History & Culture
When most of the Western World was still sunk in the darkness of the Middle Ages, Zanzibar was already a meeting place for traders from the great Oriental cultures- China, Persia and Arabia. It nestled in the middle of a mercantile civilization, stretching from Somalia in the north down the coast of East Africa to Mozambique in the South. This kingdom and its inhabitants were known as the Swahili the people of the coast. They traded gold, ivory and cloth enjoys merchants and even pirates form as far away as Japan and Russian came to Zanzibar and its environs in sailing ships, blown across the seas by the north east monsoon and returning their holds laden with trade goods on the south west wind
The first Europeans to discover’ Zanzibar were the Portuguese, who arrived in the late fifteenth century. In keeping with their conduct in the rest of their empire, they had little interest in the place beyond keeping it out of the hands of their language. In fact, the Portuguese words still in use in Kiswahili give a fairly good impression of how the Portuguese spent their time here; Meza = table Mvinyo = wine Pesa = money.
Chief among the trade visitor to Zanzibar were the Omani Arabs, who had developed one of the most powerful Navies in the Indian Ocean, the center of a thriving sea-going commercial empire. The sultans of Oman accrued immense wealth by mounting slave trading expeditions into the African interior, shipping their captives back to the Persian Gulf and selling them household servants or plantation labourers. It was Zanzibar which became the hub of this commercial empire a handy storehouse for slaves fresh from the interior, who could be confined on the island until the ships which were to transport them north were made ready.
In 1828 the flagship of Sultan Saying Said one of Oman’s most powerful and influential rulers, landed at Zanzibar. The Sultan had previously been too busy defending Oman against is many would be conquerors to visit the island in person but he was enchanted by what they saw. In contrast to the dry, rocky desert of Oman Zanzibar was green, lush and filled with source of fresh water. More importantly it had strategic advantages sage defensible and closes to the African mainland the sources of his wealth. In 1840 said moved his moved his entire household to Zanzibar and introduced he commercial farming of cloves sugar and other crop. Said empire went from strength to strength, fuelled all the time by the flow of miserable humanity that matched in chains from the regions of the great lakes and beyond, to be sold for ever higher prices in the great slave market in the middle of Stone Town.
But it couldn’t last By 1890 the British had put an end to the once great empire of the Oman Sultanate. Through a combination of bribery, diplomacy and the odd judicious Nava bombardment Britain abolished the slave trade in East Africa and ultimately declared Zanzibar a protectorate. The then Sultan Ali, became a British vassal, and between them Britain and Germany carved up the Sultan domains which had once stretched as far inland as Lake Malawi. Although the sultans remained nominally on the one, their power was ended and their wealth used up
The area of the British on Zanzibar, which saw the slave market destroyed and an Anglican cathedrl built in its place lasted until 1963, when power was formally handed back to the Oman Sultans. But the reign of the new sultan was short-lived he was ousted in 1964 by a violent revolution and today lives quietly on the south coast of England.
After the revolution the new Zanzibar government joined with the post independent government of mainland Tanganyika to form a single state, renamed Tanzania. Zanzibar was run along socialist single party lines by the new revolutionary government and received political and received political support and financial aid form countries such as Bulgaria East Germany and China. However in the 1980s the first presidential elections took place and Zanzibar’s economy slowly become less state controlled with me private sectors enterprise being allowed. The first half of the 1990s saw the rise of a multiparty system of government and the development of Zanzibar newest industry tourism.
Sun-bleached sands, jade waters and palm trees burnished gold by the tropical palettes of eternal sunshine make the Zanzibari coastline a Paradise regained. And as is fitting for an archipelago nourished and founded by its splendid maritime isolation, so the fruits of the Indian Ocean continue to bewitch and nourish today’s maritime adventurers.
The coast of Zenj can accommodate every taste. The sun worshipper will bask in at least 7 hours of tropical sun almost every day, the water baby will luxuriate in water that averages 7° (80 F), the beachcomber will lose himself in the tiny maelstroms of teeming tidal pools, as the shade lover lies back to enjoy the breeze and stunning vistas.
South of Zanzibar town, one can find the Fuji and Chuini beaches, which both offer a variety of water sports.
beach, where one can swim in the coral lagoons. On the north east coast of Unguja lie the Matemwe, Uroa, Kiwenga and Mapenzi Beaches, which all boast of large expanses of sand.
For those who are interested in a bit of fishing the beaches to be found on the southeastern coast Pingwe, Bwejuu and Jambiani offer fishing and water sports.
Zanzibar’s natural abundance sustains a biodiversity worthy of any East African destination, with Marine parks, National Parks, Forest Reserves and pioneering Community Conservation projects for the protection of its rich natural resources.
Endangered species such as Ader’s Duiker, the Pemba Flying Fox and the captivating Zanzibar Red Colobus exist only on the Zanzibar archipelago, endemics in an extraordinary habitat.
Grass-roots community conservation groups in Zanzibar, powerful trustees of this biological heritage, profit from traditional cottage industries and revenue-sharing projects.
Marine Adventures in Temperate waters
World-class PAD! Diving amongst the fish-fertile reef, historic, shipwrecks and abundant lagoons that bejewel the islands might also reveal dolphin, turtle and seasonal pods of whale as they follow the monsoon currents. Windsurfing, kayaking and snorkeling sites abound. Fishing enthusiasts can follow in Hemingway’s wake in state of-the-art, “tag and release” big game fishing, using international standard equipment to land prize billfish and tuna, while the fisherman who craves the exotic might try his luck with the locals in a ngalawa, a traditional outrigger. Dhows or Jahazis, traditional lateen sailing craft, glide seamlessly powered by the dependable monsoon. Go for a sail, Where the land ends, Zanzibar continues, the influence and allure stretching out towards the distant lands from where it was borne.