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History and Culture

ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA – AUGUST 24 : People pose for a photo in front of an old wood carved door in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania on August 24, 2018. World famous carved Zanzibar doors, the significant architectures of Stone Town in the UNESCO World Heritage List, are brought to this day as a part of the Indian culture. (Photo by Mahmut Serdar Alakus/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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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 centre 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 the 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 close 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 and 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 multipart 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 everyday, 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.
In the north one can find the Mangapwani beach, the northern tip of Unguja has Nungwi 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.

Water sports

Marine Adventures in Temperat 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 snorkelling 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.


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.

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, generally lived in small villages. They did not coalesce to form larger political units.

During Zanzibar’s brief period of independence in the early 1960s, the major political cleavage was between the Shirazi (Zanzibar Africans), who made up approximately 56% of the population, and the Zanzibar Arabs, who made up approximately 17%. Today, Zanzibar is inhabited mostly by ethnic Swahili, a Bantu population of sub-Saharan Africans. There are also a number of Arabs, as well as some ethnic Persian and Indian people.

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 Arabic, French and/or Italian.

The main mosque and Anglican cathedral in Stone Town

Zanzibar’s population is almost entirely Muslim, with a small Christian minority.


The Anglican Diocese of Zanzibar was founded in 1892. The first Bishop of Zanzibar was Charles Smythies, who was translated from his former post as Bishop of Nyasaland. The cathedral, located in Stone Town, Zanzibar City, is a prominent landmark, and a national heritage asset.

It had fallen into poor condition by the late 20th century, but it was fully restored in 2016, at a cost of one million Euros, with a world heritage visitor centre. The restoration was supported by the Tanzanian and Zanzibari governments, and overseen by the diocese in partnership with the World Monuments Fund.The restoration of the spire, clock, and historic Willis organ are still outstanding. Historically the diocese included mainland locations in Tanganyika. In 1963 it was renamed as the Diocese of Zanzibar & Dar es Salaam. Two years later, in 1965, Dar es Salaam became a separate diocese. The original jurisdiction was renamed as the Diocese of Zanzibar & Tanga. In 2001 the mainland links were finally ended, and it is now known as the Diocese of Zanzibar. The diocese includes parishioners on the neighbouring island of Pemba. Ten bishops have served in the diocese from 1892 to the present day. The bishop is Michael Hafidh. It is part of the Province of Tanzania, under the Archbishop of All Tanzania, based at Dodoma.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Zanzibar was established in 1980. An apostolic vicariate of Zanzibar had been established in 1906, from a much larger East African jurisdiction. This was suppressed in 1953, when the territory was out under control of the Kenyan church, but it was restored in 1964 after independence. The church created a diocese here shortly before Easter 1980. The bishop is Augustine Ndeliakyama Shao. Zanzibar is part of the Roman Catholic Province of Dar es Salaam, under the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam


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).

Climate of Tanzania

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. The rainfall regime is split into two main seasons, a primary maximum in March, April, and May in association with the southwest monsoon (known locally as Kusi in Kiswahili), and a secondary maximum in November and December. The months in between receive less rain, with a minimum in July.

Tanzania travels visa requirements

All travelers to Tanzania require a passport, valid for the duration of their tour in Tanzania. Entry points to Tanzania, currently offering visa services on entry are, the Dar Es Salaam Port and Airport, the Kilimanjaro International airport, the Namanga & Isebania entry posts on the road borders between Tanzania and Kenya and Zanzibar airport.

Most nationalities can obtain an entry visa upon arrival or arrange the visa before arrival at the cost US $ 50 per person (USA & Irish passport holders US $ 100 per person.) Please take note some nationalities can only arrange the visa before arrival to Tanzania, while some nationalities do not require a Tanzania travel visa. We strongly recommend checking regulations with your local Tanzanian Embassy, as the above are subject to change without notice. We also recommend getting the visa in advance if you have tight connecting flights after arrival to Tanzania.

Tanzania language

English is widely spoken in Tanzania, but a few basic words of Swahili is always greatly appreciated.

Money / Tanzania currency

Credit cards and travelers checks are not widely accepted in Tanzania. Where they are accepted can high service fees and poor exchange rates be expected, Major foreign currencies – particularly US $ – are accepted in Tanzania and are convertible at banks and bureau de changes in the main towns and tourist areas. If bringing cash in US $, please make sure bank notes are in good condition, with no cuts or damage and are not older than 2004. Most banks offer higher exchange rates for US $ 100 / US $ 50 bank notes compared to US $ 20 / US $ 10 or US $ 5 bank notes.

Exchange rate

Use the currency calculator below to convert your currency to Tanzania Shilling (TZS).

Tipping in Zanzibar

We recommend tipping your safari driver guide US $ 20 to US $ 30 per group per day. We also recommend tipping porters at hotels, lodges and drivers transferring you between the airport / hotel.

Zanzibar travel and health

Yellow fever vaccinations are a legal requirement for entry into Zanzibar. Please note you will require a yellow fever vaccination certificate upon your entry to Tanzania. We recommend that you take precautions against malaria (malaria only occurs in areas below 1 800m in altitude) prior to the commencement of your holiday. Adequate precautions must also be taken to avoid yourself being bitten by a mosquito. Kindly contact your closest Travel Clinic or medical practitioner.

The tap water is not safe for drinking or brushing teeth. Please only use sealed mineral water.

Zanzibar Climate

Generally dry and hot with cool nights/mornings from June-October, short rains from November to mid-December, long rains March-May but the seasons can vary.

Zanzibar travel clothing

Pack lightweight, washable clothes plus a sweater for early morning wildlife game drives, a sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Long sleeves and trousers in light-colored fabrics help discourage insect bites. Shorts for women are acceptable (but not too short). Women should carry a wrap to cover legs in the village and towns as revealing clothes can cause offence. Staying at a Lodge, bring your swimsuit along.

Baggage on safaris

Baggage on safari is limited to one bag, plus one small piece of hand baggage per person (excluding a camera bag). In total this should not weight more than 20kg. Suitcases and other heavier items can be stored in town hotels whilst clients are on safari.

Zanzibar travel photography

Bring film and batteries for your camera with you. Protect your camera from dust and keep equipment and film spools cool. It is courteous to ask permission before photographing the local Zanzibarian people. If you intend to take a lot of people pictures, be sure to bring an instant camera with you so that you can leave a picture with people you photograph.

Electricity in Zanzibar

220v, but power failures, surges and troughs are common. Bring a universal adaptor and a torch (flashlight) or headlamp.

Zanzibar travel security

Is a generally safe country but don’t invite temptation. Keep your eyes on your belongings. Don’t walk in the towns or cities at night – take a taxi. Don’t carry cameras or large amounts of cash, beware of pickpockets and hawkers. Use hotel safety deposit boxes to safeguard valuables and obtain a receipt. Leave valuable jeweler at home.

Shopping in Zanzibar

The Tourist areas and wildlife lodges sell a wide range of souvenirs, jeweler and trinkets. Don’t be afraid to haggle at roadside stalls (Your driver/ guide will advise you where to shop and on a reasonable price). The most popular souvenirs are wooden carvings, curios, and a famous love stone which is the well-known gem stone “Tanzanite” which are all widely sold at souvenir shops.

Tanzania time zone

GMT +3 hours

International dialing code for Tanzania

+255 + area code

Zanzibar religion

There are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and other Non-Religion.

Tanzania public holidays

1 Jan – New Year’s Day

12 Jan – Zanzibar Revolution Day

5 Feb – CCM Foundation Day

26 Apr – Union Day

01 May – Worker’s Day

07 Jul – Peasant’s Day (also called Saba Saba, which mean 7-7)

09 Dec – Tanganyika Independence Day

Muslim Festivals, including Ramadan, and Prophet’s birthday, account for four days of public holiday, and their precise dates depend on the lunar calendar.

Good Friday and Easter Monday are also observed.



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