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10 Things to Know About Zanzibar

Zanzibar… The land of greens, blue skies, and the whitest coasts with happy and peaceful people. Let’s get to know Zanzibar with the 10 things we compiled for you!

Zanzibar is not a single island.

Zanzibar is not a single island.

Zanzibar is in East Africa, opposite the shore of Tanzania’s biggest city, Dar es Salaam. Assuming Zanzibar as a single island is a common mistake. It is an archipelago (an area with many islands, islets, and rocks) in the Indian Ocean and it consists of two main islands named Unguja and Pemba, which have 54 islands. The whole population of Zanzibar is approximately 1,5 million.

Most of the population of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands are Muslims.

Most of the population of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands are Muslims.

The word Zanzibar is stemming from the Persian word for the ‘coast of blacks’: zengi bar. There are over 50 mosques and religious schools in Stone Town, which is the city center. 95% of the population is Muslim, although there are lots of Hindu temples and churches found on the Island.

Zanzibar’s encounter with Islam dates very early.

Zanzibars encounter with Islam dates very early.
Zanzibar Stone Town

According to the historical records of Pate and Lamu, Muslims first set foot in Zanzibar to build an emirate at the time of the Umayyad Caliphate. The second most important immigration to East Africa with Ali ibn al-Hassan Shirazi’s arrival there from Iran, together with his sons and companions in 957.

The First Mosque in East Africa is in Zanzibar.

The First Mosque in East Africa is in Zanzibar.
Kızımkazı Mosque

Located in the south of the island, Kizimkadi Masjid was built by order of Sheikh Said bin Abi Amran in 1107. Near the masjid there are tombs of the sayyids found who went there for jihad.

Turks and Zanzibar

The Ottomans first got in contact with Zanzibar in the 16th century. The famous Ottoman navigator and geographer Piri Reis mentioned Zanzibar in his book Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation).

Zanzibars’ native language is Swahili.

Zanzibars native language is Swahili.
People of Zanzibar

Swahili, spoken by around 300 million Africans, was born in Zanzibar. It’s a mixture of the Bantu languages and Arabic which literally means “the language of coastal people”.

High Temperatures in All Seasons

Located near the Equator, Zanzibar has equal daytimes and nighttimes of 12 hours. Season of heavy rain occurs between March and April. Another rainy season, but definitely lesser than the previously mentioned, occurs between November and December.

First Choice of a House: The Door

Hand-carved doors of Zanzibar are the symbols of Stone Town, and they are known worldwide.

The reason for this popularity is that formerly the inhabitants would first start with choosing the door when making a house. Then they would place verses from the Quran for blessings and carve beautiful designs to make them look more appealing.

Spices of Zanzibar

Spices of Zanzibar

With the tropical climate and the fertile land, a lot of spices like pepper, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and vanilla are produced in Zanzibar. The Island of Spices is another name for Zanzibar for this particular reason.

Talking about spices: don’t forget to take a look at Darajani Bazaar in Stone Town. You can find a variety of goods there! Like meat, spices, exotic fruits, etc (but don’t forget to bargain!)

Zanzibar is a home for endangered animals.

Zanzibar is a home for endangered animals.

Endangered animals like the red colobus monkey, the servaline genet, and the Zanzibar leopard are still seen in Zanzibar. Though the experts claim that the Zanzibar leopards have gone extinct, the locals claim that they’ve been sighting some. 

Who knows, maybe you will be one to witness the miracle of seeing the leopards of Zanzibar during your trip!

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