Zanzibar – Paradise with a slaving past

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The island paradise of Zanzibar, famous for its beautiful palm-shaded white sanded beaches and tranquility, has a much darker past. History has lost when it was originally colonised by African tribes, but the first foreigners, the Portuguese, arrived in the 1400s creating little more than a trading post for the island’s numerous spices. In the 1600s, the arabs arrived with the ousting of the Portuguese by the Sultans of Oman, who quickly established the island as a centre of distribution for the slave trade. (The name Zanzibar is a bastardisation of the Arab ‘Zanguesebar’ meaning black lands.)

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Haunting sculpture of slaves traded in Zanzibar

In Africa, stretching thousands of miles inland, slaves would be sold to the arab traders by their chiefs, or having been captured by other tribes chiefs, or stolen en-route from other traders.

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Slave in yoke

Men, women, and children were made to walk under the most appalling conditions to the eastern coast where they were shipped to Zanzibar. Many of the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands transported every year in this way died on this journey. If they were very ill onboard the ship they would never reach the town, instead they were thrown overboard to drown and be eaten by the dogs on the beaches in order to save the $1 duty.

On arrival at Stonetown, slaves were paraded and auctioned attracting different sums depending on their health, strength, attitude and youth. Mostly the slaves were destined for Arabic countries, with India and China starting to buy slaves through 1700s.

This photo (courtesy of the Slave Museum) Stonehouse, Zanzibar is heart rending.

 

Towards the end of the 1700s and on into the next century, a lot of interest was shown by the growing American market – not only for slaves but also for ivory. The traders would buy the slaves in Africa and use them to carry the ivory tusks to the coast. Ivory was a massive import into the US – through Connecticut – and was used amongst other things for piano keys and billiard balls. 

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In 1807 The British – who started the trade of slaves from West Coast Africa to the American colonies in the 1600s – abolished slavery and took it upon themselves to persuade everyone else to stop the dreadful practice of trading people. This led them to persuade the Sultans of Oman in Zanzibar to stop slaving, but it would take another hundred years (1909) before the last slave was sold in Zanzibar.

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Rescued slaves

It was at this time that the British decided to make Zanzibar a Protectorate, mainly to prevent German ambitions along the east coast of Africa extending to the island. The granting of independence in 1963 depended on the Omanis deciding which of their sultans was going to be in charge, but this was made swiftly irrelevant when an uprising created the Republic of Zanzibar. The neighbouring mainland country of Tangynika, famous for the Kilimanjaro mountain, became a republic around the same time and the two countries decided to merge into a new country – Tanzania.

Tanzania – Pronounced tan-zan-nee-ah.

Sadly, the politics since independence have revolved around marxist/socialism with the inevitable state-controlled incompetence and corruption resulting in a very poor country. Blessed with fertile lands they are not starving, but there is almost no new infrastructure, broken foul drains, dilapidation, disease. The two bright stars are tourism and a universal adoption of the smartphone for banking. That is to say banking without the banks, people transfer money to and from phone accounts. 

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A not un-typical shop

The authorities have been very good at preserving the look of the beautiful white sand beaches, preventing anything other than natural fronts to the hotels. Most of the island is encircled by reef, giving tranquil lagoons protected from the strength of the Indian ocean, but allowing the steady and strong trade winds to flow unhindered. This is probably why the most popular beach sport is kite surfing.

 

The Masai teenagers travel from Kilimanjaro on mainland to earn some money. Really friendly good natured people.

The island is blessed with exotic wildlife. I managed to photograph a few…

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Blue Sunbird
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Red Colobus Monkey – unique to Zanzibar
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boat, white sands and kites
Fishermen on lagoon
Fishermen on lagoon

Our trip included 3 nights on Safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya.

11/9 Fly to Nairobi LHR 10:25 to NBO 21:00 (Term 1B)
Kenya Airways 23:50 NBO to ZNZ 01:15
Get visa on arrival $50 ea in Nairobi and Zanzibar

Transfer to hotel booked with hotel – $80. It’s over an hour drive from the west-coast airport to the beaches on the east coast

Hotel 11/9 to 22/9 – Zanzibar 11 nights White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Review: White Sands Hotel – Perfect for honeymooners

Our hotel consisted of a group of 9 or so houses set in beautiful gardens where ever-busy African Weaver birds make their nests while chattering incessantly. Four have ocean views, we didn’t. But you could glimpse it from our large 1st floor veranda (2nd if you’re American), no more than 50m away. Each house has two self-contained suites, ground and first floor, sharing a plunge pool and lounge in private gardens. With an easy walk to the beach and restaurant bar overlooking the large lagoon spattered with kite surfers. The staff were really helpful, happy and efficient. The rooms were in very good condition and, as you’d expect at this price, high quality large beds and luxury en-suites. A perfect spot for honeymooners looking for tranquility, an iconic palm-edged white sand beach.

 

22/9 Fly to Masai Mara
Flight from Zanzibar to Wilson airport Nairobi, Kenya
ZnZ 10:45 to NBO 12:00 Kenya Airways (Term 1A)
Transfer to Wilson. 45mins arranged by safari lodge.

Light aircraft flight to Masai Mara and return to Wilson.

Masai Mara blog coming soon.

25/9 Transfer Wilson to NBO
NBO 23:30 to LHR 06:20 +1 Term 1B

 

 

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