The unknown Mtwara Tourism Glory
By: Geofrey Tengeneza
Tanzania is so rich in tourism attractions that some suffer from the fate of going unnoticed. One such destination is Mtwara on the southern circuit which the Tanzania Tourist Board is vigorously committed to promote through national, regional and international corridors.
Located in southern Tanzania, Mtwara has so much to offer in terms of history, culture, irresistible landscape from the hinterland to the palm tree fringed beaches along the Indian Ocean, that every tourist would wonder, why he or she had not been there much earlier.
The destination’s documented history dates back to the German colonial era. Notably, is the old Prison which was built in the 1880s and is now partly in ruins. After the First World War, the structure was used by the British as Customs Office, Post Office and a Police station.
Another point of attraction, made out of coral stone during the same period is the Aga Khan building which was intended for educational purposes. Although neglected and partially dilapidated, the ground floor is currently used by the local community as an Islamic nursery school.
Written history of Mtwara dates back to the 19th century when the Germans arrived in Tanganyika and made Mikindani their regional headquarters in the South. They built an administrative block which was also used as a fort, court and officers’ mess.
The U-shaped building has a German and Arabic architectural touch. The curved arches are a clear illustration of simple German style. To the South of the building and 300 metres up the Bismarck Hill is a water tank whose site serves as an excellent point for viewing Mikindani Bay.
Special on Mtwara attraction menu is the Msimbati Bay offering a variety of activities including motor vehicle driving on its beach. This area is also home to Mnazi Bay Marine Park which is a paradise for water sports lovers.
Wildlife enthusiasts are assured of game viewing thrills in Africa’s biggest trans-boundary game reserve, the Selous, which crosses the Ruvuma River into Msumbiji.
Seventy kilometers from Mtwara town lies a spring fresh water Lake, Kitele, which has a unique characteristic of not being fed by any river or valley.
On a cultural line, Mtwara is the spot that over time attracted so many visitors into settlement leading to the establishment of special Swahili Coast culture spiced by the world famous Makonde carvings, named after the superb and unique artistic wood carvers of the Makonde tribe.
As the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) breasts itself up to promote tourism in the southern circuit, Mtwara looks all set to receive more visitors. This is due to the fact that the age old communication problem linking it with Dar es Salaam is being solved with the on-going construction of the Kibiti-Lindi road and the completion of the Mkapa Bridge across the Rufiji River. This is on top of the existing access by air and by sea.
To cap it all, the people of Msumbiji, south of Mtwara, will now find it easy to cross the Ruvuma River into Tanzania after the construction of the Umoja Bridge, to pay homage to the fallen heros of the Mozambique Liberation War at Naliendele Cemetery (15 kilometers from town) where FRELIMO (Mozambique Liberation Front) and Uhuru monuments have been erected.
Visitor accommodation in Mtwara is bound to increase as the Mtwara Corridor area opens up for economic growth. The Mnazi Bay gas project, the port expansion programme to serve land locked southern African countries and the revival of the Mtwara/Nachingwea railway line, constitute the right menu for new hotel investment ventures. The railway line will also boost the cashew-nut industry and connect the planned Liganga coal mining and Mchuchuma iron ore project areas to the Indian Ocean.