Traders, adventurers, and explorers have been landed on the coast of Zanzibar for nearly 2000 years. The Assyrians, Sumerians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Indians, Chinese, Persians, Portuguese, Omani Arabs, Dutch and English have all been here at some point.
The Shirazi Persians and Omani Arabs, stayed to settle and Arab traders were the earliest to have come to Zanzibar around the 8th century. The mosque at Kizimkazi (dates from 1107) is the earliest building, and is now tourist attraction.
The Arabs used the Oman winds to trade on the island, in Ivory, slaves and spices the two main islands, Unguja (normally known as Zanzibar Island) and Pemba, made an ideal base for the Oman Arabs.
In 1832 Sultan Seyyid Said of the Busaid Dynasty took his Sultanate from Muscat to Zanzibar, were his dynasty ruled for 130 years Most of the wealth stayed within the Arab Community as the main land owners and did not generally intermarry with the local African Community.This fact changed however when the Shirazi Persians came from the middle east, they landed in several different locations along the east coast of Africa one of which was Zanzibar, intermarriage between the Shrazis and the Africans gave birth to a coastal community with their own distinctive features and a language which was in part Arabic and came to be known as Swahili (Swahili is the Arabic for coast).
They did not get greatly involved in the main trades of the island such as slaves, spice and ivory, instead they stuck to fishing and farming and kept there identity. Two more communities were still to come on to the island. The Indian traders came to trade in the spice. The British then became involved in the missionary and trading activities in east Africa. They attempted abloish to slave trade cantered in Zanzibar
The Slave Trade
The slave trade was one of the most lucrative trades in Zanzibar. By 1822 the Omani Arabs signed the Moresby treaty which made it illegal for them to trade in slaves to any Christian powers. Great Britain and the USA started up diplomatic relations and sent consuls to Zanzibar to monitor the agreement.
The Slaving restrictions however were largely ignored leaving countless Africans imprisoned or killed
By 1873 Sultan Barghash by way for a threat of a British navel bombardment was forced to sign an Edict which made sea borne slave trade illegal. Leaving the slave trade in Zanzibar Closed, but Slaving on the mainland was still openly practised until Britain took over the main land following the defeat of the Germans I the First World War
But for the slaves nothing but the name changed instead of being Slaves they were now Labourers in the spice plantations for very low wages
The Spice Trade
The Zanzibar archipelago was the world’s largest producer of cloves, which were introduced in 1818 and found the fertile soil of the western areas of Zanzibar to be the perfect environment to grow in.
Zanzibar became the starting point of some of the great explorer’s journeys in to the main land of Africa to try and map out the interior of the country.
By 1844 a German missionary named John Krapf arrived in Zanzibar and was later joined by John Rebbman who become the first European to see the Magistic Mount Kilimanjaro.
One of the most famous explorers to have come to Zanzibar was Dr David Livingstone who used a house on Zanzibar to plan his final Expedition, which can still be found in Stonetown. Dr Livingstone’s medical chest and some correspondence can be found in the national Museum.
Independence & the Union with Tanganyika
After the elections and independence in1963 the broad based ‘Afro-Shirazi Party’ (ASP) held a majority of the vote. The country was still run by a coalition of two parties, this was supported by the British
In the early 60’s there was a move to end the colonialism and its ties throughout East Africa
Following the Zanzibar revolution of 1964, Abeid Karume became Prime Minister and signed the act of union with Tanganyikaand this formed the now Republic of Tanzania. The ASP and the mainland party merged to form the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) which holds power to this day Zanzibar is semi-autonomous, with its own President and House of Representatives.