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The history of Zanzibar Island
About Zanzibar Island

The word "Zanzibar" is derived from the old form "Zengbat" which initially meant the Eastern Coast of Africa.  It is probably a Persian word "Zeng" meaning black and "Bar" means land or region.  The Arab version was Zinjibar.
Zanzibar is a Semi-autonomous part of the United Republic of Tanzania in East Africa.  It is the Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which comprises two main island, Unguja (Informally referred to as Zanzibar) and its sister island Pemba as well as about fifty smaller islets.  The land area of the two main islands is approximately 2 332 square kilometers of which Unguja is 1 464 square kilometers. Zanzibar (Unguja) is mainly a low lying island, with its highest point at 120 meters above sea level.

 

A white sandy beach encircles the island which is full of palm trees and dotted with huge ancient baobab trees.  Long stretches of beaches are found at the East and North Coast of Zanzibar Island.

The Capital of Zanzibar, located on the island of Unguja is Zanzibar Town (also well known as Stone Town) and its historic centre; it is located about 35 kilometers off the coast of mainland Tanzania.

 
Until 2002 Zanzibar had a population of about 981 754.  In Zanzibar Island of Unguja the total population is about 620 957 and Pemba 360 797.  The population growth is about 2.7% - 3.1% annually, the current population is estimated to be more than 1 200 000.
The most commonly practiced religion is Islam..
  80% of Zanzibar’s population follows the laws of Islam. The remainder is a mix of Hindus and Christians.  Zanzibar’s history was influenced by the Arabs, Persians, Indians, Portuguese, British and the African mainland. Zanzibar’s local people are an incredible mixture of ethnic backgrounds, indicative of her colourful history.  Zanzibaris speak Kiswahili (but English is also widely spoken), 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 is a few degrees south of the Equator and enjoys a tropical climate that is largely dominated by the Indian Ocean monsoon.
 
Historical Stone Town Tour
Historical Stone Town tour

This is a wonderful introduction to Zanzibar and gives you a feeling of the rich cultural heritage.  One gets a comprehensive view of the history of Stone Town, the magnificent architecture, narrow alleys, and the sand and stone ancient built houses where some of them are over 200 years old that have Arab/Indian carved doors.

The tour starts at the main City market which was opened in 1904, where tropical fruits, vegetables, spices and fresh fish from the island are sold.  Our next stop will be at the Anglican Church of Christ built by Bishop Steers in 1873 on the site where slaves used to be auctioned.

Other highlights of our historical stone town tours are visits to:

  • Sultan’s Palace Museum – Built in the late 1890’s for members of the Sultan’s family.

  • House of Wonders – Built in 1883 as a Royal ceremonial function Palace

  • The Africa House formerly the English Club

  • Forodhani Park where you spend your evenings leisurely watching the African sunset while you are enjoying the locally made dishes.

  • Visit of the Old Fort – Built by Arabs for defense against the Portuguese.


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