Kilwa, the Island With the Oldest Remaining Mosque Structure on the East African Coast

A doorway in the Great Mosque of Kilwa

Are you thinking of spending some of your vacations in the historical town of Kilwa, Tanzania, an island with the oldest remaining mosque structure on the East African coast? If so, you are in the right place to find out more. Let me start by telling you a bit about Kilwa Kisiwani

Kilwa Vacations: Kilwa Kisiwani Tanzania — The Island of Kilwa (Island With the Oldest Remaining Mosque Structure on the East African Coast/Island With the Oldest Remaining Mosque Structure in the East African Coast)

Kilwa Kisiwani, along with an island 8 kilometers away, Songo Mnara, is the home of a UNESCO world heritage site known as “The Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara”.

Ruins at Songo Mnara
Ruins at Songo Mnara

On the island of Kilwa, you can see ruins that include what used to be the largest mosque in sub-Saharan Africa until the 16th century, a palace that featured 100 rooms and an 80,000-liter octagonal bathing pool, a big fort, and lots more.

READ ALSO: The Distance from Dar to Kilwa Masoko & More on Visiting Kilwa

To see these ruins also involves sailing across the beautiful blue waters of the Kilwa Kisiwani Harbour from Kilwa Masoko on the mainland.

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The ruins of Songo Mnara are less grand than those at Kilwa Kiswani but are still of historical interest because of the extent of the ruins.

The Songo Mnara ruins lay out a plan of a 15th-century walled Swahili stone town and give a good idea of the physical arrangement of what such a town looked like.

To give you an idea of what there is to see during your vacations in Kilwa, here are some pictures I shared on Instagram after my trip there.

Pictures of Kilwa Kisiwani, the Island With the Oldest Mosque in East Africa

The Fort at Kilwa Kisiwani
The ruin of a 16th century fort on Kilwa Kisiwani (the island of Kilwa), Tanzania.

Kilwa Mosque (Oldest Remaining Mosque East Africa)

A tree grows around the ruins of the Great Mosque of Kilwa whose earliest parts were built in the 11th-century, i.e., the Middle Ages. Until the 16th century, the Great Mosque of Kilwa was the largest mosque in sub-Saharan Africa.
Chittick House, Kilwa, Tanzania
This house, now in ruins, found on the Island of Kilwa, was built by Neville Chittick, a British archaeologist who pioneered the study and conservation of the ancient settlement of Kilwa. He used this house as a base when he worked there. Chittick was Tanzania’s first Conservator of Antiquities. He led teams of researchers in training and excavation programs in Kilwa from 1958 to 1965. He helped develop a strong tradition of archeological study in Tanzania.

Photo Credit: Richard Mortel

Kilwa Kisiwani, the island with the oldest remaining mosque structure on the east african coast
A tree grows into a wall of The Great Mosque of Kilwa, the oldest standing mosque on the East African coast founded in the 10th century. The dome of this mosque was the largest dome in East Africa until the 19th century. #UNESCOWorldHeritageSite
Turquoise Water, Sailing to Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania
The Kilwa Sultinate was a medieval sultinate whose authority at its height stretched all along the Swahili (East African) Coast. This picture was taken as I sailed to Kilwa Kisiwani, the Island of Kilwa (and center of the Kilwa Sultinate) from Kilwa Masoko (mainland Kilwa), looking back at Kilwa Pakaya Hotel, where I was staying. #MemoriesOfEasterPast

Ruins of the Great Mosque of Kilwa (Island With Oldest Mosque in East African Coast)

A Tree overtakes the wall of the great mosque of Kilwa, Tanzania
Look at just how completely the tree took over the wall (see the picture two pictures above to know what I am talking about). —The Great Mosque of Kilwa, Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania #UnescoWorldHeritageSite
Rusty boat, Kilwa, Tanzania
An old boat becomes part of the ecosystem on the shores of the Kilwa Pakaya Hotel in Kilwa, Tanzania (famous for the medieval coastal Kilwa Sultinate).
The Indian Ocean from Kilwa, Tanzania
The view from my room at the Kilwa Pakaya Hotel in Kilwa Masoko, Tanzania.

Oldest Mosque in East Africa

The oldest mosque in East Africa is believed to be the Kizimkazi Mosque, located in the village of Kizimkazi on the southern coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The mosque is also known as the Kizimkazi Dimbani Mosque. It is a historic mosque that dates back to the 12th century, making it one of the oldest mosques in the region.

Kizimkazi Mosque has a long history and is considered a significant historical and cultural site in East Africa. It is known for its simple and ancient architectural style, including coral stone walls and a wooden minaret. The mosque is also known for its association with early Islamic exploration and trade along the East African coast.

First Mosque in Africa

The Mosque of the Companions is a mosque in the city of Massawa, Eritrea.

Dating to the early 7th century C.E., it is believed to be the first mosque in the world

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The mosque was reportedly built by companions of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad who travelled to Africa to flee persecution by people in the Hejazi city of Mecca, present-day Saudi Arabia.

Photo Credit: Richard Mortel


  1. Hi, Biche!
    So lovely to read about Kilwa and everything else on your blog. I remember a restaurant visit in Dar together with you and Iris, when you told us about your idea of starting a blog. And boy did you ever! Good for you! Would love to hear from you, and keep in touch. Hugs and love, Annika

    1. Hi Annika,

      I am so happy to see you on my blog! I chatted with Iris a few days ago and she tells me that you ladies caught up in Ottawa recently. Ah, how I missed out! 🙂

      Are you on WhatsApp? If so, we should connect and catch up. Let me send you a personal email.

      Thanks for the kudos on my blog. I hope you and yours are well! 🙂


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