Zanzibar is the evocation of the exotic, an archipelago nestled in the Indian Ocean and a destination both legendary and mysteries.
From this remote outpost, at the hub of the Monsoon trading routes, history was enacted, journeys of discovery were planned, Sultanese empires were established and the first medieval global village was founded. Zanzibar retains the imprint of its historic legacy in the tumbling streets of Stone Town, in the Arabic-inflected Swahili language and the rare antiques of the bazaars and markets. The haloes of idyllic beaches that adorn the island’s coast and the fragrant spice plantations that blossom in the interior make Zanzibar the ultimate Indian Ocean destination, the jewel in East Africa’s crown.
The best known of the islands, Unguja, has been at the prow of Indian Ocean history for over a millennium. Explorers, sultans, slave traders and merchants all chose Zanzibar as their strategic base, spurred by monsoon winds along trade routes, driven by imagined wealth and riches or led by starry maps and religious conquests towards escape and discovery. The historic charms of Stone Town, the picture book, palmed fringed beaches, colourful reefs and the cultural pride that exudes from every beach hut, every temple and every courtyard continues to lure visitors from around the world.
The island has a population of approximately 800,000 inhabitants with the biggest concentration being in the capital with 100,000 habitants. The island has a land surface of 1,040 square kilometers with the predominant industries being tourism, fishing and the spices.
Pemba is the second biggest island of the archipelago, known as Al-Khudra, “the Green Island” by the Arabic mariners in reverence of the profusion of lush fertility they encountered after their journey south along the arid coastline. Delighted by their welcome, these same mariners founded a city at Ras Mkumbuu, possibly the oldest permanent settlement south of Lamu.
Pemba rises from the Indian Ocean on its own granite pedestal, a continental landmass in itself, topped with verdant hills that tumble through clove plantations to the signatory, pristine white beaches.
The reefs and channels make for East Africa’s finest diving and highly rated game fishing, whilst the Pembans themselves embody the coastal Swahili in their dignity of manner and refinement of welcome.
Being smaller than the island of Unguja, Pemba only has a population of around 150,000 inhabitants.
STONE TOWN, A WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, grew out of Zanzibar’s historical trades, a metropolis built to harbour secrets in its labyrinthine alley ways. Emblems of a rich and tumultuous history survive today, depicted through Arabian Nights palaces, mournful Slave Markets, aromatic spice bazaars, ornate cathedrals and an historic fort that was the scene of the world’s shortest war.