How Arabic trader’s accent coined Dar’s village name

The coastal village borders one-stop centre for aquatic and terrestrial tourist sites.

SATURDAY September 2, 2023

A cross section of Saadani National Park in Tanzania which offers aquatic tourist attractions and terrestrial as well.

Saadani Village used to be known as Utondwe many years ago, referring to snails caught in the Indian Ocean. What prompted residents to change the name of their village then? Sadik Luhundi, one of tour guides at Saadani, sheds light on this and other historical accounts on the village surrounding Tanzania’s sole national park offering both aquatic and terrestrial tourist hot spots:

Saadani Village started serving as a fishermen camp since the 18th century. A sole Arab trader Seyid Bin Muhamad used to exchange trophies for clothes, beads and other western manufactured goods. A bell of a clock on the wall of his shop rang at each o’clock hour, reminding fishermen to go to mosques for prayers or to the ocean for fishing.

Upon hearing the bell, some fishermen rushed to the shop asking the trader what the exact time was. The trader’s patience waned, nevertheless, compelling him to shift the clock from the shop to the living room. When the fishermen went on consulting him, he kept telling them in his Arabic accent ‘saa dani’, meaning saa iko ndani in Kiswahili, which can loosely be translated as the clock is inside.

This is how the name of Utondwe was coined into Saadani even after the Arabic trader left the village. When the national park was established in 2002, the Tanzania National Parks picked the name too, among other reasons, uphold the history of the village.

Warthog graze along with goats at a household’s compound at Saadani Village in Coast Region, Tanzania. PHOTO | PATTY MAGUBIRA


The second tale is about a popular Kiswahili acronym among local tourists, in particular. Shilawadu (Shirika la Wambeya Duniani), was initially crafted at the Utondwe Village. Fishermen have a joint for playing draughts board at the village. The centre has a gossip leadership whose role is to reveal whatever is covetously done across the village.

The Shilawadu leaders and members, mostly from Zigua ethnic decent during the leadership of Bwana Heri and Bushiri bin Salim chiefs, used to sit on mats every evening at the centre, gossiping and sipping coffee. While the centre is still active to date, a visitor is not advised to inquire the essence of Shilawadu, lest he or she finds oneself in a breaking or  evening news highlights. One of the national mainstream electronic media houses  has actually established a program preserved for a similar motive.      


It is not surprising to see Utondwe or Saadani villagers brushing shoulders with wildlife animals, particularly warthogs and baboons, around their households. Sending a kid to the market to buy bananas and other sweet fruits is tantamount to testing the baboons’ patience at the village.

Warthogs flee Tanzania’s Saadani National Park to a neighbouring village for fear of lions. PHOTO | WILDLIFE SAFARIS

The wildlife animals will definitely slap the kid and grab the fruits. Save for such a challenge also regularly experienced at Saadani Primary School, the villagers amicably coexist with the wildlife animals to the extent that warthog are more comfortable to deliver within the households’ compounds than in the park.

An attempt by the management to repatriate the warthogs to its adjacent Saadani National Park proved futile. Romanus Mkonda, the national park’s Conservation Officer responsible for Public Relations says their meat being so delicious to lions than of other wildlife animals, the warthogs had no another option but to return to the village situated along the buffer zone.


Subsistence hunting of warthogs elsewhere in Tanzania is rampant. However, owing to the Islamic region outlawing pigs, Saadani has successfully turned into a refuge for warthogs considered to share roots with pigs.

Sckerocarya birrea, commonly known as the macula, is a medium sized fruit – bearing tree, indigenous to the miombo woodlands of Southern Africa, among other areas. Baboons often fall down from the trees at Saadani Village in Tanzania after eating handful fruits of the trees. PHOTO | WILDLIFE SAFARIS

After the failure of its attempt to repatriate the wildlife animals to the park, the Saadani National Park’s management has opted for enhancing awareness among the villagers on how they can continue coexisting with the warthogs, baboons and other stray animals. Elephants, for instance, encroach on the village regularly in search for fruits of mkunazi (Chinese date palm) trees.

Villagers plant mkunazi trees for the sake of traditional beliefs and extracting medicines. They use the backs of mkunazi for treating migraine, among other ailments. They also believe that when a villager, who is mean, plants mkunazi in his backyard, the tree will not grow, and in case it grows, it will not bear its tasty yellowish fruits.

The tree is also believed to prevent lightening from striking property or family members if planted within a household. Any person visiting the household with a bad motive at night will end up seeing an ocean or flames of fire razing in a hollow pit, instead of a household. In their search for the mkunazi trees, therefore, elephants also destroy banana plantains and other crops surrounding the households often fenced by coconut leaves or reeds.

A baobab tree used for hanging ‘troublesome’ slaves to death during the trade. PHOTO | PATTY MAGUBIRA

Mbuyu Kinyonga

Also found at Saadani Village is a huge baobab tree which dates back to colonial era. A slave, who refused to go to work in plantations in the west or was caught protesting against the tyrant regime then, was hanged to death at the tree. Once approved dead, the body of the salve was dropped into a mass grave besides the tree. A chain used for hanging slaves could be seen some few years back, but the tree has engulfed since.

Remains of a boma (fort) built by the German colonial regime are a stone’s throw away from the baobab tree. Slaves from landlocked countries were kept in the bomabefore they were sent to Zanzibar where they were sold and shipped to western countries.

When slave trade was at its peak, new bomaswere built in Bagamoyo. A huge ship could not anchor at Saadani due to shallow water along village’s shores. Immediately after the slave trade was abolished, the Saadani boma was transformed into the village’s first primary school premises for Standard I to Standard IV classesΩ

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