Stone Town of Zanzibar (2000)
United Republic of Tanzania

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The Stone Town of Zanzibar is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture, which has brought together and homogenized disparate elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region, India, and Europe over more than a millennium. 

Zanzibar is a city in eastern Tanzania, on the western coast of the island of Zanzibar. The capital of Zanzibar Urban/West Region, the town is a distribution center for the island's large clove crop, and the manufacture of clove oil is an important industry. 

The surrounding agricultural region also produces coconuts and citrus fruits. Zanzibar is the island's chief port and is served by both large and small vessels. It is also the hub for the island's road system and the location of an international airport. 

The town originated as early as the 8th century, as a port city for Indian Ocean trade. Settlement grew as Zanzibar's commercial importance increased, particularly after it became the primary residence of Sayyid SaĎid ibn Sultan, the sultan of Oman, in 1840. 

  • Tanzania 2003. Souvenir sheet. Sceneries of Zanzibar. 

    • Coconut Palms.

    • Dhow at Beit Al Ajaib. 

    • The Old Fort. 

The background of the sheet bottom left is a decorated doorway at Beit Al Ajaib, also issued on an individual stamp, but not contained in the sheet. 

From the 1840s Zanzibar attracted traders from the Indian Ocean, Europe, and North America. It became the primary slave market for the East African coast. 

Under British colonial rule after 1890, the town was the administrative capital for both Zanzibar and Pemba Island and a major center for the export of cloves. 

As an important international trading center it attracted a mixed population of Arabs, Swahili, South Asians, and Africans from the mainland. Following a revolution on the island of Zanzibar and its subsequent union with Tanganyika to form the nation of Tanzania in 1964, the town remained headquarters of the island's relatively autonomous administration. In the process most of the island's minority Arab and South Asian inhabitants were expelled. 

Zanzibar's increasing importance drew the attention of the United Kingdom, the dominant colonial power around the Indian Ocean in the 19th century. The British had worked closely with Said's administration in Oman and continued this role in Zanzibar through a series of consuls, present on the island beginning in 1841. 

The British administrators helped stabilize the authority of Zanzibarís Arab rulers; however, they opposed the Arabs on the important issue of slavery. Under Saidís leadership, Zanzibar had developed a vigorous slave trade. 

  • Tanzania 2005. Souvenir sheet. Zanzibar Heritage and Culture. 

Tanzania 2005. Souvenir sheet. Zanzibar Heritage and Culture.

African slaves, who composed between 60 and 90 percent of the islandís population, worked on Zanzibarís clove plantations and performed many other functions in the local economy. 

The harsh working conditions on the plantations had serious health consequences that made necessary the continuous import of new slaves from East and Central Africa. Slaves were also brought to Zanzibar to be exported, mostly to southwest Asia. The British government opposed slavery, campaigned vigorously by the British explorer David Livingstone (he who discovered the Victoria Falls in 1856, see Zambia (on this site)). 

After Saidís death, his successors faced increasing British pressure to end the slave trade.

  • Great Britain 1973. David Livingstone (1813-1873). 

Important Notice 
Prior to 1895, unoverprinted stamps of India were used in Zanzibar. From 1895 to 1963 Zanzibar issued its own stamps, separately listed in Scott. Modern stamps depicting Zanzibar are often "revamped" issues of such stamps. 

Zanzibar was a British protectorate until December 10, 1963, when it became independent. After a revolt in January 1964, a republic was established. Zanzibar joined Tanganyika on April 26, 1964, to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, later renamed Tanzania. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Tanzania (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Tanzania Section, for further information about the individual properties.  

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Revised 21 aug 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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