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Notes on the Geography of Tanzania: Bagamoyo

Forty miles north of Dar, Bagamoyo was the first capital of German East Africa. Bits remain.

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We're on our way out of the capital. Zoom, zoom: DHL beats the traffic.

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A dying palm plantation.

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Eventually the traffic dies out, too.

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A new gas station stands in proud isolation.

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The economy reverts to a simpler time.

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Charcoal blocks, elegantly bundled.

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The waters here are calm, all the more so because of the reef in the distance.

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It's a place to escape the city.

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There are lots of such places.

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There's also the site of the first Catholic church in East Africa.

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A cross marks the spot. Land was granted here by the Sultan of Zanzibar to the Holy Ghost Fathers.

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The inscription, in Swahili, says that Christianity was established here in 1868 and then spread across East Africa.

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At first glance, you'd think this was a hotel, located as it is just inland from the beach.

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Not so. The Holy Ghost Fathers are still on site. The order is the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, and its members are often called Spiritans. The order bought freedom for slaves in Zanzibar, then opened schools.

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What's this? We've come upon an old fort, built by Arabs but used later by both Germans and the British.

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The interior rooms were sometimes used as prison cells.

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The outer wall.

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Nearby, obscured by renovation works, is the old Boma, or German administration building.

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Contractors at work.

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Almost a decade after the fact, a sign survives from a conference on the preservation of the town.

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Among its fruits: this restored teahouse--and the new paving.

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Most of the town hasn't been so tidied up.

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Farther back from the beach, there's an old residential building with pretensions to being a palazzo.

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The rear of the same building has a covered deck.

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By 1885, Bagamoyo had 5,000 people, about as many as Dar es Salaam. The houses were simple but distinctive, especially at the doorways.

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Closeup.

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Another door.

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Something different, for a change: a columned portico.

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Back to basics. We'll go down the lane.

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Entrance.

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Entrance.

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Besides the Boma, the most impressive German building is the Customs House. It was built following an 1888 treaty between the Deutsch Ost-Afrika Gesellschaft and Sayyid Khalife of Zanzibar. The treaty gave the Germans the right to collect duties along this coast. They needed a strong arm to do it, and in 1889 they got it from Hermann von Wissman, whose troops hanged the leader of an uprising. By 1890 German East Africa became a crown colony, and a year later the capital was moved to Dar es Salaam. Bagamoyo didn't die swiftly, however, and in the same year as the move south this customs house opened.

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Here's the other side of the building.

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An old photo of the place shows two towers, subsequently lost.

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The boats haven't changed much, however, if you make allowances for the addition of outboard motors and factory-made clothing for the crews.

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What could it be? An accident?

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No, it's an auction for today's catch--and a grim one it is for anyone wondering about the future of the world's fish stocks.

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The winners scoop up their purchases.

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Nearby, there's a fish fry.

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And recreation facilities.

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Covered outdoor spaces were mandatory here before air conditioning. Even the old German post office got the treatment, which comes in handy now that the building has been spruced up and converted to a hotel. In the background is a wildly mismatching new wing.

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On the wall of the post office turned hotel, there's a remarkable sight: a rickshaw pulled by a woman.

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The old German headquarters is shown with a monument that no longer exists.

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Nor does this one.

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Who said zebras can't be tamed?

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It's been almost a century since the Germans lost Tanganyika, but Germans continue to visit the old cemetery here.

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There's one very unusual grave.

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The stone reads: "District commissioner the Honorable William Francis Bamphylde, 1892-1930." It is said--and this is gossip that begs confirmation--that he shot himself after learning of his wife's affair with a servant.

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The rest of the cemetery is occupied by Germans, mostly soldiers and children. Here, a lieutenant in Wissmann's troop.

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Here, a sergeant in the Imperial Protection Force.

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More elaborate: "Here rests in God Second Lieutenant Max Schelle of the S.M. Cruiser Schwalbe. Fell on 19 May 1889 at age 24 while storming a fortified position at Bagamoyo. Always the first in the enemy camp."

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A paramedic ("Lazareth Assistant") in the protection force.

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"To the memory of our dear good son and brother, Heinrich Hems, born 1863 in Hamburg, died November 1893 in Bagamoyo. The eye away but the heart always near." The last words are formulaic; the English paraphrase would be "lost to sight, to mem'ry dear."

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"Here slumbers our beloved child, Gretchen Schuller, 6 days old, died 13 February 1900."


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