1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kilwa

KILWA (Quiloa), a seaport of German East Africa, about 200 m. S. of Zanzibar. There are two Kilwas, one on the mainland—Kilwa Kivinje; the other, the ancient city, on an island—Kilwa Kisiwani. Kilwa Kivinje, on the northern side of Kilwa Bay, is regularly laid out, the houses in the European quarter being large and substantial. The government house and barracks are fortified and are surrounded by fine public gardens. The adjacent country is fertile and thickly populated, and the trade of the port is considerable. Much of it is in the hands of Banyans. Kilwa is a starting-point for caravans to Lake Nyasa. Pop. about 5000. Most of the inhabitants are Swahili.

Kilwa Kisiwani, 18 m. to the south of the modern town, possesses a deep harbour sheltered from all winds by projecting coral reefs. The island on which it is built is separated from the mainland by a shallow and narrow channel. The ruins of the city include massive walls and bastions, remains of a palace and of two large mosques, of which the domed roofs are in fair preservation, besides several Arab forts. The new quarter contains a customs house and a few Arab buildings. Pop. about 600. On the island of Songa Manara, at the southern end of Kilwa Bay, hidden in dense vegetation, are the ruins of another city, unknown to history. Fragments of palaces and mosques in carved limestone exist, and on the beach are the remains of a lighthouse. Chinese coins and pieces of porcelain have been found on the sea-shore, washed up from the reefs.

The sultanate of Kilwa is reputed to have been founded about A.D. 975 by Ali ibn Ḥasan, a Persian prince from Shiraz, upon the site of the ancient Greek colony of Rhapta. The new state, at first confined to the town of Kilwa, extended its influence along the coast from Zanzibar to Sofala, and the city came to be regarded as the capital of the Zenj “empire” (see Zanzibar: “Sultanate”). An Arab chronicle gives a list of over forty sovereigns who reigned at Kilwa in a period of five hundred years (cf. A. M. H. J. Stokvis, Manuel d’histoire, Leiden, 1888, i. 558). Pedro Alvares Cabral, the Portuguese navigator, was the first European to visit it. His fleet, on its way to India, anchored in Kilwa Bay in 1500. Kilwa was then a large and wealthy city, possessing, it is stated, three hundred mosques. In 1502 Kilwa submitted to Vasco da Gama, but the sultan neglecting to pay the tribute imposed upon him, the city in 1505 was occupied by the Portuguese. They built a fort there; the first erected by them on the east coast of Africa. Fighting ensued between the Arabs and the Portuguese, the city was destroyed; and in 1512 the Portuguese, whose ranks had been decimated by fever, temporarily abandoned the place. Subsequently Kilwa became one of the chief centres of the slave trade. Towards the end of the 17th century it fell under the dominion of the imams of Muscat, and on the separation in 1856 of their Arabian and African possessions became subject to the sultan of Zanzibar. With the rest of the southern part of the sultan’s continental dominions Kilwa was acquired by Germany in 1890 (see Africa, § 5; and German East Africa).