sleepy small town; so remote and distant, that few people think of visiting it. Most Tanzanian coastal urban centers are in many ways, very Arabic and Islamic; more so - Lindi, where Arabs are large in numbers and are the most prominent businessmen here. Any Arab, especially one from Hadhramout, would feel very much at home here. Lindi has several small mosques.
How can anyone leave a place so as stunningly beautiful and picturesque as Iringa? A place of soothing green valleys and mountains; a place of rivers and amazing wildlife? I have wondered: as a baby, this is where I took my first steps and learnt how to walk; I spent a few years of my childhood in this place, but for no good reason that I have been given - my Parents decided to move the family out of here. That aside: Iringa epitomizes what Tanzania is. It is a unique nation where Muslims and people of other religions live together peacefully and in harmony. One of the most structures prominent here, is a large Christian church. And there are many mosques which can be heard from, throughout the city, the daily five times call for prayers.
Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam. The name itself is Arabic: House of Peace or Haven of Peace. Founded and built by the Omani Sultan: Majid Bin Said, who named it Bandar as Salaam, only for that name to be changed without the 'Ban', with time, to become Dar es Salaam. It is Tanzania's largest and wealthiest city. Note: Dodoma is the capital of Tanzania, but Dar still has most of of the government's major offices and institutions. To this day, Dar has a prominent Arab community. Muslim, mainly Arabs of Hadhrami descent, are the main traders here. With its large Muslim population, Dar es Salaam has many mosques.

+ Islam Finder
+ Muslim Population
+ Muslim Population
+ Flickr
+ Picasa