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The Great Mosque at Kilwa Kisiwani © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library
Immortalised as the Quiloa of Milton’s Paradise Lost, little-visited Kilwa Kisiwani hosts the impressive ruins of what was once the most important medieval trade emporium along the Swahili Coast.
Separated from Kilwa Masoko by a 2km-wide channel, Kilwa Kisiwani is the one must-see attraction around Kilwa, and for most non-anglers, the main reason for visiting the area in the first place. Immortalised as the Quiloa of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and once thought to be the site of King Solomon’s mythical mines, the abandoned city – with its haunted mosques, derelict palaces and lonesome monsoon-swept tombs – is the most important surviving relict of the Islamic-influenced Swahili maritime trade that dominated the coast from early medieval times until the arrival of the Portuguese, who sacked the city in 1505, a defeat from which it never recovered, despite several later reoccupations.