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This essay and others like it on Khojawiki are written to provide context for the life and migration stories of individual Khoja families. We would like to add more such family histories of those who lived here, so our collective history is more complete. Please Click Here To Add Your Family And More Information To Our History

Swahili & Arab Rule

Saadani was the port on the mainland directly opposite Zanzibar Stone Town and as such, the shortest dhow ride. It was a large settlement during the Swahili & Omani Arab rule.

Khoja merchants have lived on the African coast for centuries but the earliest record is from 1820's.

German Rule

The arrival of German colonial rule lead to the destruction of Sadaani. A war with its Arab rulers and the bombardment by German Navy destroyed the physical infrastructure and the subsequent plan to divert trade away towards newly created German ports in Tanga and Dar es Salaam forced the Khoja traders to leave wiping out the vibrant historical trading center of Sadaani.

Mohamed Dewji, the Editor's grandfather was born here in 1887. He moved to Bagamoyo after the German bombardment and destruction of Saadani in 1889, when the Khoja and other Indian merchants were forced to flee for their lives and also became impoverished.

The small and tranquil village of Saadani, in the heart of the reserve, was formerly an important harbour town and slave-trading centre which, under the charismatic leadership of the legendary slave trader Bwana Heri, played an important role in the Abushiri War. Bwana Heri, who ruled Saadani from the early 1870s, achieved considerable power in this way, and also enjoyed considerable influence with the chiefs of the hinterland, especially with his own Zigua and the Nyamwezi tribe from the Central Plateau , becoming a valued ally of European traders and missionaries hoping to travel into the interior.

All this changed with the arrival, in 1884, of a young German, Karl Peters, who set off from Saadani in November 1884 to make a series of bogus treaties with tribal chiefs which effectively gave Peters control of their land. Nonetheless, it was not until 1888 that Bwana Heri and the coastal people saw their political and economic power directly threatened, when the sultan of Zanzibar granted the Germans the right to extract customs duties on the mainland coastal strip. With local passions already inflamed by what many perceived as German arrogance (notably the desecration of mosques; see box on p.175), armed resistance was formed under the leadership of Bwana Heri in Saadani and Abushiri ibn Salim al-Harthi at Pangani, and the Germans were quickly expelled from much of the coast, signalling the beginning of the Abushiri War.

The German response took time to arrive, but was brutal when it did. In April 1889, Major Hermann von Wissmann and his army (the majority of whom were Nubians and Zulus) quickly recaptured the towns north of Dar es Salaam. In June 1889 Saadani was bombarded and taken, and Bwana Heri was forced to flee inland, where he built a series of forts. These, however, were destroyed one after the other by Wissmann, and Bwana Heri finally surrendered at Saadani in April 1890 and was hanged.[1]

Even before Wissmann's arrival, Admiral Deinhard had taken action against the "sultan of Uzigua" by bombarding Saadani from the sea.

The fortifications were destroyed and the town was looted and burnt.

Whenever our land and naval forces combined in looting, as at Saadani and Pangani, it frequently happened that the (German-ed.)marines began quarrelling over the booty with their black brothers-in-arms from the Schutztruppe.

It was Wissmann's original intention that, having bombarded Saadani repeatedly, the town should be wiped from the face of the earth.

Wissmann then decided to establish a military station at Saadani, which soon replaced the post at Mkwaja. [2]

IID 2024

References & Notes

  1. Finke,Jens.Tanzania. Get Textbooks on Google. pg 154.
  2. A HISTORY OF THE ARAB REBELLION IN EAST AFRICA (GESCHICHTE DES ARABERAUFSTANDES IN OST-AFRIKA) An Account of the "Abushiri Rebellion" in Tanzania and its Aftermath, 1888-1891 by Rochus Schmidt Translated (with an introduction) by John W. East

Picture Gallery of Historic Saadani
Picture Gallery of Editor's trip to present-day Saadani