The Portuguese Destruction Of Ancient Kilwa
Beyond the famous City of Zanzibar, lay the Ancient City Of Kilwa which was once the most important and famous of all the Swahili Trading Cities on the coast of modern Tanzania.
The City’s fame spread around the world as visitors described what they saw spread out before them as as a scene of remarkable and unique splendour.
In about the year 1200 AD, the City of Kilwa was a place of comfort and urban splendour. Its Islamic Royal Palace was one of the high points of civilized development promoted and sustained solely by Africa’s trading networks.
Founded in the 12th century, the Royal Palace Mosque was enlarged in the 15th Century with generous donations from Citizens who spent lots of gold on improvements.
However, in the year 1498, an event took place which was to lead not only to the destruction of Kilwa, but also to the destruction of the Swahili Indian Ocean Trading network all along the East African Coast.
In that year for the first time in history, 3 Portuguese ships under the command of Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian Ocean.
When the European expedition reached home, Vasco da Gama reported his discovery of this African Pearl.
Seven years later, a much larger fleet of Ships sailed to Kilwa under the command of Admiral del Maida, accompanied by Soldiers, Calvary and Artillery.
At dawn on Thursday 24 July 1505, they stormed Kilwa’s shoreline, heading straight to the Royal Palace, and killing everyone who did not immediately surrender.
After subduing the City, the Portuguese put down the Holy Cross, Admiral dal Maida prayed and then the Portuguese began looting, plundering the town of all its merchandise and provisions.
The sack of Kilwa by the Portuguese in 1505 marked a turning point in the history of the whole East African Coast.
After the Portuguese, the Coast was siezed by the Dutch, then the English and finally the French when they took control of the entire Indian Ocean Trade.
The old Swahili Cities which had depended on the Indian Ocean Trade formerly dominated by Kilwa fell into decay, as Africa now had to suffer a long period of destructive conflict and confrontation begun by the outside world.
Sadly this process would continue until the old splendours of the African past were all but forgotten.