Country Profiles:
Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania in East Africa. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometers (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar) and Pemba Island. The name Zanzibar is derived from the Persian zang-bâr signifying “black coast.” In 1964 Zanzibar, together with Pemba Island and some other smaller islands, joined with Tanganyika on the mainland to form the United Republic of Tanzania. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic center is Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site.

The first immigrants in Zanzibar were the Africans; the next were the Persians, who landed in Zanzibar in the 10th century. The Africans and the Persians assimilated. This African-Persian population converted to Islam and adopted many Persian traditions. (Even today, most of Zanzibar’s African population calls itself “Shirazi. Arabs had the deepest influence on Zanzibar, because the island’s position made it a perfect entrepôt for Arabs mounting slave expeditions. Arabs from Oman became especially important, for they began establishing colonies of merchants and landowners in Zanzibar. Eventually they became the aristocracy of the island. In 1861 Zanzibar was separated from Oman and became an independent sultanate, which controlled the vast African domains acquired by Saʿīd ibn Sulṭān. Under the sultan Barghash (reigned 1870–88), however, Great Britain and Germany divided most of Zanzibar’s territory. In 1890 the British proclaimed a protectorate over Zanzibar. most sultans were aligned with the British. the sultan’s authority was reduced by the British, however, a notable exception was Khālid ibn Barghash, who seized the throne upon the death of his uncle, Ḥamad ibn Thuwayn, on August 25, 1896. The British, interested in installing their own candidate as sultan, issued an ultimatum to Khālid: either stand down by 9:00 am on August 27 or be at war with Great Britain. Khālid refused to step down, which lead to the Anglo-Zanzibar War. The brief battle between Khālid’s supporters and the British Royal Navy took less than an hour and is considered the shortest war in recorded history. After Khālid’s defeat, the British-supported Ḥamud ibn Moḥammed was installed as sultan. In 1963 the sultanate regained its independence, becoming a member of the British Commonwealth. In January 1964 a revolt by leftists overthrew the sultanate and established a republic. The revolution marked the overthrow of the island’s long-established Arab ruling class by the Africans, who were the majority of the population. In April the presidents of Zanzibar and Tanganyika signed an act of union of their two countries, creating what later in the year was named Tanzania. Ali Mohamed Shein from the governing CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi) party is the current president.

UNESCO Heritage sites in Zanzibar include:

1. Stone Town of Zanziba

A prime example of an East African coastal trading town, its urban fabric and townscape remains intact. Stone Town is located on the western coast of Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Former capital of the Zanzibar Sultanate, and flourishing centre of the spice trade as well as the slave trade in the 19th century, it retained its importance as the main city of Zanzibar during the period of the British protectorate. When Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined each other to form the United Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar kept a semi-autonomous status, with Stone Town as its local government seat.

Zanzibar significant resources of coconuts, cloves, and cash crops.

The island’s economy now depends on agriculture and fishing. Considerable areas of fertile soil and a favorable climate enable the production of a variety of tropical crops, most importantly cloves and coconuts. Zanzibar’s main industries are spicesraffia, and tourism. In particular, the islands produce nutmegcinnamon, and black pepper; for this reason, the Zanzibar Archipelago, together with Tanzania’s Mafia Island, are sometimes called the “Spice Islands.”

Zanzibar Island have been mainly populated by a Bantu-speaking people known as the Hadimu and the Tumbatu Island was occupied by another Bantu-speaking people known as the Tumbatu. The language most widely spoken is a highly Arabicized form of Swahili (Kiswahili), a Bantu language that is extensively spoken in the African Great Lakes region. Among the Arabs, the language of the home is usually Swahili, and use of pure Arabic is confined to scholars and recent arrivals from Arabia. Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, and Konkani are spoken by the Asian communities, and English and Swahili are widely used and understood. Swahili is the de facto national and official language of Tanzania. Many local residents also speak ArabicFrench and or Italian.

The cuisine of Zanzibar is often referred to as very fresh.  Almost nothing is packaged or bought in the supermarket. Everything comes directly from the farmer or fisherman. Zanzibar is the paradise of spices & flavors. A typical and widely used ingredient of Zanzibar cuisine is coconut. Key differences between Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania in the cuisine is that in Zanzibar they use a lot less oil, more spices and more seafood rather than meat. The spices from Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, paired with the wonderful natural ingredients and seafood from Zanzibar, makes Zanzibar food so delicious. Popular dishes includes: Biryani (cooked in a variety of spices, and then paired together with a meat or fish curry); Pilau Rice; Octopus Curry (mchuzi wa pweza); Zanzibar Mix, or Urojo (mix); Slipper Lobster Ceviche with Zanzibar Lime & Ginger dressing , pickled vegetables; Mandazi (the Swahili version of a doughnut); Zanzibar Pizza.

Zanzibar is blessed with a rich history of music; and a culture that has evolved over the centuries with a unique and varied selection of musical and cultural diversity. Taarab is a musical style that is very popular in Zanzibar. It is a form of local music that is a mix of sounds and styles from India, Arabia, and Africa. Taarab shows are as much about audience participation as they are about music. Although the music may be a bit harsh for Western ears, the show itself is great theater. Part of the tradition is for women to give money to the singer during the performance. Ngoma is the name given to an African dance – it is more about meeting together to take part and witness this dance, which is African in origin, accompanied by very fast rhythmic drumming and local instruments. Freddie Mercury of Queen became one of, if not the most famous Asian pop star in the UK and the U.S.

Your journey to
Africa begins here!

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive exclusive travel tips, postcards, inspiring stories and stay up to date with our latest specials on flights & travel deals. Never miss a beat!

P.S. Before you go check out our most read and popular
newsletter!

Your journey to
Africa begins here!

Thank you, click the button to download your pdf.

African Homecoming

This page is only available for participants. Please login to continue.

Call Now Button