("Chole Shamba") is part of the Tanzanian Spice Islands
, together with Unguja
. As one of the six districts of the Pwani Region
, Mafia Island is governed from the mainland, not from the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar
, of which it has never been considered to be a part.
According to the 2002 Tanzania census, the population of the Mafia District was 40,801. The economy is based on fishing and subsistence agriculture. The island attracts some tourists, mainly adventure scuba divers, game fishermen, and people wanting relaxation.
The Mafia archipelago consists of one large island (394 km²) and numerous smaller ones. Some of these are inhabited, such as Chole Island
(2 km²), with a population of 800. Chole Bay, Mafia's protected deep-water anchorage and original harbour, is studded with islands, sandbanks and beaches. The main town is Kilindoni
. The stretch of water between the deltas of the Rufiji River
and the island is called Mafia Channel
Mafia Island's history goes back to the 8th century. The island once played a major role in ancient trade between the people of Far East
and East Africa
. It was a regular stop for Persian
boats. On the tiny island of Chole Mjini, just offshore in Chole Bay, once stood a settlement that constituted one of the most important towns controlling trade from the silver mines of Eastern Zimbabwe
, which reached the town via the old ports of Kilwa
In the mid 1820s, the town of Kua on Juani Island was attacked by Sakalava cannibals arriving from Madagascar with 80 canoes, who ate many of the locals and took the rest into slavery.
Under a treaty of 1890, Germany took control of Mafia and constructed the buildings still evident on Chole. Germany paid Sultan Sayyid Ali bin Said al-Said of Oman M 4 million for both the island and part of the mainland coast. In January 1915, Mafia was taken by British troops as a base for the air and sea assault on the light cruiser Königsberg.
The name "Mafia" derives from the Arabic morfiyeh, meaning "group" or "archipelago", or from the Swahili mahali pa afya, meaning "a healthy dwelling-place".
In 1995 Mafia Island had financial help from the WWF to make a natural marine wildlife centre instead of making the island a tourist resort, but tourists still go to the marine wildlife centre.
Tanzania's first multi-user marine park at Mafia Island was established following management recommendations and data from surveys conducted by the Society for Environmental Exploration.
The Mafia District is administratively divided into 7 wards:
- Chami, F. A. 1999. “The Early Iron Age on Mafia island and its relationship with the mainland.” Azania Vol. XXXIV 1999, pp. 1-10.
- Chami, Felix A. 2002. “The Graeco-Romans and Paanchea/Azania: sailing in the Erythraean Sea” by Felix A. Chami. From: Red Sea Trade and Travel. The British Museum. Organised by The Society for Arabian Studies. Downloaded on 20 July, 2003 from: http://www.google.au/search?q=cache:aECfkPV1-0oJ:www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/ane/fullpapers.doc