Official Name: Republic of Zanzibar
Established: 10 December 1963 (Constitutional monarchy)
Population: 1,303,569 (2012 census)
Religion: 99% Islam
Language(s): Swahili, Arabic, English
Capital: Zanzibar City
Order of Visit: Sixty Third
First Visit: 19 December 2017
Last Visit: 16 December 2017
Duration: 4 Days
Visit Highlights: Spice Farm Tour, Slave Market, Exploring historic Stone Town and watching the sunset, Night Market, Swimming in Indian Ocean, Exploring Nungwi Beach
Places Visited: Nungwi Beach, Stone Town
Zanzibar Journal Entry
History and Geography
Zanzibar is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, usually referred to as Zanzibar and the only island I visited) and Pemba Island and covers 2,462 square kilometres. Zanzibar has consistently high temperatures of over 30c year round but the Indian Ocean keeps the temperatures to manageable levels.
Zanzibar has been home to humans for at least 20,000 years from the Stone Age. Zanzibar, like the nearby coast, was settled by Bantu-speakers at the outset of the first millennium. The coastal towns appear to have been engaged in Indian Ocean and inland African trade beginning in the mid-8th century and by the close of the 10th century Zanzibar was one of the central Swahili trading towns.
By the 13th century, houses were built with stone, and bonded with mud, and the 14th century saw the use of lime to bond stone.
In 1503 Zanzibar became part of the Portuguese Empire when Captain Ruy Lourenço Ravasco Marques landed and demanded and received tribute from the sultan, in exchange for peace. Zanzibar remained a possession of Portugal for almost two centuries.
In 1698, Zanzibar came under the influence of the Sultanate of Oman. There was a brief revolt against Omani rule in 1784. Local elites invited Omani merchant princes to settle on Zanzibar in the first half of the nineteenth century, preferring them to the Portuguese.
Sometime between 1832 and 1840 Said bin Sultan, Sultan of Muscat and Oman moved his capital from Muscat, Oman to Stone Town, Zanzibar.
The sultans developed an economy of trade and cash crops in the Zanzibar Archipelago with a ruling Arab elite. Ivory was a major trade good. The archipelago, sometimes referred to by locals as the Spice Islands, was famous worldwide for its cloves and other spices, and plantations were developed to grow them. The archipelago’s commerce gradually fell into the hands of traders from the Indian subcontinent, whom Said bin Sultan encouraged to settle on the islands.
Zanzibar City become the Swahili Coast’s main port for the slave trade with the Middle East. In the mid-19th century, as many as 50,000 slaves passed annually through the port.
Control of Zanzibar eventually came into the hands of the British Empire; part of the political impetus for this was the 19th century movement for the abolition of the slave trade. Zanzibar was the centre of the Arab slave trade, and in 1822, the British consul in Muscat put pressure on Sultan Said to end the slave trade.
In 1873 British Governor Sir John Kirk informed Sultan Barghash, that a total blockade of Zanzibar was imminent, and Barghash reluctantly signed the Anglo-Zanzibari treaty which abolished the slave trade in the sultan’s territories, closed all slave markets and protected liberated slaves. In 1890 Zanzibar became a protectorate (not a colony) of Britain. On 25 August 1896 and the succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash, led to the Anglo-Zanzibar War. On the morning of 27 August 1896, ships of the Royal Navy destroyed the Beit al Hukum Palace. A cease fire was declared 38 minutes later, and to this day the bombardment stands as the shortest war in history.
On 10 December 1963, the Protectorate that had existed over Zanzibar since 1890 was terminated by the United Kingdom. Just a month later, on 12 January 1964 Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah was deposed during the Zanzibar Revolution.
In April 1964, the republic merged with mainland Tanganyika. This United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed, blending the two names, as the United Republic of Tanzania, within which Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region. Zanzibar has it’s own immigration and national sporting teams.
What I experienced
Technically Zanzibar is not a country but in many ways it is, in particular having separate immigration and customs arrangements and being very autonomous from Tanzania. It felt very much like it’s own country with a very strong Islamic culture which was easy to see in the historic architecture of Stone Town. Undertaking a Spice Tour allowed me to see one of the top historic exports of Zanzibar, along with spice they also grow bananas, pineapples, chilli peppers and perfumes (made from plants). I also undertook a city tour of Stone Town and this allowed me to see lots of Islamic architecture and then the centre of Zanzibar’s other major historic export slavery. Slavery had and continues to have a major impact on Africa and the countries slaves were exported to including United States of America.
The Stone Town night market was a little bit of magic as was watching a sunset from The Africa House Hotel.
The second part of my trip to Zanzibar was relaxing in a resort at Nungwi Beach. This was a relaxing stay walking along and exploring the beach, visiting curio shops and swimming in the amazing warm Indian Ocean. I was hoping to do some snorkelling while in Zanzibar but the oceans turned out to be to rough.
Zanzibar felt very different to any other place I have visited in Africa. The pace was leisurely, the local friendly and the island of Unguja was beautiful and the 2 hour boat rides from Tanzania very enjoyable. Worth a visit.