Tanzania

Is Zanzibar a Real Place?

March 22, 2017

 

Yes, Zanzibar is real. It is not a made up island in some pirate story you’ve read. It is real and it is fascinating.

Fisherman boat under a beach tree

Background:

Zanzibar is an island located 25-50 km off of Tanzania in East Africa. It is semi-autonomous, which means it manages its own immigration control (which is pretty pointless in practicality).

The name Zanzibar supposedly comes from the Persian word, “zang-bâr” meaning black coast, alluding to is troubled colonial past.

Often referred to as “the spice island”, the Zanzibar Archipelago still exports a large number of spices and historically has been famous for its spices in the global trade market.

Sunset on Kendawa Beach

Sunsets are amazing

Tourism:

To get to Zanzibar you can take a ferry or take a plane. The ferry is 2-4 hours (or 12 in my case….) and the plane is about 30 minutes. The ferry costs about $35 and the plane costs about $50-60. Flying is recomened because it is a beautiful flight, faster, and you don’t need to deal with the scam artists of the Dar Es Salaam port, which were some of the worst I’ve ever seen.

The tourist economy of Zanzibar is rapidly growing. There are a lot of flights coming down from Europe for very cheap, specifically Milan. Thus, the all-inclusive resort economy is very large there and most locals who work by the beach speak Italian as a second language, often before English. The island is still too remote to attract the cheap backpacker crowed so daily expenses could run $40-50 if you are shoestring.

People go to Zanzibar for the beaches. Kendawa Beach and Nungwi Beach are the most famous. There is no shortage of hotels, resorts, and hostels. Many hostels are located on other beaches with less prime real estate.

Due to its history, natives to Zanzibar often hesitant to welcome foreigners with open arms. Understandably, there is local suspicion due historical oppression from foreigners. For this reason, travelers often comment on the unfriendliness of the locals. It is always important to educate yourselves on the history of a place before going and before setting any form of expectations.

The weather in Zanzibar is tropical and hot, but not unbearable. Great beach weather, typically.

Climate data for Zanzibar
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 32
(90)
33
(91)
33
(91)
30
(86)
29
(84)
28
(83)
28
(82)
28
(83)
29
(84)
30
(86)
32
(89)
32
(89)
31
(87)
Average low °C (°F) 24
(76)
24
(76)
25
(77)
25
(77)
24
(75)
23
(74)
22
(72)
22
(72)
22
(72)
23
(73)
24
(75)
24
(76)
24
(75)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 58
(2.3)
66
(2.6)
147
(5.8)
320
(12.6)
290
(11.4)
53
(2.1)
28
(1.1)
30
(1.2)
41
(1.6)
66
(2.6)
170
(6.7)
140
(5.5)
1,410
(55.5)

Kendawa Beach


Colonial History:

Zanzibar’s history is very interesting. It has been one of the most colonized places on the planet. From the BC era to the Middle Ages, Zanzibar was colonized and used by Persian traders as an outpost for East African resource extraction. Goods traced to Zanzibar dated 2000 BC have been found in Eshnunna in central Mesopotamia.

In 1499, Portugal, led by Vasco De Gama arrived to Zanzibar and demanded and received tribute from the Sultanate in exchange for peace. From this point on, Zanzibar was effectively under Portuguese colonial rule for the next 2 centuries.

After the Portuguese, came the Omani. The Omani brutally colonized and redistributing the most fertile land to Omani aristocrats while establishing an enormous and brutal slave trade. In 1840 the Omani moved their capital from Muscat in Oman to Stone Town. Under strong British pressure, the slave trade was officially abolished in 1876, but slavery itself remained legal in Zanzibar until 1897. It is said that more slaves (14mm) were exported to the Middle East than across the Atlantic (10-12.5 mm)

Due to middle eastern influence it is said that 99% of the people of Zanzibar are muslim (majority Sunni)

The walk between Kendawa and Nungwi Beach

 

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