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—  Both Islands  —


Coordinates: 6°8′S 39°19′E / 6.133°S 39.317°E / -6.133; 39.317
Country Tanzania
Islands Unguja and Pemba
Capital Zanzibar City
Settled AD 1000
 - Type semi-autonomous part of Tanzania
 - President Amani Abeid Karume
Area [1]
 - Total 2,643 km2 (1,020.5 sq mi)
Population (2004)
 - Total 1,070,000

Zanzibar (pronounced /ˈzænzɨbɑr/) is a semi-autonomous part of the United Republic of Tanzania, in East Africa. It comprises the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, informally referred to as Zanzibar), and Pemba. Other nearby island countries and territories include Comoros and Mayotte to the south, Mauritius and Réunion to the far southeast, and the Seychelles Islands about 1500 km to the east. Zanzibar was once a separate state with a long trading history within the Arab world; it united with Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964 and still enjoys a high degree of autonomy within the union. The capital of Zanzibar, located on the island of Unguja, is Zanzibar City, and its historic center, known as Stone Town, is a World Heritage Site. The name comes from the Arabic 'zanj' (زنج) meaning black and 'al bar' (البر) meaning "land."

Zanzibar's main industries are spices, raffia, and tourism. In particular, the islands produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and 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's ecology is of note for being the home of the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus and the (possibly extinct) Zanzibar Leopard.



The presence of microlithic tools attests to at least 20,000 years of human occupation of Zanzibar. The islands became part of the historical record of the wider world when Persian traders discovered them and used them as a base for voyages between the Middle East, India, and Africa. Unguja, the larger island, offered a protected and defensible harbour, so although the archipelago offered few products of value, the Persians settled at what became Zanzibar City (Stone Town) as a convenient point from which to trade with East African coastal towns.

The old castle in Zanzibar

They established garrisons on the islands and built the first mosque in the Southern hemisphere.[2]

During the Age of Exploration, the Portuguese Empire was the first European power to gain control of Zanzibar, and the Portuguese kept it for nearly 200 years. In 1698, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman, which developed an economy of trade and cash crops with a ruling Arab elite. Plantations were developed to grow spices, hence the term Spice Islands. Another major trade good for Zanzibar was ivory. The Sultan of Zanzibar controlled a substantial portion of the East African coast, known as Zanj; this included Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and trading routes that extended much further inland, such as the route leading to Kindu on the Congo River.

Monument to the slaves in Zanzibar

Sometimes gradually and sometimes by fits and starts, control of Zanzibar 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. The relationship between Britain and the nearest relevant colonial power, Germany, was formalized by the 1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty, in which Germany pledged not to interfere with British interests in insular Zanzibar. That year, Zanzibar became a protectorate (not a colony) of Britain. From 1890 to 1913, traditional viziers were appointed to govern as puppets, switching to a system of British residents (effectively governors) from 1913 to 1963. The death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896 and the succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash of whom the British did not approve 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.[3]

The islands gained independence from Britain in December 1963 as a constitutional monarchy. A month later, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed in a genocide and thousands more expelled,[4] led to the establishment of the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. That April, the republic was subsumed by the mainland former colony of Tanganyika. This United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed (as a portmanteau) the United Republic of Tanzania, of which Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region.

Government and politics


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As a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, Zanzibar has its own government, known as the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar. It is made up of the Revolutionary Council and House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives has a similar composition to the National Assembly of Tanzania: There are 50 members from electoral constituencies, directly elected by universal suffrage to serve five-year terms; 10 members appointed by the President of Zanzibar; 15 special seats for women; 5 Regional commissioners; and an attorney-general. Five of these 81 members are then elected to represent Zanzibar in the National Assembly of Tanzania.[5]

Unguja comprises three administrative regions: Zanzibar Central/South, Zanzibar North and Zanzibar Urban/West. Pemba has two: Pemba North and Pemba South.

There are many political parties in Zanzibar, but the main Parties are the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the Civic United Front (CUF). Since the early 1990s, the politics of the archipelago have been marked by repeated clashes between these two political parties. Contested elections in late 2000 led to a massacre in Zanzibar in January 2001 when the government shot into crowds of protestors, killing 35 and injuring 600.[6] Violence erupted again in 2005 after another contested election, with the CUF claiming that its rightful victory had been stolen from them. Following 2005, negotiations between the two parties aiming at the long-term resolution of the tensions and a power-sharing accord took place, but they suffered repeated setbacks. The most notable of these took place in April 2008, when the CUF walked away from the negotiating table following a CCM call for a referendum to approve of what had been presented as a done deal on the power-sharing agreement.

Political solution

In October 2009 Zanzibar President Amani Karume met with CUF Secretary Seif Shariff Hamad at the State House to discus how to save Zanzibar from future political turmoil and to end the backlash between them[7], a move which was welcomed by many people including the USA[8] and political parties. It was the first time CUF agreed to recognize Karume as the legitimate president of Zanzibar. The relationship between Zanzibar government and Tanzanian Mainland has not been so well in recent years since Tanzania Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda's remark about the Isles' sovereignty that Zanzibar is not an independent country outside the Union Government, within which it can only exercise its sovereignty.[9] Members from both the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) disagreed with Mr Pinda's interpretation and stand firmly in recognizing Zanzibar as a fully autonomous and full state,[10] the move which is widely unrecognized by the formation of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania which raises a backlash between Members of Parliament from the Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar.

In 2008 Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete tried to silence the matter when he addressed the nation in a live conference by saying that Zanzibar is a state internal but semi-state international.

Geography, weather, and climate

The waterfront of Zanzibar city

Covering an area of Area: 2,461 sq km (950 sq miles)[11] Zanzibar is a mainly low lying island, with its highest point at 120 meters.[12].It is +3 GMT during winter and +2 during summer time. It is located in the Indian Ocean, about 25 miles from the Tanzanian mainland coast, and 6° south of the equator. Zanzibar Island (known locally as Unguja, but as Zanzibar internationally) is 60 miles long and 20 miles wide, It is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs, and the magic of historic Stone Town - said to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa.[13] The coral reefs that surround the East Coast are rich in marine diversity, and make Zanzibar an ideal location for snorkelling and scuba diving.

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. 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.


The main island of Zanzibar, Unguja, has a fauna which reflects its connection to the African mainland during the last ice age.[14][15] Endemic mammals with continental relatives include the Zanzibar red colobus, one of Africa's rarest primates, the Zanzibar red colobus may number only about 1500. Isolated on this island for at least 1,000 years, the Zanzibar red colobus (Procolobus kirkii) is recognized as a distinct species, with different coat patterns, calls and food habits than related colobus species on the mainland.[16]

Zanzibar red colobus live in a wide variety of drier areas of coastal thickets and coral rag scrub, as well as mangrove swamps and agricultural areas. About one third of the red colobus live in and around Jozani Forest- Ironically, the easiest monkeys to see are on farm land adjacent to the reserve. They are used to people and the low vegetation means they come close to the ground.

The Zanzibar leopard, which is critically endangered and possibly extinct; and the recently described Zanzibar servaline genet. 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. Pemba island is separated from Unguja island and the African continent by deep channels and has a correspondingly restricted fauna, reflecting its comparative isolation from the mainland.[14][15] Its best-known endemic is the Pemba Flying Fox.


Population and Settlement.

The people of Zanzibar are of different origins, mostly African people of Bantu origins[17]; there is also minority population of Asians, originally from India and Arab countries. The population of Zanzibar was 984,625 in 2002,[18] the date of the last census, with an annual growth rate of 3.1%, which has remained fairly steady for some years. Of this, around two thirds of the people – 622,459 – live on Zanzibar Island (Unguja), with the greatest proportion settled in the densely populated west. Zanzibar's largest settlement is Zanzibar Town (sometimes called Zanzibar City), on Zanzibar Island, with 205,870 inhabitants. Other towns on Zanzibar Island include Chaani, Bambi, Mahonda and Makunduchi, but these are small. Outside these towns, most people live in small villages and are engaged in farming or fishing.

On Pemba the overall settlement pattern is similar. The largest town is Chake Chake, with a population of 19,283; other smaller towns are Wete and Mkoani. Mafia's total population was 40,801. There is a considerable disparity in standard of living between the inhabitants of Pemba and Unguja and between urban and rural populations, which are split roughly equally. The average annual income of just US$250 hides the fact that about half the population lives below the poverty line. Despite a relatively high standard of primary health care and education, infant mortality is still 83 in 1,000 live births, and it is estimated that malnutrition affects one in three of the islands' people; life expectancy at birth is 48. While the incidence of HIV/AIDS is considerably less in Zanzibar than in Tanzania as a whole (0.6% of the population, as against the national average of around 8%), it is a growing problem.


The most commonly practised religion is Islam. About 97% of Zanzibar's population follow the laws of Islam. Its history was influenced by the Arabs and the Indian mainland people. The remaining mix is a combination of Hindu and Christian.

A large Hindu population existed on the island, but many of them fled the country or were killed during the revolution in 1963. The Christians came later during the period of Portuguese rule and British colonialism.[19]

There are 51 mosques, whose muezzin cries vie with each other at prayer time, as well as six Hindu Temples and a Catholic Cathedral as well as an Anglican Cathedral in Zanzibar's multi-ethnic town (Stonetown). There are many burial places around the outskirts with interesting headstones and graves, and some important graves in the town itself, usually of religious leaders of the past.


Zanzibar, mainly Pemba Island, was once the world's leading clove producer[20], but annual clove sales have plummeted by 80% since the 1970s. Explanations given for this are a fast-moving global market, international competition and a hangover from Tanzania's failed experiment with socialism in the 1960s and 1970s, when the government controlled clove prices and exports. Zanzibar now ranks a distant third with Indonesia supplying 75% of the world's cloves compared to Zanzibar's 7%.[20]

Zanzibar exports spices, seaweed and fine raffia. It also has a large fishing and dugout canoe production. Tourism is a major foreign currency earner.

The Michenzani apartment blocks near Stone Town, once the pride of East German development cooperation with Zanzibar.

Zanzibar's economy is based primarily on the production of cloves (90% grown on the island of Pemba), the principal foreign exchange earner. Exports have suffered with the downturn in the clove market. Tourism is a promising sector with a number of new hotels and resorts having been built in recent years.

The Government of Zanzibar legalized foreign exchange bureaus on the islands before mainland Tanzania moved to do so. The effect was to increase the availability of consumer commodities. The government has also established a free port area, which provides the following benefits: contribution to economic diversification by providing a window for free trade as well as stimulating the establishment of support services; administration of a regime that imports, exports, and warehouses general merchandise; adequate storage facilities and other infrastructure to cater for effective operation of trade; and creation of an efficient management system for effective re-exportation of goods.[21]

The island's manufacturing sector is limited mainly to import substitution industries, such as cigarettes, shoes, and processed agricultural products. In 1992, the government designated two export-producing zones and encouraged the development of offshore financial services. Zanzibar still imports much of its staple requirements, petroleum products, and manufactured articles.

During May and June 2008, Zanzibar suffered a major failure of its electricity system, which left the island without electricity for nearly a month. Another blackout happened from December 2009 to March 2010, due to a problem with the submarine cables and the local plant. This led to a serious and ongoing shock to the island's fragile economy, which is heavily dependent on foreign tourism. In 2000, the annual income per capita was US$220.[1]

There is also a possibility of oil availability in Zanzibar on the island of Pemba, and efforts have been made by the Tanzanian Government and Zanzibar revolutionary Government to exploit what could be one of the most significant discoveries in recent memory. Oil would help boost the economy of Zanzibar, but there have been and disagreements about dividends between the Tanzanian mainland and Zanzibar, the latter claiming the oil should be excluded in Union matters. A Norwegian consultant has been sent to Zanzibar to investigate its oil potential.[22]


In 2000 there were 207 government schools and 118 privately owned schools in Zanzibar.[1] There are also two universities and one college: Zanzibar University, the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) and the Chukwani College of Education.[23]

SUZA was established in 1999, and is located in Stone Town, in the buildings of the former Institute of Kiswahili and Foreign Language (TAKILUKI).[24] It is the only public institution for higher learning in Zanzibar, the other two institutions being private. In 2004, the three institutions had a total enrollment of 948 students, of whom 207 were female.[25]

The primary and secondary education system in Zanzibar is slightly different than that of the Tanzanian mainland. On the mainland, education is only compulsory for the seven years of primary education, while in Zanzibar an additional three years of secondary education are compulsory and free.[1] Students in Zanzibar score significantly less on standardized tests for reading and mathematics than students on the mainland.[1][26]

In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, national service after secondary education was necessary, but it is now voluntary and few students volunteer. Most choose to seek employment or attend teacher's colleges.


Zanzibar has a total road network of 1,600 kilometres of roads, of which 85% are tarmacked or semi-tarmacked. The remainder are earth roads, which are rehabilitated annually to make them passable throughout the year. There is no public transport owned by the government at the moment in Zanzibar, but the Dalala (as it is officially known in Zanzibar) is the only kind of public transport owned by private owners; the term Dalala originated from the swahili word DALA or five shillings during the 1970s and 80s (at that time public transport cost five shillings).

Zanzibar now has an improved and thriving sea transport network, by which public owned ships and private speed boats serve the ports of Zanzibar, which was renovated by the help of European Union. There are five ports in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. The Zanzibar Port Corporation (ZPC) is a public entity, which has full autonomy for operation and development of ports. The wharves of the main seaport were constructed in 1989-1991 with financial assistance from the European Union. [27] The port handles more than 90% of Zanzibar trade. Malindi port was built in 1925 as a modest lighter port.

The port is in a poor state in terms of infrastructure (quays, container stacking yard, etc.) as well as very limited operational area and storage facilities. Several assessments of the Malindi port's condition were made between 1995 and 2001. However, no repair works has been done resulting in further deterioration of the wharves. The main port wharf has deteriorated to the extent that it can no longer be repaired.

The most recent accident was in May 2009, when a cargo vessel sank before departing for Dar-es Salaam. It is still unclear how many people lost their lives, as is the cause of the accident. It took more than a week to rescue and lift the vessel. Zanzibar is well connected to the rest of the world. Zanzibar's main airport, Zanzibar International Airport, can now handle larger planes, which has resulted in an increase in passenger and cargo inflows and outflows.


The energy sector in Zanzibar consists of unreliable electric power, petroleum and petroleum products; it is also supplemented by firewood and its related products. Coal and gas are rarely used for either domestic and industrial purposes. Zanzibar gets 70 percent of its electric power needs from mainland Tanzania through a submarine cable, and the rest (for Pemba) is thermally generated. The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar and the government of the Kingdom of Norway signed an agreement in August, 2008 whereby Norway agreed to provide funds for the Tanga-Pemba Sub Sea Cable Project, which will enable Pemba Island to receive electricity from the National Grid from the Tanga Region; the laying of a 40 megawatts marine cable started in December 2009.[28] Between 70 and 75% of the electricity generated is used domestically while less than 20 percent is used industrially. Fuel wood, charcoal and kerosene are widely used as sources of energy for cooking and lighting for most rural and urban areas. The consumption capacity of petroleum, gas, oil, kerosene and IDO is increasing annually, going from a total of 5,650 tons consumed in 1997 to more than 7,500 tons in 1999.[citation needed] Zanzibar suffered its second major blackout on December 10, 2009,[29] and the Tanzanian island's energy ministry says it is unclear when the problem will be fixed[30]. The first major blackout, which left the islanders powerless and entirely dependent on alternative methods of electricity generation (mainly diesel generators), was from May 21 to June 19, 2008. The mainland, where the fault originated, managed to be restored at the same time.[31]

Culture and language

Zanzibar's local people are from an incredible mixture of ethnic backgrounds,[32] indicative of its colourful history. 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 birthplace 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.[33] Important architectural features in Stone Town are the Livingstone house, the Guliani Bridge, and the House of Wonders.[34] The town of Kidichi features the Hamamni Persian Baths, built by immigrants from Shiraz, Iran during the reign of Barghash bin Said.

Media and communication

Zanzibar was the first region in Africa to introduce colour television, in 1973. The first television service on mainland Tanzania was not introduced until some twenty years later, but it currently ranks low among African countries due to poor services offered and lack of modern production tools as well as experienced staff. The current TV station is called TVZ.[35] Among the famous reporters of TVZ during the 1980s and 1990s were the late Alwiya Alawi 1961–1996 (the elder sister of Inat Alawi, famous Taarab singer during the 1980s), Neema Mussa, Sharifa Maulid, Fatma Mzee, Zaynab Ali, Ramadhan Ali, and Khamis Faki. The first television service on mainland Tanzania was not introduced until some twenty years later. There is about 8 private radio stations. In term of Communication Zanzibar is well served by the newly restructured public telecommunication company (TTCL) and four privately owned mobile systems. Through these systems the whole of Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba) is widely covered and connected to most parts of the world. Zanzibar Telecommunicatio known as Zantel was the first and only Zanzibar based Tele-communication company since 1999[36] before relocate its main headquarters to the Mainland,Almost all Mobile and Internet companies served in Mainland Tanzania are available in Zanzibar.


Association Football is the most popular sport in Zanzibar, overseen by the Zanzibar Football Association.[37] Zanzibar is an associate member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). This means that the Zanzibar national football team is not eligible to enter national CAF competitions, such as the African Nations Cup, but Zanzibar's football clubs get representation at the CAF Confederation Cup and the CAF Champions League.

The national team participates in non-FIFA international tournaments such as the FIFI Wild Cup, and the ELF Cup. Because Zanzibar is not a member of FIFA, their team is not eligible for the World Cup.

The Zanzibar Football Association also has a Premier League for the top clubs, which was created in 1981.

Since 1992 there has also been Judo in Zanzibar. The founder, Mr. Tsuyoshi Shimaoka established a strong team which participates in national and international competitions. In 1999 Zanzibar Judo Association (Z.J.A.) was registered and became an active member of Tanzania Olympic Committee.

Famous people


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Education in Zanzibar - Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality
  2. ^ Else, David. Guide to Zanzibar. ISBN 1 898323 28 3. 
  3. ^ editor-in-chief, Craig Glenday (2007), Guinness World Records 2008, London: Guinness World Records, p. 118, ISBN 978-1904994190 
  4. ^ Yeager, Rodger (1989). Tanzania: An African Experiment. p. 27. ISBN 978-0813306933. 
  5. ^ Composition of the Zanzibar House of Representatives
  6. ^ "Human Rights Watch report". 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b Pakenham, R.H.W. (1984). The Mammals of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands. Harpenden: privately printed. 
  15. ^ a b Walsh, M.T. (2007). "Island Subsistence: Hunting, Trapping and the Translocation of Wildlife in the Western Indian Ocean". Azania 42: 83–113. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b "Zanzibar Loses Some of Its Spice, Los Angeles Times". 
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Tanzania Commission for Universities
  24. ^ SUZA website
  25. ^ Higher education –
  26. ^ Tanzania entry – SACMEQ
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ TVZ.
  36. ^
  37. ^

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 6°08′S 39°19′E / 6.133°S 39.317°E / -6.133; 39.317



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