By Prof. Chen Hualin – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Zanzibar (/ˈzænzᵻbɑːr/; Arabic: زنجبار Zanjibār), is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in East Africa. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (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. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site.
The name Zanzibar is apparently derived from the Persian zang-bâr signifying “black coast”.
Zanzibar’s main industries are spices, raffia, and tourism. In particular, the islands produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper. For this reason, the islands, together with Tanzania’s Mafia Island, are sometimes called the Spice Islands (a term also associated with the Maluku Islands in Indonesia). Zanzibar is the home of the endemic Zanzibar red colobus monkey, the Zanzibar servaline genet, and the (possibly extinct) Zanzibar leopard.
The presence of microlithic tools suggest that it has been home to humans for at least 20,000 years, which was the beginning of the Later Stone Age.
A Greco-Roman text between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, mentioned the island of Menuthias (Ancient Greek: Μενουθιάς), which is probably Unguja. Little is known about the history of Zanzibar between the time of the Periplus and the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. From that point forward, wars in Asia and increasing trade motivated Persians, Arabs, and Indians to visit or migrate to Zanzibar.
Persian traders used Zanzibar as a base for voyages between the Middle East, India, and Africa. Unguja, the larger island, offered a protected and defensible harbor, so although the archipelago offered few products of value, the Persians settled at what became Zanzibar City (“Stone Town”) a convenient point from which to trade with the Swahili Coast towns. They established garrisons on the islands and built the first Zoroastrian fire temples and mosques in the Southern Hemisphere.
The impact of these traders and immigrants on the Swahili culture is uncertain. During the Middle Ages, Zanzibar and other settlements on the Swahili Coast were advanced. The littoral contained a number of autonomous trade cities. These towns grew in wealth as the Bantu Swahili people served as intermediaries and facilitators to local, Arab, Persian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, and Chinese merchants. This interaction contributed in part to the evolution of the Swahili culture, which developed its own written language. Although a Bantu language, Swahili as a consequence today includes some elements that were borrowed from other civilizations, particularly Arabic loanwords. With the wealth that they had acquired through trade, some of the Arab traders also became rulers of the coastal cities.
Vasco da Gama’s visit in 1498 marked the beginning of European influence. In 1503 or 1504, 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. It initially became part of the Portuguese province of Arabia and Ethiopia and was administered by a governor general. Around 1571, Zanzibar became part of the western division of the Portuguese empire and was administered from Mozambique. It appears, however, that the Portuguese did not closely administer Zanzibar. The first English ship to visit Unguja, the Edward Bonaventure in 1591, found that there was no Portuguese fort or garrison. The extent of their occupation was a trade depot where produce was purchased and collected for shipment to Mozambique. “In other respects, the affairs of the island were managed by the local ‘king’, the predecessor of the Mwinyi Mkuu of Dunga.” This hands-off approach ended when Portugal established a fort on Pemba around 1635 in response to the Sultan of Mombasa’s slaughter of Portuguese residents several years earlier. Portugal had long considered Pemba to be a troublesome launching point for rebellions in Mombasa against Portuguese rule.
The precise origins of the sultans of Unguja are uncertain. However, their capital at Unguja Kuu is believed to have been an extensive town. Possibly constructed by locals, it was composed mainly of perishable materials.
Sultanate of Zanzibar
The older settlements are quite distinct from the later lordship of Oman and Maskat. When the Portuguese arrived in 1498 they found on the coast a series of independent towns, peopled by Arabs, but not united to Arabia by any political tie. Their relations with these Arabs were mostly hostile, but during the sixteenth century they firmly established their power, and ruled with the aid of tributary Arab sultans. This system lasted till 1631, when the Sultan of Mombasa massacred the European inhabitants. In the remainder of their rule, the Portuguese appointed European governors, who were apparently most distasteful to the natives, for they invited the Arabs of Oman, who now appear on the scene for the first time, to assist them in driving the foreigners out.
In 1698, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman.
In 1832, Said bin Sultan moved his capital from Muscat, Oman to Stone Town in Zanzibar City. After Said’s death in June 1856, two of his sons, Thuwaini bin Said and Majid bin Said, struggled over the succession. Said’s will divided his dominions into two separate principalities, with Thuwaini to become the Sultan of Oman and Majid to become the first Sultan of Zanzibar. The brothers quarrelled about the will, which was eventually upheld by Lord Charles Canning, Great Britain’s Viceroy and Governor-General of India.
Until around 1890, the sultans of Zanzibar controlled a substantial portion of the Swahili Coast, known as Zanj, which included Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. Beginning in 1886, Great Britain and Germany plotted to obtain parts of the Zanzibar sultanate for their own empires.
In October 1886, a British-German border commission established the Zanj as a 10-nautical-mile-wide (19 km) strip along most of the African Great Lakes region’s coast, an area stretching from Cape Delgado (now in Mozambique) to Kipini (now in Kenya), including Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. Over the next few years, however, almost all of these mainland possessions were lost to European imperial powers.
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, also known 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.
During his 14-year reign as sultan, Majid bin Said consolidated his power around the local slave trade. Malindi in Zanzibar City was 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.
Many were captives of Tippu Tib, a notorious Arab slave trader and ivory merchant. Tib led huge expeditions, some 4,000 strong, into the African interior, where chiefs sold him their villagers for next to nothing. These Tib used to caravan ivory back to Zanzibar, then sold them in the slave market for large profits. In time Tib became one of the wealthiest men in Zanzibar, the owner of multiple plantations and 10,000 slaves.
One of Majid’s brothers, Barghash bin Said, succeeded him and helped abolish the slave trade in the Zanzibar Archipelago and largely developed Unguja’s infrastructure. Another brother of Majid, Khalifa bin Said, was the third sultan of Zanzibar and furthered the archipelago’s progress toward abolishing slavery.
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 counsel in Muscat put pressure on Sultan Said to end the slave trade. The first of a series of anti-slavery treaties with Britain was signed by Said which prohibited slave transport south and east of the Moresby Line, from Cape Delgado in Africa to Diu Head on the coast of India. Said lost the revenue he would have received as duty on all slaves sold, so to make up for this shortfall he encouraged the development of the slave trade in Zanzibar itself. Said came under increasing pressure from the British to abolish slavery, and in 1842 the British government told the Zanzibari ruler it wished to abolish the slave trade to Arabia, Oman, Persia, and the Red Sea.
Ships from the Royal Navy were employed to enforce the anti-slavery treaties by capturing any dhows carrying slaves, but with only four ships patrolling a huge area of sea, the British navy found it hard to enforce the treaties as ships from France,Spain, Portugal, and the United States continued to carry slaves. In 1856, Sultan Majid consolidated his power around the African Great Lakes slave trade, and in 1873 Sir John Kirk informed his successor, 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, the closing of all slave markets and the protection of liberated slaves.
The relationship between Britain and the German Empire, at that time the nearest relevant colonial power, was formalized by the 1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty, in which Germany agreed to “recognize the British protectorate over … the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba”
In 1890 Zanzibar became a protectorate (not a colony) of Britain. This status meant it continued to be under the sovereignty of the Sultan of Zanzibar. Prime minister Salisbury explained his position:
The condition of a protected dependency is more acceptable to the half civilised races, and more suitable for them than direct dominion. It is cheaper, simpler, less wounding to their self-esteem, gives them more career as public officials, and spares of unnecessary contact with white men.
From 1890 to 1913, traditional viziers were in charge; they were supervised by advisors appointed by the Colonial Office. However, in 1913 a switch was made to a system of direct rule through residents (effectively governors) from 1913. The death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896 and the succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash, whom the British did not approve of, 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.
British Protectorate ended, self-government, and subsequent merger with Tanganyika
On 10 December 1963, the Protectorate that had existed over Zanzibar since 1890 was terminated by the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom did not grant Zanzibar independence, as such, because the UK had never had sovereignty over Zanzibar. Rather, by the Zanzibar Act 1963 of the United Kingdom, the UK ended the Protectorate and made provision for full self-government in Zanzibar as an independent country within the Commonwealth. Upon the Protectorate being abolished, Zanzibar became a constitutional monarchy under the Sultan. However, just a month later, on 12 January 1964 Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah was deposed during the Zanzibar Revolution. The Sultan fled into exile, and the Sultanate was replaced by the People’s Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. 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.
The 2002 census is the most recent census for which results have been reported. The total population of Zanzibar was 984,625 – with an annual growth rate of 3.1 percent. The population of Zanzibar City, which was the largest city, was 205,870.
Around two thirds of the people, 622,459, lived on Unguja (Zanzibar Island), with most settled in the densely populated west. Besides Zanzibar City, other towns on Unguja include Chaani, Mbweni, Mangapwani, Chwaka, and Nungwi. Outside of these towns, most people live in small villages and are engaged in farming or fishing.
The population of Pemba Island was 362,166. The largest town on the island was Chake-Chake, with a population of 19,283. The smaller towns are Wete and Mkoani.
Mafia Island, the other major island of the Zanzibar Archipelago but administered by mainland Tanzania (Tanganyka), had a total population of 40,801.
Ethnic origins and languages
The people of Zanzibar are of diverse ethnic origins. The first permanent residents of Zanzibar seem to have been the ancestors of the Bantu Hadimu and Tumbatu, who began arriving from the African Great Lakes mainland around AD 1000. They belonged to various mainland ethnic groups and on Zanzibar, lived in small villages, and did not coalesce to form larger political units.
Zanzibar is today inhabited mostly by ethnic Swahili, a Bantu population. There are also a number of Arabs as well as some Indians.
Zanzibaris speak Swahili (Kiswahili), a Bantu language that is extensively spoken in the African Great Lakes region. Swahili is the de facto national and official language of Tanzania. Many local residents also speak French and/or Italian.
Zanzibar is one of the Indian Ocean islands. It is situated on the Swahili Coast, adjacent to Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania).
The northern tip of Unguja island is located at 5.72 degrees south, 39.30 degrees east, with the southernmost point at 6.48 degrees south, 39.51 degrees east. The island is separated from the Tanzanian mainland by a channel, which at its narrowest point is 36.5 kilometres (22.7 mi) across. The island is about 85 kilometres (53 mi) long and 39 kilometres (24 mi) wide, with an area of 1,464 km2 (565 sq mi). Unguja is mainly low lying, with its highest point being 120 metres (390 ft). Unguja is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs. The reefs are rich in marine biodiversity.
The northern tip of Pemba island is located at 4.87 degrees south, 39.68 degrees east, and the southernmost point is located at 5.47 degrees south, 39.72 degrees east. The island is separated from the Tanzanian mainland by a channel some 56 kilometres (35 mi) wide. The island is about 67 kilometres (42 mi) long and 23 kilometres (14 mi) wide, with an area of 985 km2 (380 sq mi). Pemba is also mainly low lying, with its highest point being 95 metres (312 ft).
The heat of summer (corresponding to the Northern Hemisphere winter) is often cooled by strong sea breezes associated with the northeast monsoon (known as Kaskazi in Kiswahili), particularly on the north and east coasts. Being near to the equator, the islands are warm year round. Rains occur in November but are characterised by brief showers. Longer rains normally occur in March, April, and May in association with the southwest monsoon (known locally as Kusi in Kiswahili).