The Last Time Mora Was This Quiet, Peaceful, and Orderly, A Little More Than a Century Ago

This East African nation is known for stability. But drought and rising prices are fueling insecurity, says the World Bank.

MORGA, Tanzania — The last time Mora, a bustling city on the banks of the Tanganyika river, was this quiet, peaceful, and orderly, a little more than a century ago, it was the perfect home for a thriving African pearl trade.

But that was after a prolonged drought had depleted the country’s pearl beds. The rain had always held in the highlands, but the rains had lessened here. The price of the pearls dropped, leaving many merchants in the city stranded, unable to fulfill their contracts.

On the morning of December 9, 1905, Mora was quiet. The streets seemed unusually calm. Men and women were going about their daily business in a steady stream of pedestrians. But something was wrong.

“The sun rose cold, the sky cleared clear, and it became a white dawn,” says Josephine Ntosani, the founder of the Mora Historical Society and Museum.

But the sun hadn’t yet warmed the region, the temperature was still below freezing, and the wind blew, whipping up small clouds of dust.

The first reports were that a man named Juma Kipira had been killed by the elements while trying to walk home through the streets of town. Others called him dead, and others, that he had committed suicide.

But news of his passing didn’t reach his family until another man came rushing through town, bearing flowers. A man named Umtumba, who had never been to the city before, came walking through town with a woman. She carried her youngest child.

“I saw the woman who came into town with her child and I knew that it was a sign of good luck,” Kipira’s father-in-law, Makana Kiamba, said. “I felt happy.”

The two men walked together, their journey punctuated by the crying of their child. Makana Kiamba had never felt a child in his arms before.

A white flag suddenly appeared flying over the home of Juma Kipira, the man who died in the early morning hours of December 10. The funeral was scheduled for the following morning, December 11. But word of Kipira’s

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