The Market town of Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika, and a Recipe for Garden Egg Stew

Henry Morton Stanley meets David Livingstone i...

Stanley greets Livingstone, at Ujiji. Wikipedia

The market town of Ujiji, where Stanley ‘found’ Livingstone, was a cosmopolitan center to which merchants and farmers from all around the northern and central areas of the lake came to sell their goods and to purchase requirements.  It was also the most important caravansary for the Arab / Swahili trade between Zanzibar, on the Indian Ocean coast, and the interior.

 Stanley briefly describes the produce and people found in the Ujiji market.  Salt, slaves, ivory, and vegetable oil would have been some of the most important products to purchase and send to the coast.

Market scene in Ujiji. Source: erbzine-1878

The market-place overlooking the broad silver water afforded us amusement and instruction.  Representatives of most of the tribes dwelling near the lake were daily found there. 

 There were the agricultural and pastoral Wajiji [local inhabitants of Ujiji territory], with their flocks and herds;

  • there were the fishermen from Ukaranga and Kaole, from beyond Bangwe, and even from Urundi [Burundi], with their whitebait, which they called dogara*, the silurus, the perch, and other fish;
  • there were the palm-oil merchants, principally from Ujiji and Urundi[/Burundi]**, with great five-gallon pots full of reddish oil, of the consistency of butter;
  • there were the salt merchants from the salt-plains of Uvinza+ and Uhha; there were the ivory merchants from Uvira*** and Usowa;
  • there were the canoe-makers from Ugoma [diectly across the lake from Ujiji] and Urundi [Burundi];
  • there were the cheap-Jack pedlers**** from Zanzibar, selling flimsy prints, and brokers exchanging blue mutunda beads for sami-sami, and sungomazzi, and sofi.  The sofi beads are like pieces of thick clay-pipe stem about half an inch long, and are in great demand here. 
* Dogara – Called in our area ‘ndagala’, are the most popular fish.  They can be easily dried and even now are imported all over the interior of Burundi.
** In the past there were extensive palm orchards along the northern coast of the lake, as well as where we are located.
+ The north coast of the lake, where we are located
*** Uvira – Across from us, on the Congo side of the lake.  The ivory would have come from the Congo interior.
**** cheap-Jack pedlers – Sellers of shoddy goods.

Ujiji Market today. Source: Frysinger

 Here were found Waguhha, Wamanyuema, Wagoma, Wavira, Wasige, Warundi, Wajiji, Waha, Wavinza, Wasowa, Wangwana, Wakawendi, Arabs, and Wasawahili, engaged in noisy chaffer and barter. Bareheaded, and almost barebodied, the youths made love to the dark-skinned and woolly-headed Phyllises, who knew not how to blush at the ardent gaze of love, as their white sisters; old matrons gossiped, as the old women do everywhere; the children played, and laughed, and struggled, as children of our own lands; and the old men, leaning on their spears or bows, were just as garrulous in the Place de Ujiji as aged elders in other climes.

Given the quantities of fresh produce that came to the market daily, Stanley and Livingstone lived quite well on a variety of food stuffs, including those that were made by Stanley himself:

… we had cheese, and butter which I made myself, new-laid eggs, chickens, roast mutton, fish from the lake, rich curds and cream, wine from the Guinea-palm, egg-plants*, cucumbers*, sweet potatoes, pea-nut [peanuts], and beans, white honey from Ukaranga, luscious singwe–a plum-like fruit–from the forests of Ujiji, and corn scones and dampers, in place of wheaten bread.

* Of the foods that are mentioned, only cucumbers (and possibly eggplants) were imported (by the Arabs), for cultivation in the area of Ujiji.  ‘Egg-plants’ may have been either indigenous garden-eggs (Solanum melongena), or imported by the Arabs for planting in the area.

Stanley and Livingstone may have been served a stew similar to the following, using ‘garden eggs’, which are indigenous, small eggplants grown  throughout tropical Africa – Solanum integrifolium

Garden Egg Stew 

Garden egg stew with manioc slices. Source:

 Garden egg stew with manioc slices


  • Cut, wash and season meat with garlic, salt and a little ginger. Cook meat until tender.
  • Was and boil garden eggs till they are soft. Prepare tomatoes and onions.
  • Heat oil in saucepan, add the sliced onions and fry for 2 minutes. Add the ground pepper, cook for a few minutes then add the ground dried shrimps and ground tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the meat and stock, simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove skin and seeds of garden eggs, chop and add to the stew.
  • Serve with hot boiled yam, plantain, rice, etc


  • 10 garden eggs
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 medium sized onions
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Ginger
  • Dried shrimps or dried ndagala (small fish)

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About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-Central, Agriculture, Colonialism, Cuisine, Explorers & exploration, Food, History-Recent, Indigenous crops & medicinal plants, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Market town of Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika, and a Recipe for Garden Egg Stew

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  4. Rashid says:

    Poor Ujiji now,

    the place has been leaved very untouched with no much development, this market is almost dead now, all the caravan slave trade route running from this market to Tabora has no more sign of presence now. With no any plan i guess the history will just remain in the books and story like this.


  5. maria says:

    garden eggs – is it because they are white eggplants?! we plant those in out garden along with the purple ones: they definitely taste different to the regular eggplant!


  6. dianabuja says:

    Yes, it’s (garden eggs) usually a substitute for ‘real meat’ – these vegetables are more dense that regular eggplant, and can be quite strong tasting if not carefully cooked with some spices (preferably).

    This recipe is from Ghana on the other side of Africa, but the recipe is quite similary to the use of garden eggs here in Burundi.


  7. maria says:

    this intrigued me
    the ‘meat’ here is obvioulsy melangana (aubergine)
    aubegine does have that meaty quality to it, esp when turned into fritters!


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