Welcome to Zanzibar
The wonderous Spice Island paradise
Zanzibar throws up images of long white sandy palm-fringed beaches, glorious ocean horizons dotted with dhows sailing by, vibrant spice markets, spice plantations and under water worlds abundant with marine life. Zanzibar is beautifully aromatic thanks to its spice production namely cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. Forests teem with birds, reptiles and monkeys, whilst the beaches fringe the island and offer guests relaxing Zanzibar luxury holidays.
Zanzibar has quite the colourful history thanks to trading routes as merchant vessels came from India, Arabia, Persia, China, Japan and Russia. Traders brought metal tools, jewellery and weapons and took away with them palm oil, tortoiseshell, ivory and slaves.
Today, Zanzibar is officially part of Tanzania, yet operates semi-autonomously as an archipelago. There are many smaller islands and two large ones called Unguja (the main island that inherited the Zanzibar namesake) and Pemba Island. The island of Unguja is separated from the mainland by a shallow channel 37 kilometres across at the narrowest point. The capital and historic hub of Zanzibar is Stone Town, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Zanzibar comes from the Persian zang-bar signifying ‘black coast’ perhaps linking to its trade route significance in spice and slavery.
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Zanzibar at a glance
Zanzibar rose to prominence as a flourishing commercial hub in the 13th century with Swahili communities dominating the islands. Life was ornamental and celebrated through impressive buildings, carvings, styled glass and latticed windows with plasterwork friezes and wall niches. In Zanzibar today, Swahili artefacts decorate resort receptions and private houses and men still weave through the crowded streets wearing long, flowing white robes with embroidered hats (kofia).
Despite deep seated traditions of hospitality and of religious tolerance, colonisation over the centuries in Zanzibar by Portuguese, Omani and European invaders has done little to dent the unique cultural identity of the Swahili people.
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