ZANZIBAR COUNTRY PROFILE
Full name: Zanzibar (known as Unguja by the locals)
Population: 1.1 million
Capital: Zanzibar City (on island of Unguja)
World Heritage Site: Stone Town, the Historic Quarter of Zanzibar City
Area: 2332 sq km (900.39 sq miles)
Density Population: 47.18 per km sq
Life Expectancy: 57 (Male) 61 (Female)
Currency: The Tanzanian Shilling
GDP: $860 million ( World records in 2012 )
Government: The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar***
Major Languages: KiSwahili and English
Major Religions: Mainly Muslim (97%) also Christian and Hindu.
Nationality: Zanzibari or British
Flag: Three horizontal bands in light blue, dark blue and green with an
insert of the Tanzanian flag in the top left corner
Independence Day: 19th December
International Dialling Code: + 255
Time Zones: GMT + 3 hours
The Zanzibar archipelago consists of 51 islands varying from small rocky outcrops to the larger island of Zanzibar, more popularly called Unguja Island, and a sister island some 30 miles north, called Pemba Island. These two main islands, situated in the Indian Ocean approximately 35 km from the Tanzanian mainland, are still comparatively small with Unguja being just 50 miles long and 24 miles wide. and Pemba being 40 miles long and 14 miles wide. Zanzibar City, the capital city, lies on Unguja’s west facing coast, and has the historic Stone Town within its boundaries Unguja and Pemba, the two largest islands in the archipelago, sustain a lush and fertile agriculture allowing a pleasant aroma of luscious fruits and spices to add to the unique character of these islands. Throughout the year, all the archipelago islands are lapped by warm sparkling turquoise seas where a plethora of coral reefs attract a throng of marine life enthusiasts. Dazzlingly powdery white sandy beaches adorned with palm trees are two further contributors to some of the most colourful island landscapes to be found anywhere in the world. No wonder that the area has been called ‘Paradise’ and is often visited as a post safari holiday location!0
Zanzibar has a tropical climate and being located just 6 degrees latitude south of the Equator, the islands are warm throughout the year. Summers are hot and humid with regular thunderstorms but the strong and welcoming sea breezes offer a cooling influence. The rainy season is from mid March to June followed by a shorter rainy season September to November. Officially summer and winter peak in December and June respectively. Overall Zanzibar experiences ideal holiday weather for most of the year with an average of 7 to 8 hours sunshine daily.
Zanzibar culture is strongly influenced by its Arab people and leaves the visitor with many memories peculiar to the country. The word ‘Zanzibar’, which is of Persian or Arabic origin, derives from the word ‘Zangh Bar’ meaning ‘the Negro Coast’ and involves from the time when the invading Arabs from the north colonised the islands of Zanzibar as far back as the 9th century. These Arab invaders, integrating with the early indigenous peoples of these islands, have introduced a strong Arab culture which continues today.
This is epitomised in the historic ‘Stone Town’ part of Zanzibar City which is now seen as a time capsule of Arab culture giving Zanzibar its unique cultural identity. Further confirmation of the strength of this Arab culture is seen when Norman Bennett entitles his book on the country ‘The History of the Arab State of Zanzibar’. Overflowing with many examples of Arabian life, Stone Town is a truly memorable experience. The winding alleyways of historic Arabian buildings, the local Arab people themselves, their individual customs of dress, bazaars, markets and religious practices, all set amongst a wide range of miscellaneous Arabian art, create one of the strongest examples of a country’s culture that a visitor can experience. Add to this the ever present aroma of exotic spices (spices being one of Zanzibar’s main exports) coupled with the local cuisine of the region, and then surely the culture of Zanzibar will not fail to leave a lasting impression on any visitor?
Most of the people of Zanzibar are Muslims followers of the Islamic faith and as well as Zanzibar City, all the towns and villages on Unguja and Pemba have their own mosques. An iconic feature of Zanzibar City is the evocative sound of the muezzins calling the people to prayer, very memorable when witnessed especially for the evening prayer session at sunset.Although 98% of the population are Muslims, there is an active minority of Christians and Hindus.
Zanzibar was once the world’s leading clove producer, an industry which was introduced by the Omani Sultans in the first half of the 19th century. In the 1970s the clove industry rapidly declined as international competition and the result of Tanzania’s failed socialist policies decimated the industry. Zanzibar now produces only 7% of the world clove market and its main industries are now spices, such as cinnamon, black pepper and nutmeg, plus raffia and tourism. Zanzibar has a healthy fishing industry and is also known for its canoe production.Tourism is a high earner of foreign currency for the economy as the growing interest in Tanzania’s wildlife brings a greater number of safari tourists to the region, many of whom are now taking a post safari holiday in Zanzibar where the attraction of the islands’ archipelago is well served by a diversity of accommodation from beach lodges to luxury all inclusive spa resort complexes. In 2007 a Norwegian investigation to determine the possibility of oil extraction from Zanzibar was undertaken but as yet no economic benefits have resulted from this research.
HISTORY & POLITICS
Zanzibar has had a troubled and tumultuous history. Zanzibar was settled by the Arabs as early as the 9th century and by 1045 the locals had been converted to Islam. After a spell of 200 years under Portuguese control, by 1700 the Omani Arabs had regained control and proceeded to exploit the slave trade working on clove plantations. With the British leading the abolition of the slave trade, this practice was abolished in Zanzibar in 1873. In 1890 Zanzibar became a British protectorate, even though the nearby mainland, Tanganyika, was under German rule. A peaceful 70 years ensued spanning the two World Wars, and in 1963 Zanzibar was granted independence from British rule. Then with Tanganyika having gained its own independence in 1961, a union between Zanzibar and Tanganyika occurred in 1964 and the new country of modern-day Tanzania was created.As a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, Zanzibar has its own Government of National Unity known as the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar. There are many different political parties in Zanzibar but two main parties have dominated since the early 1990s, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party (CCM) and the Civic United Front (CUF). The House of Representatives, Zanzibar’s Parliament, is comprised of 81 members, 50 of whom are elected directly from electoral constituencies with elections held every 5 years. The remaining 31 members are ‘chosen’ by what some may call a lesser democratic process, 10 members being appointed directly by The President of Zanzibar, 15 seats are for women members of parties that already have representation in the Parliament, and 6 seats are for regional representatives. 5 of these 81 members are then elected to represent Zanzibar in National Assembly of Tanzania.The level of democracy operating in Zanzibar has been recently questioned after the recent election on 25th October 2015 was rendered void by the Chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission deciding to nullify the results. This nullifying of the election prompted the U K government to issue the following statement on 29th October 2015.......‘ we call upon all political actors to seek a solution which respects the will of the Zanzibari people as expressed on the polls on 25th October 2015’ . It would therefore appear that the fierce struggle for power that has erupted in the past 20 years between the CCM party and CUF party is far from being resolved.
DID YOU KNOW?
On 9th January 2005 Zanzibar’s new flag was inaugurated nearly 4 decades after Zanzibar entered into union with the mainland of Tanganyika with the formation of Tanzania in 1964.
The inauguration of the new Zanzibar flag in 2005 was marked by a 21 gun salute and the singing of the island’s national anthem.
Under a law protecting the flag any person found guilty of contempt of the flag is liable to a jail term or fine.
Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the world famous rock band ‘Queen’ was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar. He was born Farrokh Bulsara.
Qatar Airways, Kenya Airways, Auric Air and Coatal Aviation all operate flights to Zanzibar International Airport.
Zanzibar is home to the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey. A population between 1600 and 3000 Red Colobus monkeys exist in three forested areas of the Zanzibar archipelago. The monkey is mainly an arboreal species with a wide habitats range which includes coastal thickets and scrubland. 50% of the monkeys live in unprotected areas.
The two iconic buildings, The House of Wonders and The Sultan’s Palace, both stand along the waterfront in Zanzibar City.
The explorer, Henry Morton Stanley started his expedition to locate the ‘lost’ Victorian missionary Dr Livingstone from Zanzibar. His success has been immortalised by his greeting upon finding the Doctor of... ‘Dr Livingtone, I presume’ . Stanley later returned a few years later to undertake his journeys of discovery exploring the Source of the Nile, Lake Victoria and the River Congo , again starting his journeys from Zanzibar.
In his book ‘A History of the Arab State of Zanzibar’ Norman Bennett writes... ‘There is surely nothing more beautiful on earth’ exclaimed an early twentieth century visitor at his first sight of the island of Zanzibar, sharing a reaction common to most travellers to that Indian Ocean island.
Stone Town is actually part of Zanzibar City. It is the only functioning historical town in East Africa. Despite its bland name, Stone Town is the cultural heart of Zanzibar. Here little has changed in 200 years. Winding alleys, bustling bazaars and grand old Arab houses make a stunning spectacle.Years ago wealthy Arabs competed amongst themselves in a game of one-upmanship to build the grandest house in Stone Town. This competitiveness led to many different styles of craftsmanship being used to adorn these Arab houses and many happy hours can be spent wandering through the labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways in Stone Town.
Stone Town is now deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Due to the overwhelmingly large numbers of beautiful sandy beaches in the Zanzibar archipelago, Zanzibar is jokingly often called SANSIBAR!
Forouque Abdillahi, a Zanzibarian, was the late Princess Diana’s dress designer.
Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour starred in a film called ‘Road to Zanzibar’. The 1941 Paramount pictures comedy was the second in a series of seven films made by the trio in the popular ‘Road to....’ series.
Pemba Island, the sister island to Zanzibar’s other main island, Unjuga, is a centre for Deep Sea Game Fishing. Surrounded by exotic coral reefs of every form and may smaller beautiful islands with deep channels and white sandy beaches Pemba is not surprisingly named by some as Paradise!
The Zanzibar Leopard, a species unique to the country, is feared to be extinct as recently as the 1990s. No confirmed sightings have been recorded since the 1980s. Sadly a ridiculous belief amongst Zanzibaris that cats are kept by witches and sent to cause harm, created an extermination campaign which appears to have succeeded.
The Zanzibar archipelago, with areas like Mnemba Atoll and Menai Bay, offer some of the finest snorkelling and diving in the world where the coral reefs and shallow waters abound with marine wildlife.
It takes about 30 minutes to fly the 29 miles from Unjuga to Pemba island.
Zanzibar’s ‘green season’ is April and May when the longer rain spells occur. Although there is a year round tourist trade, Zanzibar’s busiest holiday season is from June to February, when Zanzibar’s weather is at its best. This period also coincides with the best weather pattern of the safari season in Tanzania.
Thanks to the UK’s historic laws and agreements with former territories such as Zanzibar, some Zanzibaris may qualify for British nationality depending on their residency, and where their parents and grandparents were born. Consequently some Zanzibaris may well qualify for a British passport.