|    Zanzibar   |   Places to go   |   Before you go 



Zanzibar is a group of islands off the coast of Tanzania consisting of two major islands Unguja (normally called Zanzibar) and Pemba and a number of smaller islands. Zanzibar is located in The Indian Ocean less than 40 kilometers from mainland Tanzania and about six degrees south of the equator. The main island is normally called Zanzibar but it’s local name is actually Unguja. To avoid confusion we will here call it Zanzibar and the group of island Zanzibar archipelago. Zanzibar is about 100 kilometers from south to north and 30 kilometers east to west. The islands main characteristics are corall white sandy beaches, colorful coral reefes, turquoise water and the midevil capital Stone Town, or Zanzibar Town.

The name Zanzibar is believed to come from the Persian words Zangi bar, meaning coast of the black people. It is also possible that the name derives from the spice ginger, also known as Zingiber. Zanzibar Archipelago have since long been called the spice islands, a name they share with Maluku Islands in Indonesia.  

History Administration
Climate Economy
Culture Wildlife


Zanzibar's history was influenced by the British, Persians, Arabs, Indians, Portuguese and the African mainland. Stone Town is a place of winding lanes, circular towers, carved wooden doors, raised terraces and beautiful mosques. Important architectural features are the Livingstone house, the Guliani Bridge, and the House of Wonders, a palace constructed by Sultan Barghash in 1883. The town of Kidichi features the Hammam Persian Baths, built by immigrants from Shiraz, Iran during the reign of Sultan Barghash bin Said.

Zanzibar’s first permanent residents are believed to be the forefathers to the tribes Hadimu and Tumbatu, arriving from mainland East Africa around year 1000 AD. They where a plethora of different tribes on the mainland and lived on Zanzibar in scattered villages with any political cohesion. There lack of organisation made them easy to defeat for later invaders.

Old craftsmanship, in particular pottery, indicates travel routes passing by Zanzibar as early as the Assyrians. Traders from Arabia, Persia and India most likely traveled to Zanzibar as early as the first centuries AD. They sailed across the Indian Ocean on the monsoon to the sheltered natural harbor where Stone Town is today. The islands where not a major interest to the traders but provided a good base for trade with cities on the mainland.

In 1499 Portuguese discoverer Vasco Da Gama visited Zanzibar and this was the starting point for European influence on the area. The Portuguese took control of the island already 1503. In 1505 it became a part of the Portuguese empire when Captain Joao Homere claimed the island on behalf of the King of Portugal. Zanzibar remained in Portuguese control until 1698.

In 1698 Zanzibar instead became a part of the Oman Empire. The Portuguese where thrown out and the trade with slaves and spices where flourishing under the sultan.

In 1840 the Sultan Sayyid bin Sultan al-Busaid moved his capital from Muscat in Oman to Stone Town. After his death in 1856 his sons struggled for power over the empire and this resulted in the separation between Oman and Zanzibar. Sayyid Majid bin Said Al-Busaid (1834–1870), the sixth son of Sultan Sayyid bin Sultan al-Busaid, became Sultan of Zanzibar and the third son Sayyid Thuwaini bin Said al-Said became the Sultan of Oman.

During this period Zanzibar controlled a large part of the East African coastline, called Zanj, including cities like Mombasa and Dar Es Salaam and trade routes as far into the mainland as the Congo river. Zanj was later defined by the colonial powers Britain and Germany as the area between Cape Delgado (Mocambique) and Kipini (Kenya) and number of cities in present Somalia, all the island off this coastline and 18,5 kilometers in to the mainland. All these mainland pocession where however lost to Italy, Britain and Germany during the period 1887 to 1892 all though they where not all formerly handed over until the 20:th century, for instance Mogadishu to Italy in 1905.

The British Empire gradually took control of Zanzibar and in the so-called Helgoland treaty in which Germany pledged not to interfere with British interests in insular Zanzibar. Zanzibar became a protectorate of the United Kingdom that year. The British appointed first Viziers from 1890 to 1913, and then British Residents from 1913 to 1963.

The death of Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896, saw the usurper Seyyid Khalid bin Bargash son of Sultan Bargash bin Said take over the palace and declare himself the new ruler. This was contrary to the wishes of the British Government since the rightful ruler should have been Sultan Hamoud bin Mohammed. This led to a showdown on the morning of 27 August when ships of the Royal Navy destroyed the Beit al Hukum palace having given Khalid an ultimatum to leave. He refused and at 9 am the ships opened fire and despite a substantial return fire from Khalid's rebel troops a cease fire was declared 45 minutes later after Khalid had fled to the German Consulate. The bombardment subsequently became known as The Shortest War in History. Sultan Hamoud was declared the new ruler and peace was restored once more[1]. Acquiescing to British demands, Hamoud brought an end to Zanzibar's role as a centre for the eastern slave trade that had begun under Omani rule in 17th Century by banning slavery and freeing the slaves of Zanzibar with compensation in 1897.

On December 10, 1963, Zanzibar received its independence from the United Kingdom as a constitutional monarchy under the Sultan. This state of affairs was short-lived, as the Sultan was overthrown on January 12, 1964, and on April 26 of that year Zanzibar merged with the mainland state of Tanganyika to form Tanzania, a part of which it remains to this day.

List of Sultans of Zanzibar:

Majid bin Said (1856–1870)
Barghash bin Said (1870–1888)
Khalifah bin Said (1888–1890)
Ali bin Said (1890–1893)
Hamad bin Thuwaini (1893–1896)
Khalid bin Barghash (1896)
Hamud bin Muhammed (1896–1902)
Ali bin Hamud (1902–1911) (abdicated)
Khalifa bin Harub (1911–1960)
Abdullah bin Khalifa (1960–1963)
Jamshid bin Abdullah (1963–1964)


Sir Lloyd William Matthews, (1890 to 1901)
A.S. Rogers, (1901 to 1906)
Arthur Raikes, (1906 to 1908)
Francis Barton, (1906 to 1913)

British Residents:

Francis Pearce, (1913 to 1922)
John Sinclair, (1922 to 1923)
Alfred Hollis, (1923 to 1929)
Richard Rankine, (1929 to 1937)
John Hall, (1937 to 1940)
Henry Pilling, (1940 to 1946)
Vincent Glenday, 1946 to 1951)
John Sinclair, (1952 to 1954)
Henry Potter, (1954 to 1959)
Arthur Mooring, (1959 to 1963)

Top of page













Zanzibar experiences ideal holiday weather for most of the year.  The heat of summer is seasonally often cooled by windy conditions, resulting in pleasant sea breezes, particularly on the North and East coasts. Being near to the equator, the islands are warm all year round, but officially, summer and winter peak in December and June respectively. This is illustrated statistical weather information shown below. Zanzibar is blessed with an average of 7-8 hours of sunshine daily.

Short rains can occur in November but are characterised by short showers which do not last long.  The long rains normally occur in April and May although this is often referred to as the 'Green Season', and it typically doesn't rain every day during that time.

Click on table for larger image

Top of page

Zanzibar's local people are an incredible mixture of ethnic backgrounds, indicative of her colourful history. Islam is the dominant religion, and practiced by most Zanzibaris, although there are also followers of Christianity and Hinduism. Population is estimated at 800,000, with the largest concentration being Zanzibar City which has approximately 100,000 inhabitants. Zanzibaris speak Swahili (known locally as Kiswahili), a language which is spoken extensively in East Africa. Many believe that the purest form is spoken in Zanzibar as it is the birth place of the language.

Zanzibar's most famous event is the Zanzibar International Film Festival, also known as the Festival of the Dhow Countries.  Every July, this event showcases the best of the Swahili Coast arts scene, including Zanzibar's favourite music, Taarab.

Top of page

Zanzibar is an island state within the United Republic of Tanzania, and has its own semi-autonomous government made up of a Revolutionary Council and House of Representatives. The present government is led by the island's President, Amani Karume.  The government body responsible for tourism promotion is the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism.

The Island of Zanzibar comprises three administrative regions: Zanzibar Central/South, Zanzibar North and Zanzibar Urban/West. On the Island of Pemba are the two regions Pemba North and Pemba South.

Top of page

Fishing and agriculture are the main economic activities of the local people. Zanzibar was once the world's largest producer of cloves, and her economy was based on large incomes thus derived. Although cloves are still a major export along with coconut products and spices, tourism has been ear-marked as the primary foreign exchange earner, with more visitors coming to Zanzibar each year. At this stage, the numbers are still low (less than 100,000 annually) and the potential for tourism is relatively untapped. Zanzibar's tourism private sector is represented by the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI).

Zanzibar.NET is dedicated to sensitive tourism that benefits both visitors and the community, without losing the romance and magic that is Zanzibar.

Zanzibar's main industries are spices (which include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper), raffia, and tourism. Zanzibar is also the home of the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus and the elusive Zanzibar Leopard. The word "Zanzibar" probably derives from the Persian زنگبار, Zangi-bar ("coast of the blacks") and it is known as Zanji-bar in Arabic, also. "Zanzibar" may also refer to the spice ginger (genus Zingiber). "Zanzibar" often refers especially to Unguja Island, and is sometimes referred to as the "Spice Islands," a term that is also associated with the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. Pemba Island is the only island apart from Zanzibar that still produces cloves on a major basis which is the primary source of spice income for the islands.

Top of page



There are no large wild animals in Zanzibar, and forest areas such as Jozani are inhabited by monkeys, bush-pigs and small antelopes. Civets - and rumour has it, the elusive Zanzibar leopard! Various species of mongoose can also be found on the island. There is a wide variety of birdlife, and a large number of butterflies in rural areas. The coral reefs that surround the East Coast are rich in marine diversity, and make Zanzibar an ideal location for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Top of page




 East Africa Adventure Company  (EAAC Ltd.) P.O. Box 16204 Arusha Tanzania info@eastafricaadventure.com ©EAAC Ltd 2008