Geoparks Africa
World Heritage Sites

Lost City of Engaruka: Tanzania Revives Primeval Urban Settlements in Rift Valley

An ancient City which may just have been in Engaruka area (Photo for Illustration only)

Efforts to excavate, restore and protect the ruins of ancient stone structures thought to be the 800-year-old, ‘lost city of Engaruka,’ in Monduli, have started under the recently launched Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark.

Remains of these stone buildings here have been scientifically proven to date back to between 500 and 800 years ago, indicating advanced civilization that may have existed in Northern parts of Tanzania nearly one millennium ago.

The stone remains mapping the ancient city, located in the Engaruka parts of Moduli District can be found on the leeward side of the East African Rift Valley walls.

From the remnant stone foundations, seems many of the old building of the ancient settlements were either circular or oval.

Visitors may want to tread carefully in the remote area infested will all types of venomous snakes.

The site is among the landscape features managed under the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority.

The ruins not only write the history of a civilized ancient city but also indicates that the people of that era (15th century) ran a very effective irrigation system, whose infrastructure can still be traced within the ruins of Engaruka in Monduli District.

A visit to the area revealed a sun-scorched location dotted with remains of circular stone structures, indicating that the houses could have all been circular or oval in shape.

It is reported that the ancient people took measures to prevent soil erosion in their farms while the fertility of the plots was increased by using organic fertilizers in form of manure from cattle and other livestock manure.

The Map of Engaruka in Monduli District of Arusha, Northern Tanzania

Archaeological experts are still trying to find out what caused the ancient Engaruka settlement to be abandoned or destroyed, something which could have occurred in mid-19th century.

Meanwhile Tanzania, through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with support from UNESCO and specifically through the Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark, is working to restore the ruins which of late have started to attract researchers, scholars and tourists alike.

The newly endorsed United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Geopark, covers three northern districts of Monduli, Longido and Ngorongoro.

The Geopark, which is the first in Sub-Saharan Africa, has mapped the lost Ancient Engaruka City Ruins in Monduli District, as well as the corresponding active ‘Oldonyo L’engai,’ volcano among the features within the new form of geologically based tourism in Tanzania.

“The Engaruka Ruins are a national treasure, they can be used to write a new history of mankind,” stated Mr Laurent Misigio a resident of Mto-wa-Mbu.

The ruins are being threatened by regular floods from the Engaruka River flowing from the foot of Mount Loolmalasin.

The first explorer to record the existence of these ruins was Dr Gustav Fisher, who passed them on July 5, 1883, and compared them to the tumbled-down walls of ancient castles. The first detailed and archaeological investigation on the ‘lost city of Engaruka,’ was done by Mr Hans Reck, later in 1913.