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Zanzibar and the Arab influence in East Africa

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 7 months ago


Zanzibar and The Arab Influence in


East Africa


 Week 24: Imperialism IDs



Map of Zanzibar's main island  The new flag of Zanzibar was hoisted for the first time in January 2005.


  • The first permanent residents of Zanzibar seem to have been the ancestors of the Hadimu and Tumbatu, who began arriving from the East African mainland around AD 1000
  • Zanzibar in collective name for two islands in Tanzania: Unguja and Pemba
  • capital of Zanzibar, located on the island of Unguja, is Zanzibar City
  • Ancient pottery demonstrates existing trade routes with Zanzibar as far back as the ancient Assyrians
  • West India probably visited Zanzibar as early as the 1st century
  • In August 1505 it became part of the Portuguese Empire when captain João Homere of de Almeida's fleet captured the island and claimed it for Portugal
  • In 1698, Zanzibar became part of the overseas holdings of Oman, falling under the control of the Sultan of Oman
  • Sayyid Said bin Sultan al-Busaid moved his capital from Muscat in Oman to Stone Town in 1840
  • On April 6, 1861, Zanzibar and Oman were divided into two separate principalities; Sayyid Majid bin Said Al-Busaid (1834–1870), his sixth son, became the Sultan of Zanzibar
  • Sultans of Zanzibar:
    • Majid bin Said (1856–1870)
    • Barghash bin Said (1870–1888)
    • Khalifah bin Said (1888–1890)
    • Ali bin Said (1890–1893)
    • Hamad bin Thuwaini (1893–1896)
    • Khalid bin Barghash (1896)
    • Hamud bin Muhammed (1896–1902)
    • Ali bin Hamud (1902–1911) (abdicated)
    • Khalifa bin Harub (1911–1960)
    • Jamshid bin Abdullah (1963–1964)
  • During this period, the Sultan of Zanzibar also controlled a substantial portion of the east African coast, known as Zanj, including Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, and trading routes extended much further into Africa, such as to Kindu on the Congo river
  •  Rebellion
    • In 1885/86, Britain and Germany had agreed to partition the hinterland of the East African coast into a British and a German sphere of interest
    • On April 28th 1888 the German East African Corporation signed a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar according to which the administration of the coastal region within the German sphere of influence was leased, for 50 years, to the Gesellschaft
    • The Gesellschaft appointed chiefs to the major ports (Tanga, Pangani, Bagamoyo, Dar-es-Salam, Kilwa, Mikindani, Lindi) who assumed office late in August 1888
    • The Sultan's troops, supposed to protect the Gesellschaft officials, were among the first to turn against them; The rebellion was first reported in Pangani September 18th 1888
    • Gesellschaft chiefs found themselves under siege in most of the coastal places
    • The German Navy could protect the station at Dar-Es-Salam and Bagamoyo
    • From all other stations the Gesellschaft officials had either to flee or to be evacuated
    • German chancellor Otto Von Bismarck arranged a multinational Blockade, then appointed Hermann Wissmann as Reich commissioner for East Africa, who arrived on Zanzibar March 31st 1889
    • Buschiri Bin Salim lead the rebellion
    • The skirmishes were single-sided, as Wissmann's forces were better armed and more disciplined
    • Buschiri used guerilla tactics and intimidated the local people into not communicating with the Germans
    • Buschiri was arrested and executed on December 16, 1889
    • Wissmann gave a general pardon to the rebels
  • The death of Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896, saw the usurper Seyyid Khalid bin Bargash son of Sultan Bargash bin Said take over the palace and declare himself the new ruler
  • This led to a showdown on the morning of August 27, 1896 when ships of the Royal Navy destroyed the Beit al Hukum palace having given Khalid an ultimatum to leave
  • On December 10, 1963, Zanzibar received its independence from the United Kingdom as a constitutional monarchy under the Sultan

This state of affairs was short-lived, as the Sultan was overthrown on January 12, 1964, and on April 26 of that year Zanzibar merged with the mainland state of Tanganyika to form Tanzania, a part of which it remains to this day


The Arab Influence in East Africa

  • Erik Gilbert’s Point of view on Arabs influence on the Swahili
    • The role of cross-cultural interaction has been a major theme in the literature on coastal East Africa
    • The Swahili origins debate is a debate of the role of "outsiders" in the rise of Swahili civilization
    • Early writers on the topic—most notably James Kirkman—took the point of view that Arab invaders and migrants played a central role in the creation of Swahili civilization
    • In this interpretation, it was Arabs who brought urbanism and Islam and thus "civilization" to the coast
    • Today, twenty five years later, there has been a major reaction against this position, and the general consensus has become that the Swahili cities were the creation of local people and not Arabs
  • Hassan O. Ali’s point of view on Arabs influence on the Swahili
    • It is an undeniable truth that Arab and Persian cultures had the greatest influence on the Swahili culture and the Swahili language
    •  While "moja" = one, "mbili" = two, "tatu" = three, "nne" = four, "tano" = five, "nane" = eight, "kumi" = ten, are all of Bantu origin, "sita" = six, "saba" = seven and "tisa" = nine, that are borrowed from Arabic. The Arabic word "tisa" actually replaced the Bantu word "kenda" for "nine”.
  • Bookrag’s, the website, take on Arabs influence on the Swahili
    • Beginning with the arrival of Arab and Persian merchants in the period from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, trade flourished on the East African coast, and reached its peak between 1200 and 1500
    • It was a time of great contact between cultures, an age that saw the establishment of some 37 city-states in what is now Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, as well as Madagascar. Most notable among these were Mogadishu, Malindi, Kilwa, Mombasa, and Zanzibar
    • The flourishing East African commercial city-states of the medieval period were a product of Bantu contact with Arab and Persian traders
    • By the ninth century, Arab geographers identified four major areas along the East African coast: Berber territories in Somalia; the Zanj city-states; Sofala, a land in what is now Mozambique; and below Sofala a vaguely defined region known as Waqwaq
    • Arabs used the name Azania, from the root word Zanj—their term for Africans—to describe all of East Africa south of Somalia
  • Overall, the Arab influence in East Africa is tremendous, built through trade and migration

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