The position of Zanzibar, which is washed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, made this archipelago a favorable base for traders voyaging between Africa, Arabia, and India. These three cultures shaped Zanzibar's history, traditions, food and language. Because of the traders’ need to communicate with the natives, a new language emerged which combined Arabic, Persian, English, and Swahili.
Zanzibar is one of the main archipelagoes of Tanzania, and the name Tanzania comes from combining the names Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The name Zanzibar comes from the Arabic Zanjibār and Persian Zang-bār. It combines the words Zang (“Black“) + bār (“coast, land, country“). Zanzibar is also called "Coast of Black".
The first European power to gain control of Zanzibar was the Portugese, and their rule lasted nearly 200 years. Later, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman, which colonized the country. During that time, slavery was abolished and the 38-minute Anglo-Zanzibar War broke out, putting the country in the history books for the shortest war on record.
The islands gained independence from Britain in December 1963 as a constitutional monarchy. A month later, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution, in which several thousand Arabs and Indians were killed and thousands more expelled and expropriated, led to the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba.
The official status of Zanzibar is as a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. Official languages are Kiswahili, English and Arabic. The main religion is Islam, and almost 95% of the inhabitants are Muslim.
Five unbelievable facts about Zanzibar
Zanzibar is famous for its tropical island charms, white beaches, crystal clear sea, and spices. But the island also has some intriguing history. For example, did you know that one of the shortest wars in history took place on Zanzibar? It lasted only 38 minutes. Or did you know that Zanzibar was the first African region with color television? You are sure to discover more about the fascinating history of the island, but here are five more facts to get you started.
1. SWAHILI TIME COUNTING
We usually start counting time at midnight. Swahili culture starts counting time at sunrise. For example, one o'clock in the morning is seven o'clock in Western time. The reason for this is Zanzibar’s close proximity to the equator which gives it equal day and night lengths (12-hours for each part of the day).
2. AFRICA WITHOUT LIONS AND ELEPHANTS
Yes, Zanzibar is a part of Africa and Tanzania, which is known for its wildlife and safaris, but there are no lions, elephants, or giraffes in Zanzibar. Safaris in Zanzibar happen under water instead. In the Indian Ocean, you can find breath-taking views of ocean life and coral reefs.
3. EGGS WITH WHITE YOLKS
Imagine eggs for breakfast which have white yolks. Can you believe it? But don't worry, there's nothing wrong with them and they don't even taste differently. Chickens are fed with a grain that makes them produce monochrome eggs and this makes their yolks white.
4. THE AVERAGE ZANZIBARI MAKES LESS THAN 1 DOLLAR A DAY
Zanzibar has many beautiful and luxurious resorts, where you can spend an idyllic holiday. But on the other hand, the average daily wage amongst the locals is less than 1 dollar.
5. FREDDIE MERCURY WAS BORN IN ZANZIBAR
The famous lead singer of Queen was born in the oriental maze of narrow, curved lanes known as Stone Town.