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Not a great deal is known about the early history of the Tanzanian interior except that by 1800 AD, the Maasai, who in previous centuries had grazed their cattle in the Lake Turkana region of Kenya, had migrated down the Rift Valley as far as Dodoma. Their advance was only stopped by the Gogo, who occupied an area west of the Rift Valley, and the Here to the south of Dodoma. Because of their reputation as a warrior tribe, the Maasai were feared by the neighbouring Bantu tribes and avoided by the Arab traders, so the northern part of Tanzania was almost free from the depredations of the slave trade and the civil wars, which destroyed so many villages and settlements in other areas of the country.
Arab Traders & Slavers
Though the coastal area had long been the scene of maritime rivalry, first between the Portuguese and Arab traders and later between the various European powers, it was Arab traders and slavers who first penetrated the interior as far as Lake Tanganyika in the middle of the 18th century.
Their main depots were at Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and at Tabora on the central plain. Their captives, generally acquired by commerce rather than force, were taken first to Bagamoyo and then to Zanzibar, where they were either put to work on plantations or shipped to the Arabian Peninsula for sale as domestic servants.
It was, nevertheless, a sordid trade, which devastated the tribes of the interior. The young and the strong were abducted, children and old people were left to die, and the few who resisted were eliminated. Mothers unable to carry both their babies and their ivory load were dispatched with a spear or machete, It’s estimated that by the late 19th century, over 1.5 million people had been transported to the coast and that 10 times that number had died along the caravan routes. Zanzibar had been ruled for decades from Oman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.