A beach with palm trees in the sunshine


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An adventurous journey through the history of Zanzibar

Sunset over Stone Town in Zanzibar
Explore an island with 25,000 years of history

It is well known that Zanzibar is an ancient island that separated from the African continent about 3 million years ago. But just as fascinating as the geological history of its formation is the history of its settlement. Stone Age tool finds point to human settlement from 25 000 years ago, and from then on bear witness to an exciting and evolving culture.

In the course of history, the Bantu-speaking groups prevailed on Zanzibar. As early as the 8th century, the first Arab traders travelled to the archipelago, and already under the Abbasids in 9th century Iraq, East African slaves were forced to work on plantations.

Persian traders settled in the 10th century, after which Zanzibar became the hub for goods such as gold, ivory, spices and slaves. With them came Islam, the predominant religion to this day, and a common language developed between Arab traders and the Bantu coastal people - Kiswahili.

Swahili, as it is called in Europe, is a Bantu language with about 30 % Arabic vocabulary.

Zanzibar through time

When Vasco de Gama visited the island of Zanzibar in the 15th century, he found a rich trading town built of stone - Stone Town.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Zanzibar became a Portuguese colony. Portugal controlled all trade in the Indian Ocean from the island, giving it a position of power and great advantage.

At the end of the 17th century, rule passed to the Sultanate of Muscat and Zanzibar became an important place of Islamic learning. In addition, Zanzibar became an important place for the trade in cloves and African slaves. To this day, Zanzibar is known as "Slave Island".

In 1840, Sultan SayyidSaid of Oman decided to move the court to Zanzibar and the dominion was extended to Lake Tanganyika. From 1870 onwards, a conflict arose with Germany and Great Britain, and as a result the sultanate was reduced in size through new border demarcations.

A local man in front of a fruit stall
Stone Town is bubbling over with culture and history just waiting to be discovered

In 1890, Zanzibar became a British protectorate, with sultans chosen directly from the Said dynasty by the British.

As early as 1873, pressure was exerted to end the slave trade, which unofficially led to a black market with high incomes for the Arab upper class. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the trade could be stopped and the last slaves freed.

Until 1964, Zanzibar remained a self-governing part of the Commonwealth and only achieved independence from the British Crown when it was united with Tanganyika in 1964. Before that, the constitutional monarchy had been deposed in a bloody massacre and the People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba proclaimed.

Since 1964, the country of Tanzania, an amalgamation of the names Tanganyika and Zanzibar, has existed as an independent republic and as one of the total of 54 recognised states in Africa.

Want to explore the island and its history on site? The Sevi Boutique Hotel Zanzibar is the perfect place to do so, just book online!