Sunday, 12 July 2020
You wouldn’t know it to be here, but the Tanga is one of the largest cities in the country. It is a peaceful colonial town on the 'fever coast' of Northern Tanzania. It’s the most northerly seaport and administrative capital of the Tanga region. It has a population of around 250,000 people.
It offers a fantastic glimpse into local Tanzanian culture with its wide boulevards‚ vibrant markets and low-key night-life. It’s easily accessible via road from Mombasa in Kenya and the mainland cities of Arusha and Dar es Salaam. For a base from which to explore the area - by sea or by land - it’s handy.
The city of Tanga was established by Persian traders in the 14th century, but early Iron Age sites in the foothills of the Pare and Usambara mountains as well as the Digo Hills indicate earlier settlements. In the 16th and 17th centuries indigenous states formed in the region’s interior were dominated by the Shamba peoples. Omani Arabs raided the coastal region in the early 18th century. During the 1840s, Arab and Swahili traders came inland for ivory, and later for slaves. The slave trade was abolished by European powers in 1873.
The Germans bought the coastal strip of mainland Tanzania from the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1891 and after discovering the limitations of the shallow harbour at Bagamoyo, relocated the centre of their colonial administration to the deep and well protected natural harbour at Tanga.
Being so close to British East Africa (Kenya) meant Tanga was on the front line during WW1. The British suffered heavy losses on 4 November 1914 when they lost the Battle of Tanga, a naval raid that killed 800 British troops. The town was eventually taken on 7 July 1916 when the British launched a land offensive from Moshi. After the war, and now under British rule, Tanga and the surrounding areas were continued to be exploited for agriculture purposes.
In 1922 the Tanganyika Territory African Civil Services Association formed, the first known modern African political organization, and Tanga was the location of its headquarters. The region gained independence from the British in 1961 and just a few years later in 1964, Tanganyika (as it was then called) merged with Zanzibar to become modern day Tanzania.
The name Tanga comes from the word for “farm” or “cultivated land” in the local languages (KiSambaa‚ KiBondei‚ and KiZigua).