Rich History of Zanzibar
Zanzibar, a beautiful and important country in the history of our world, is an autonomous part of the Tanzanian mainland off the coast of East Africa. Popularly known as the spice island, Zanzibar is also famous as the birthplace of Queen front-man Farrokh Bulsara, better known to you and I, as Freddie Mercury. When traveling to Zanzibar – expect an amalgamation of history, adventure, wilderness and luxury!
This is part one of a two part series on Zanzibar – the Spice Island.
Zanzibar’s first settlers were Bantu speaking Africans, but the Arabs, especially Omani, have had a great influence here. For instance, Islam is the dominant religion and most of the local women dress conservatively. Bui bui (black veils from head to toe) or Khangas (brightly patterned cloths, one for a skirt and another for a head and shoulder cover) are worn by women young and old.
When the last Sultan was overthrown in 1964, Zanzibar hastily entered into an agreement with the Tanzanian Union and ever since, has continued to struggle for greater autonomy and a new identity.
For centuries, merchants traded on the island and along the Indian ocean (one of the world’s oldest and largest free trade zones) – each of them leaving their mark. As a result, Zanzibar has one of the richest and most diverse cultures in East Africa, encompassing influences from the Arab, European and Indian worlds. The island’s wealth was largely founded on the spice trade, and to date, the trade of spices such as cardamom and cloves is still largely controlled by the government.
Stone Town is really the heart of Zanzibar. In a way, it’s the enchanting capital of Zanzibar, and its trade center. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage thanks to its labyrinth-like alleyways blending Persian, Middle-Eastern, Indian, and African traditions, art, architecture, and cuisine. The wealth created through trade led to the construction of palaces, mosques, and fine houses. Stone Town is the place to immerse in culture, meet other tourists and travelers, mingle with locals, and above all, enjoy street-food at its best. In an open air market overlooking the ocean, there is a meeting point, and where the happening usually is. The Forodhani Gardens.
To me, one of the greatest gifts of travel is the perspective it affords me when I contemplate concepts such as integrity, patience and time. In other words, the things that have different meanings in different countries. Travel affords me the ability to peek into the lives of others for a short while and then tell stories of ordinary existence. As such, my memories of Zanzibar linger, like the island’s soft breezes, of days wiled away meandering the streets stopping to haggle, practicing new forms of expression in Swahili. Sipping on Chai, watching the setting sun bleed into the Indian Ocean.
From the crumbling mystique and rich Islamic culture of Stone Town, to the tropical beaches, Zanzibar is truly a place to slip into a calmer state of existence <3
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