the Swahili Resource website   


Caplan collection

Kilwa 1966

Kilwa 2010

Zanzibar 1994

Zanzibar 2002

Zanzibar 2004

Photos of Kilwa Kisiwani and Zanzibar Town by Pat Caplan

Most of my time in Tanzania has been spent on Mafia Island about which there is an extensive web site and two photo galleries (, but I have also visited other parts of the East Coast, most particularly Zanzibar on a number of occasions, and Kilwa Kisiwani. I make no claims to expertise on either area, however. Furthermore, the photographs offered here are of mixed quality, and I have included some which are not particularly good because their content is interesting.

Kilwa Kisiwani

As an undergraduate student at SOAS, taking a degree in African Studies in the early 1960s, I was encouraged by my Swahili tutor Wilfred Whiteley to spend the summer of 1962 in Tanzania to improve my language skills. He arranged for me to work on the excavations at Kilwa Kisiwani, then being conducted by his friend Neville Chittick. I spent two months there, but unfortunately had no camera at that time. In addition to working on the site (during that year, excavations were mainly focused on Husuni Kubwa) I also spent time in the village on the island. I returned for a short visit four years later in 1966, during my postgraduate research on Mafia Island and after Chittick’s excavations were finished, and re-visited both the ruins and my village friends.

Although I have returned to Tanzania many times since the 1960s, I did not have the opportunity to visit Kilwa again until 2010, when I was invited by Tony Janes of ‘Simply Tanzania’ to accompany one of his small travel parties to southern Tanzania, an opportunity for which I am very grateful. This gave me a chance to re-visit Kilwa Kisiwani, where a lot more archaeological work had been carried out on the ruins, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. I also visited the village, armed with photos taken in 1966, and met a number of people who remembered Chittick and his helpers, and were able to identify some of the people in the photos. Sadly, our visit to Songo Mnara was not recorded, as by this time I had dropped my camera in the sea!


I first visited Zanzibar in 1962 after finishing work at the Kilwa site and spent a short time staying with a Zanzibari family in Stone Town, but I also visited people living in the newly built ‘East German’ flats. This was before the Revolution in 1964, but I returned in 1966, when most of my Stone Town friends had left.

I did not go to Zanzibar during any of my Mafia field trips in the 70s or 80s, but returned for the first time in 1994, after I had finished my fieldwork on Mafia, accompanied by my adult children, who wanted to see both Stone Town and the beaches. There were many changes apparent and the tourist industry was thriving. In the new millennium, I returned in 2002, 2004, and 2010 to carry out interviews with Mafia migrants living in Zanzibar and also to enjoy the ZIFF festival. Many buildings in Stone Town had been restored, including the Old Dispensary, and some had become upmarket hotels. During this period the National Museum moved into the Beit al Ajab (House of Wonders). Most of the photos are of Stone Town: its outskirts, buildings and streets, of the Festival with its music, dance and art, and of evenings spent at the Forodhani Gardens.

Pat Caplan 24th June 2010