For at least 2000 years northeastern Tanzania has been attracting visitors. In the 1st century AD the author of the mariners’ chronicle Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mentions the existence of the trading outpost of Rhapta, which is thought to have been somewhere around present-day Pangani. Several centuries later, a string of settlements sprang up along the coast with links to ports in Arabia and Asia. Today, traces of this history are best seen along the coast at Kaole, Tongoni, Pangani and Bagamoyo.

This Open Sore of the World

David Livingstone, the famous explorer and missionary, was born in 1813 in Scotland. After a childhood spent working at a local cotton gin, followed by medical studies and ordination, he sailed for South Africa, arriving in 1841. Over the next two decades, Livingstone penetrated some of the most inaccessible corners of the continent on a series of expeditions, making his way north into the Kalahari, west to present-day Angola and the Atlantic coast, and east along the Zambezi River and to Victoria Falls. In 1866, he departed from the Mikindani area in southeastern Tanzania for what was to be his final expedition, seeking to conclusively solve the riddle of the Nile’s source. He reached as far as Ujiji, where he was famously ‘found’ by the American journalist Henry Morton Stanley.

After exploring parts of Lake Tanganyika with Stanley and spending time near Tabora, Livingstone set off again on his quest. He died in 1873 in Chitambo, in present-day Zambia. After cutting out and burying his heart, his porters carried his embalmed body in an epic 1500km journey to Bagamoyo and the sea, from where it was then taken to England.

During his travels, Livingstone was tormented by the ravages of the slave trade that surrounded him. On his trips back to Europe, he spoke and wrote ceaselessly against it in an effort to expose its horrors and injustices to the rest of the world. These efforts, combined with the attention attracted by his well-publicised funeral, the establishment of Freedom Village in Bagamoyo and reports from other missionaries, marked a point of no return for the slave trade. British attempts to stop the trade were mobilised, and it finally ground to a halt in the early 20th century.

In 1874, Livingstone was buried with full honours in London’s Westminster Abbey. Today a plaque memorialises his efforts with what were purportedly his last written words: ‘All I can add in my solitude, is, may heaven’s rich blessing come down on every one, American, English or Turk, who will help to heal this open sore of the world.’