Top ten fascinating facts about Zanzibar
(in no particular order)
- Queen front man, Freddie Mercury, was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Mercury was a Parsi, and spent his upbringing on the island and India until he reached his mid-teens. This led to him being dubbed Britain’s “First Asian Rock Star”.
- Zanzibar is warm all year round due to its position near to the equator, while the heat of summer is countered by strong sea breezes, offering an idyllic climate popular with holiday-makers.
- Zanzibar is not a single island, but an archipelago. The two main islands are Unguja (the largest) and Pemba, while there are numerous smaller ones too.
- As well as tourism and raffia (used for textiles, ropes, roof coverings etc) Zanzibar’s economy is dependent on the islands spices. In fact many know Zanzibar as The Spice Islands due to their production of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper.
- The name Zanzibar means ‘coast of the blacks’, and comes from the Persian word Zangibar – ‘zangi’ meaning black-skinned and ‘bar’ meaning coast
- The Zanzibar red colobus monkey is endemic to the main island of Unguja – there are only up to 3,000 individuals left.
- Zanzibar has a huge Arab influence, the population being predominately Muslim. The oldest traces of Islam can be found in a Mosque at the Southern-most end of Unguja Island at Kizimkazi. Kizimkazi Mosque is one of the oldest Islamic buildings on the East African coast.
- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah was born on the island in 1948. He now resides in the UK teaching literature at the University of Kent. His fourth novel, Paradise, was shortlisted for the Booker prize, while his 2005 novel Desertion was shortlisted for a 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize. Back in 2007 he also edited The Cambridge Companion to Salman Rushdie.
- One of the most famous events to occur in Zanzibar is the Zanzibar International Film Festival. It is thought to be the largest cultural event in East Africa, giving out 12 international awards presented by 5 international juries, and has a major impact on Zanzibar’s economy.
- Back in 1974, Zanzibar was the first area in Africa to introduce colour television, while the first television services on mainland Tanzania weren’t introduced until 1994 due to opposition by the country’s president.
This is just a few compiled together that I found interesting – please feel free to comment on any others that you are aware of!