The Watch

Pangani Historic Town

Pangani, Tanzania

2010 World Monuments Watch

Where the meandering waters of the Pangani River are released into the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, the small town of Pangani sits nestled against its shores. Now a remote, nearly forgotten agricultural and fishing community, the coastal town was once a significant religious center and prosperous trade-route terminus. Likely founded in the late 18th or early 19th century by Wazigua and Shirazi peoples, the town became an important stop for the slave-trading caravans and in the import and export of ivory, sugar, copra, and other products. Omani officials and Indian Customs officers from Zanzibar were attracted to the town’s strategic location, and soon the earthen, thatch-roofed dwellings of the town’s original founders were overwhelmed by Arab and Islamic homes and influence, including traditionally carved wooden doors that survive today. Bohora, Ibadhi, and Yemini mosques emerged as a result of the immigrant communities. Germany took control of the coastal area in 1888, and despite a resistance led by the peoples of Pangani, the town eventually became a German headquarters. Economic conditions in Pangani severely limit the contributions the community can make to maintaining and preserving the architectural and historical heritage, an amalgamation of German, Arab, Indian, and African/Swahili design. As a result, floors and roofs have collapsed, walls and foundations have cracked, and water damage is extensive. Further, outside development and looting threaten to alter the town, which has retained much of its original character.

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