The majority of the population belongs to the Bantu-speaking Hadimu ethnic group. Other ethnic groups include the Tumbatu (who live on Tumbatu and in the northern part of Zanzibar) and migrants from the E African mainland and from the Comoros Islands. In addition, a small percentage of the inhabitants is of Arab descent and some are of Indian or Pakistani background. Most Zanzibaris are Sunni Muslims; some follow traditional beliefs, and there are also small numbers of Christians and Hindus. Swahili is predominantly spoken.
The economy of Zanzibar island is almost exclusively agricultural; fertile soil is limited to the western half of the island. The chief commodities produced are cassava, sweet potatoes, rice, corn, plantains, citrus fruit, cloves (also on Pemba), coconuts, and cacao. There is a sizable fishing industry. The island's few manufactures include clove oil and woven goods. Artisans make objects of wood, ivory, and metal. Lime is the only mineral resource. The main imports are foodstuffs and fuel; the principal exports are cloves and copra.
The first permanent residents of Zanzibar seem to have been the ancestors of the Hadimu and Tumbatu, who began arriving from the E African mainland c.A.D. 1000. They had belonged to various mainland ethnic groups, and on Zanzibar they lived in small villages and did not coalesce to form larger political units. Because they lacked central organization, they were easily subjugated by outsiders.
Traders from Arabia, the Persian Gulf region of modern Iran (especially Shiraz), and W India probably visited Zanzibar as early as the 1st cent.; they used the monsoon winds to sail across the Indian Ocean and landed at the sheltered harbor located on the site of present-day Zanzibar town. Although the islands had few resources of interest to the traders, they offered a good point from which to make contact with the towns of the E African coast.
Traders from the Persian Gulf region began to settle in small numbers on Zanzibar in the late 11th or 12th cent.; they intermarried with the indigenous Africans and eventually a hereditary ruler (known as the Mwenyi Mkuu or Jumbe), emerged among the Hadimu. A similar ruler, called the Sheha, was set up among the Tumbatu. Neither rulers had much power, but they helped solidify the ethnic identity of their respective peoples.European and Arab Influences
The first European to visit Zanzibar was the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama in 1499; by 1503 the Portuguese had gained control of Zanzibar, and soon they held most of the E African coast. The Portuguese established a trading station and a Roman Catholic mission in Zanzibar, but their cultural impact was minimal. In 1698, Arabs from Oman ousted the Portuguese from E Africa, including Zanzibar.
The Omanis gained nominal control of the islands, but until the reign of Sayyid Said (1804-56) they took little interest in them. Said recognized the commercial value of E Africa and increasingly turned his attention to Zanzibar and Pemba, and in 1841 he permanently moved his court to Zanzibar town.
Said brought many Arabs with him, and they gained control of Zanzibar's fertile soil, forcing most of the Hadimu to migrate to the eastern part of Zanzibar island. The Hadimu were also obligated to work on the clove plantations. Said controlled much of the E African coast, and Zanzibar became the main center of the E African ivory and slave trade. Some of the slaves were used on the clove plantations, and others were exported to other parts of Africa and overseas. Zanzibar's trade was run by Omanis, who organized caravans into the interior of E Africa; the trade was largely financed by Indians resident on Zanzibar, many of whom were agents of Bombay firms.
On Said's death in 1856 his African and Omani holdings were separated, with his son Majid becoming sultan of Zanzibar. Majid was succeeded as sultan by Barghash in 1870, by Khalifa in 1888, by Ali ibn Said in 1890, by Hamid ibn Thuwain in 1893, by Hamoud ibn Muhammad in 1896, by Ali in 1902, by Khalifa ibn Naroub in 1911, by Abdullah ibn Khalifa in 1960, and by Jamshid ibn Abdullah in 1963.
From the 1820s, British, German, and U.S. traders were active on Zanzibar. As early as 1841 the representative of the British government on Zanzibar was an influential adviser of the sultan. This was especially the case under Sir John Kirk, the British consul from 1866 to 1887. In a treaty with Great Britain in 1873, Barghash agreed to halt the slave trade in his realm. During the scramble for African territory among European powers, Great Britain gained a protectorate over Zanzibar and Pemba by a treaty with Germany in 1890. The sultan's mainland holdings were incorporated in German East Africa (later Tanganyika), British East Africa (later Kenya), and Italian Somaliland.
The British considered Zanzibar an essentially Arab country and maintained the prevailing power structure. The office of sultan was retained (although stripped of most of its power), and Arabs, almost to the exclusion of other groups, were given opportunities for higher education and were recruited for bureaucratic posts. The chief government official during the period 1890 to 1913 was the British consul general, and from 1913 to 1963 it was the British resident. From 1926 the resident was advised by a legislative assembly.Independence and Union
After World War II political activity in Zanzibar increased. In the 1950s three main political parties were established—the Zanzibar Nationalist party (ZNP) and its offshoot the Zanzibar and Pemba People's party (ZPPP), both of which principally represented the Arabs, and the Afro-Shirazi party (ASP), whose followers were Africans. In 1957 popularly elected representatives sat on the legislative council for the first time, and in 1961, they were given a majority of seats. In June, 1963, Zanzibar gained internal self-government, and a ZNP-ZPPP coalition emerged victorious in elections held in July. On Dec. 10, 1963, Zanzibar (including Pemba) became independent, with Sultan Jamshid ibn Abdullah as head of state and Prime Minister Muhammad Shamte Hamadi, also an Arab, as the leader of government.
On Jan. 12, 1964, this arrangement was overthrown by a violent leftist revolt of the Africans led by John Okello. A republic was declared, with Abeid Karume of the ASP as its president and as head of the Revolutionary Council (the country's chief governmental body). The sultan was forced into exile, all land was nationalized, the ZNP and ZPPP were banned, and numerous Arabs were imprisoned. Subsequently, many other Arabs and some Indians left the country. Three months later Zanzibar and Tanganyika agreed to merge, and the resulting republic was renamed Tanzania in Oct., 1964.
Zanzibar retains considerable independence in internal affairs, but its foreign relations and defense are handled by the central government. Zanzibar's chief executive serves as the first vice president of Tanzania when Tanzania's president is Tanganyikan, and as second vice president when Tanzania's president is Zanzibari. In 1979 a separate constitution was approved for Zanzibar.
In 1984, Zanzibar's president, Aboud Jumbe, resigned, as the Tanzanian government appeared to be seeking greater control over Zanzibar. Ali Hassan Mwinyi, a mainland loyalist, took over as president and several secessionists were arrested. Mwinyi went on to introduce liberal reforms in Zanzibar and in the mainland and became president of Tanzania in 1986. In 1990, Dr. Salmin Amour became president of Zanzibar; he was returned to office in a 1995 vote that observers said was rigged.
Amani Karume was elected president in 2000 in an election with such blatant irregularities that international observers denounced it as showing contempt for Zanzibar's citizens; the opposition, which favors greater independence, had been expected to do well. A accord signed in 2001 called for a number of electoral and governmental reforms that were designed to end political tensions. Karume was reelected in 2005 that was criticized for some irregularites and political violence and denounced by the opposition but was also regarded as an improvement over previous elections. Subsequent negotiations to establish a coalition government that would include the opposition, which is especially strong on Pemba, have proved unsuccessful. A 2006 court challenge by Zanzibari activists to the legality of the 1964 Act of Union that formed Tanzania was dismissed by the High Court of Zanzibar.
See J. M. Gray, History of Zanzibar from the Middle Ages to 1856 (1962); F. Cooper, From Slaves to Squatters: Plantation Labor and Agriculture in Zanzibar and Coastal Kenya, 1890-1925 (1980); A. Clayton, The Zanzibar Revolution and Its Aftermath (1981); A. Sheriff, Slaves, Spices and Ivory in Zanzibar (1987).
Founded in the 16th cent. as a Portuguese trade depot, the city remained insignificant until the 19th cent., when the sultan of Oman transferred (1841) his court there. It flourished as a major center of the E African ivory and slave trade and was regularly visited by U.S., British, and German trading vessels. In 1890 it became the capital of the British protectorate of Zanzibar (including the island of Pemba), and in 1963 it was made the capital of the independent republic of Zanzibar. When Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania, the city of Zanzibar continued as the seat of the archipelago's government.
Chief island (pop., 2002: 622,459) of Tanzania. Located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east-central Africa, it has an area of 637 sq mi (1,651 sq km). Zanzibar city (pop., 2002: 205,870), the island's principal port and commercial centre, is on the western side. Both Zanzibar and Pemba islands are believed to have once formed part of the African continent. In the late 17th century, Zanzibar came under the control of Omani Arabs, and the sultan of Oman made Zanzibar city his capital in 1832. In 1861 Zanzibar was separated from Oman and became an independent sultanate. Under Sultan Barghash (r. 1870–88), most of the mainland territories were lost to European powers. In 1890 the British proclaimed a protectorate over Zanzibar and Pemba islands. In 1963 the sultanate regained its independence and became a member of the Commonwealth. The sultanate was overthrown in 1964, and a republic was established. It then joined with Tanganyika to form the Republic of Tanzania. The economy depends on agriculture and fishing.
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Zanzibar's main industries are spices, raffia, and tourism. It is still sometimes referred to as the Spice Islands (a term also associated with the Maluku Islands in Indonesia), because of the significance of its production of cloves, of which it used to be the world leader, and also nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. The ecology is of note for being the home of the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus and the elusive Zanzibar Leopard. The word "Zanzibar" probably derives from the Persian زنگبار, Zangi-bar ("coast of the blacks"); it is known as Zanji-bar (زنجبار) in Arabic.
The presence of microlithic tools attests to 20,000 years of human occupation of Zanzibar. The islands became part of the historical record of the wider world when Arab traders discovered them and used them as a base for voyages between Arabia, India, and Africa. Unguja offered a protected and defensible harbour, so although the archipelago offered few products of value, the Arabs settled at what became Zanzibar City (Stone Town) as a convenient point from which to trade with East African coastal towns. They established garrisons on the islands and built the first mosque in the Southern hemisphere.
During the Age of Exploration, the Portuguese Empire was the first European power to gain control of Zanzibar, and kept it for nearly 200 years. In 1698, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman, which developed an economy of trade and cash crops, with a ruling Arab elite. Plantations were developed to grow spices, hence the moniker of the Spice Islands (a name also used of Dutch colony the Moluccas, now part of Indonesia). Another major trade good was ivory, the tusks of elephants killed in mainland Africa. The third pillar of the economy was slaves, giving Zanzibar an important place in the Arab slave trade, the Indian Ocean equivalent of the better-known Triangular Trade. Zanzibar City was the main trading port of the East African slave trade, with about 50,000 slaves a year passing through the city. The Sultan of Zanzibar controlled a substantial portion of the East African coast, known as Zanj, which included Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, and trading routes which extended much further inland, such as to Kindu on the Congo River.
Sometimes gradually, sometimes by fits and starts, control came into the hands of the British Empire; part of the political impetus for this was the 19th century movement for the abolition of the slave trade. The relationship between Britain and the nearest relevant colonial power, Germany, was formalized by the 1890 Helgoland-Zanzibar Treaty, in which Germany pledged not to interfere with British interests in insular Zanzibar. That year, Zanzibar became a protectorate (not a colony) of Britain. From 1890 to 1913, traditional viziers were appointed to govern as puppets, switching to a system of British residents (effectively governors) from 1913 to 1963. The death of one sultan and the succession of another of whom the British did not approve led to the Anglo-Zanzibar War. On the morning of 27 August 1896, ships of the Royal Navy destroyed the Beit al Hukum Palace; a cease fire was declared 38 minutes later, and the bombardment subsequently became known as The Shortest War in History.
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 in a genocide and thousands more expelled, established the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. That April, the republic merged with the mainland former colony of Tanganyika, or more accurately, was subsumed by the much larger entity. This United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed as a portmanteau, the United Republic of Tanzania, of which Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region.
Zanzibar has many animal species from the African mainland who traveled from the mainland during the last ice age. These included the Zanzibar leopard, which is critically endangered and possibly extinct.
Since the early 1990s, the politics of the archipelago have been marked by repeated clashes between two political parties, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the Civic United Front (CUF). Contested elections in late 2000 led to a massacre in Zanzibar in January 2001, with the government shooting into crowds of protestors, killing 35 and injuring 600. Violence erupted again in 2005 after another contested election, with the CUF again claiming its rightful victory had been stolen from them. Following 2005, negotiations between the two parties aiming at the long-term resolution of the tensions as well as a power-sharing accord took place, but suffered repeated setbacks, most notably in April 2008, when the CUF walked away from the negotiating table following a CCM call for a referendum to approve of what had been presented as a done deal on the power-sharing agreement.
Stone Town is a place of winding lanes, circular towers, carved wooden doors, raised terraces and beautiful mosques. Important architectural features are the Livingstone house, the Guliani Bridge, and the House of Wonders. The town of Kidichi features the hammam (Persian baths), built by immigrants from Shiraz, Iran during the reign of Barghash bin Said.
Zanzibar was the first region in Africa to introduce colour television, in 1973. The current TV station is called TvZ The first television service on mainland Tanzania was not introduced until some twenty years later.
Zanzibar criminalised gay and lesbian sex in 2004 . In September 2006, a radical Islamic group on the archipelago, Uamsho, forced organizers to abandon plans to mark the 60th birthday of the late Freddie Mercury (born Farouk Bulsara into the Parsi community of Stone Town, who reached fame as the lead singer of the rock group Queen), saying he violated Islam with his openly bisexual lifestyle. (See Islam and homosexuality.)
Zanzibar, mainly Pemba Island, was once the world's leading clove producer, but annual clove sales have since plummeted by 80% since the 1970s. Explanations given for this is a fast-moving global market, international competition and a hangover from Tanzania’s failed experiment with socialism in the 1960s and ’70s, when the government controlled clove prices and exports. Zanzibar now ranks a distant third with Indonesia supplying 75% of the world's cloves, compared to Zanzibar's 7%.
During May and June 2008 Zanzibar suffered a major failure of its electricity system which left the island without mains electricity for nearly a month (May 21 - June 19) and entirely dependent on alternative methods of electricity generation (mainly diesel generators). This led to a serious and ongoing shock to the island's fragile economy (mainly based on international tourism).
Zanzibar may vote to take a step back in time Polling begins tomorrow in the first free elections in the island of Zanzibar.
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