Kisangani, formerly known as Stanleyville or Stanleystad, is a city located in the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s tropical woodlands. With a population of over 1.3 million people, it is the nation’s fifth most populous urban area and the largest city in the region. Kisangani is also the farthest navigable point upstream on the Congo River, making it an important inland port after Kinshasa. The city is a major commercial hub for river and land transportation, as well as a vital marketing and distribution center for the northeastern region of the country.
Stanleyville was founded in 1883 by Henry Morton Stanley, who was working on behalf of King Leopold II of Belgium. Prior to its founding, the area was inhabited by a native Congolese tribe called the Clans of Enya, who used Wagenia Falls (formerly Stanley Falls) for fishing. Stanley established the area’s first trading post, which grew into a settlement called Stanleyville. The city served as a terminus for steamboat navigation on the Congo River and became a major trading post. The name Kisangani is a Swahili rendering of the indigenous Congolese language word Boyoma, meaning City on the Island, also rendered in Lingala as Singitini (or Singatini) with the same meaning. The city has a rich history that includes slavers from Zanzibar, Arab-Euro wars, and the Simba Rebellion. Kisangani was renamed in 1966.
Strategically located at the junction of the Congo, Tshopo, and Lindi rivers, Kisangani sits at the crossroads between eastern and western Congo. It is approximated at the center of the African continent and is situated in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The city is bordered by the city of Banalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the north, Ubundu and Opala territories to the south, Isangi to the west, and Bafwasende municipalities to the east. Kisangani is at the center of the Tshopo and has an estimated land area of 1910 square kilometers. The city has a dense forest that is relatively well preserved on LÎle Mbiye, which is situated on the Congo River in the eastern part of Kisangani. It is located upstream of the Wagenia Falls, between latitude 0°31 North and longitude 25°11 East, with an altitude of 376 meters.
Kisangani experiences a tropical monsoon climate due to the fact that its driest month (January) sees on average below 60 mm of rain. The city has high humidity throughout the year, and annual rainfall amounts to 1,620 millimeters. Temperatures are also uniformly high throughout the year, with little diurnal variability. The average temperature in Kisangani is in the mid-20s°C.
Kisangani has a mix of modern, multi-story buildings, and traditional African-style homes. The city has architecturally significant buildings in a wide range of styles, including Belgian-influenced buildings that shifted Kisanganis buildings from the traditional African thatch to the low-scale and vertical rise of European business districts. Multiple kinds and scales of houses, townhouses, condominia, and apartment buildings can be found in Kisangani.
Kisangani is a hidden gem in the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s tropical woodlands. With its rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and mouthwatering local cuisine, the city should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Visit Kisangani, and explore one of the Congo’s most fascinating cities!