"Fabled Island" Zanzibar Island by Ramonq
Zanzibar Island Travel Guide: 67 reviews and 191 photos
I've always dreamt of Zanzibar, with visions of tropical paradise but with an African and Arabic twist to it. I expected mangoes, prawns, coconut trees, white sand beaches, and Zanzibar did not disappoint. When I finally got here, I stayed at a beach resort which somehow gives you a rose-coloured view of the island. Sipping cocktails by the pool and being served by very friendly staff does spoil you, but that's what a resort is all about. However, I could be in Bali or Fiji or Boracay.
But Zanzibar is more than one big resort, it is a unique cultural experience with amazing wildlife too. Strange monkeys and giant turtles only seen in this island do exists. The island of Zanzibar is quite a sizeable piece of land. It will take about 2 hours drive from top to bottom and around 1 hour drive across. The roads leading to the resorts and the airport are narrow but in good condition and more roads are being paved inland. Driving around Zanzibar will give you a glimpse of the realities of rural life in the island, which is so different from being inside the resorts . Many people survive in simple subsistence living so remote from the pampered resort life .
One can see, that a vast majority of Zanzibarians are Muslims. A lot of women, despite the hot and humid weather are covered from head to toe. Some even wear the black burkah seen in the more conservative quarters of the Middle East. Around 90% of the citizens of Zanzibar adhere to the Islamic faith as a result of the cultural intermingling with the Arabs for centuries. In fact, Zanzibar was part of Sultanate of Oman at some time of its history. The mixture of African and Arabic cultures in such a lush tropical environment makes a very interesting result.
The arrival of Indian and British culture added even more spice to the Zanzibar society. Hindu temples and Anglican church spires can also be seen in the skyline overlooking the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar was once a part of the British Empire which brought in civil servants from India and Malaysia. Therefore the architectural styles of various cultures are traceable along the labyrinthian alleyways of Stone Town, the old section of Zanzibar town. You can observe the different cultural designs on the ornate doors in many of the old houses.
It can also be tasted on your palate. Chicken pillau is a favourite here, and generally, the food is to die for, especially the curries. Zanzibar did not get its nickname the Spice Island for nothing. All sorts of spices were traded here for centuries by merchants from Portugal, Arabia and India. It is for this reason that Zanzibar has been in the folklore of seafarers and spice traders since it became a trading port. Its fable has expanded worldwide and it has been passed down from generation to generation. The island is now one of the most coveted destination for tourists visiting the African continent. The legend of Zanzibar lives on.
The Omani Arabs have been trading with Zanzibar well before the 11th century. The Indian ocean tradewinds have naturally brought the dhows (Arabic sea vessels) to the eastern shores of Africa. They discovered strange spices that were non-existent in the Arabian peninsula. The Arabs, in return, brought the Islamic faith to Zanzibar. Vasco de Gama, the great Portuguese explorer ushered in the European conquest of Zanzibar as a main port for the spice trade between Europe and India. The Portuguese befriended the indigenous rulers in the African east coast and they established settlements from Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya to Maputo, Mozambique in the 16th century. In the 1690s Saif bin Sultan, the imam of Oman managed to expel the Portuguese from Fort Jesus, and the road was paved for the complete control of Zanzibar by the Omanis. Despite its wealth in cloves, sugar and indigo, Zanzibar prospered greatly as a slave trading port. Consequently, the great Sultan Sa'id ibn Sultan, moved to Zanzibar as his main place of residence in 1837. He built palaces and gardens that can still be seen today. Thousands of slaves were brought in by ruthless Arab slave traders from Tanzania and beyond. Brotherly feud for power ensued when the Sultan died.
By the mid-19th century, the British traders were expanding their interests worldwide including prosperous Zanzibar. Slavery has become a contentious issue in Zanzibar and the British consul, John Kirk, managed to end this barbaric practice. He succeeded in a treaty with the incumbent Sultan in 1873. He was a very close friend of the staunch anti-slavery advocate, Dr Livingstone that when Dr Livingstone died in the interior of Africa, Kirk organised his embalmed body to be carried by porters all the way to Zanzibar. The building where his body laid to rest is still present in Stone Town. To replace slavery as an income, the British brought in the cultivation of rubber and ivory trade to the island. Indian labourers and civil servants were brought in to Stone Town. The narrow alleyways of Stone Town was a beehive of activities with traders from India, Britain and Arabia jostling for a quick buck. So prosperous that the Germans invaded the island and the mainland of Taganyika. After WW2, the Sultans power was greatly diminished that Zanzibar became a British protectorate until 1960 when Zanzibar became an independent country under the Sultan. But by 1964, Taganyikan communist rebels deposed the Sultan and Zanzibar was incorporated into the Republic of Tanzania.
Even though Zanzibar is a tiny fraction of Tanzania, it has played a big role in the history of the country. It is now one of the most visited place in Africa and tourism has become an important contributor to the Tanzanian economy. The sheer magic of the legend of Zanzibar will forever stoke the imagination of travellers for many years to come.
- Pros:exotic paradise
- Cons:resorts too far away from town
- In a nutshell:Life is a breeze
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