4 fun facts about Zanzibar
Updated: Mar 6
Things you should definitely know before you travel to Zanzibar. Could be embarrassing otherwise... Well, ok, we didn't know some details until recently!
Just some main facts about Zanzibar: Zanzibar is located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. The words Tanganyika and Zanzibar became the word Tanzania when the two states merged to form a republic in 1964.
1. Zanzibar is not Zanzibar
The island we lightly call Zanzibar is actually not called Zanzibar at all. But Unguja. Then why do we call it Zanzibar? Unguja was actually called Zanzibar, way back in history, and the changeover to Unguja apparently didn't work out so well. It was probably just to natural to call it Zanzibar.
Unguja is the biggest island of the Zanzibar archipelago, together with 46 other large and small islands. Most of these are uninhabited.
By the way, Mafia is also part of the Archipelago, although it is much further south. The second largest island in the group is called Pemba and is located north of Unguja.
One of the small islands is Mnemba Island northeast of Unguja. The island is surrounded by coral reefs and is a wonderful destination for guided snorkeling trips.
Changu Island is located just in front of Zanzibar City, the capital of Unguja, in the west of the island. It is better known as Prison Island as it has been used as a prison for rebellious slaves in the 19. century. The eventful past does not stop here, because afterwards the small island was used as a quarantine island. British authorities were afraid that diseases, notably yellow fever, would be brought to the main island or mainland Tanzania. Since 1919 the island's most famous residents have lived there: the Aldabra giant tortoise. It is worth paying them a visit in the tortoise sanctuary.
2. Zanzibar is sooo old
Small stone tools called microliths have been found on Zanzibar and testify that the island has been inhabited for more than 20,000 years. Since the beginning of the Later Stone Age. Zanzibar has gained its fame and importance primarily through international trade, which has been established with Persia, Arabia and India since the 5th century. By the end of the 10th century, Zanzibar had established itself as one of the largest Swahili trade locations.
If you stroll through the narrow streets of the old town of Stone Town today, you have the feeling that the eventful past of the island can still be felt today.
If you want to delve further into history during your stay in Zanzibar, then you should pay a visit to the Princess Salme Museum at Emerson on Hurumzi (best to be done guided by Said el-Geithy, the founder and curator of the museum!).
3. Farrokh Bulsara was born on Zanzibar! Great! But who??
I'll leave you guessing a little bit longer. The person was born in Zanzibar City in 1946. He lived in Zanzibar until he was 8 and then went to an Indian boarding school. Friends called him "Freddie".
In the 1970s he became a world star - as the front man of the group "Queen". Yes, Zanzibar is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury!
The city is proud of its famous son. However, after the family fled to London in 1964 after a cruel revolution against the Sultan of Sansibar, Freddie never returned to his birthplace until his death. We don't know the real reason for this. It is speculated to have something to do with his homosexuality. Marriage between men was and (unfortunately) still is forbidden in Tanzania.
4. Spice up your holidays!
Not like you might think!
Zanzibar has a long and prosperous history of spice growing and trading. It was even once the largest clove producer in the world. Today the mega producers, Indonesia and Madagascar, sidelined Zanzibar; now only growing about 7% of the world’s cloves harvest. However, Zanzibar has successfully used its history in marketing terms and established the brand name “Zanzibar – the Spice Island”. Today visitors can sniff, taste and buy the spices on one of the numerous farms. Depending on the season you might experience the flavours of vanilla and cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, lemongrass, ylang-ylang, garlic, ginger, pepper and chili, coriander and oregano... And you should do that, because it's incredibly interesting to seewhat you didn't know about cinnamon, vanilla and co before.
Well - ready for your trip to Zanzibar?