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People - Zanzibar

The friendly faces


As with the history of the people, so comes their culture. From origins dating back to the first century AD, the people are diverse and interesting. One of the most remarkable features is the friendliness and hospitality shown by many of the locals.

The majority of the people are of Bantu origin with many Arab strains found throughout the island. They are not as tribal as may be found in Kenya or South Africa. This is due to a policy introduced by the Tanzanian Government in the late 1960's of relocating and breaking up tribes. The intention of the government was to prevent tribal warfare, as was seen in Kenya. Whilst this policy is today the main contributor of the prevailing peace within the country, it did lead to a disruption and lack of skills on Zanzibar, causing the current poverty.

The island of origin of the locals pretty much determines what tribe they belong to. The Waunguja would emanate from Unguja Island, with Wapemba tribe from Pemba Island and Watumbatu from Tumbato Island. There is a tribal rivalry between the Waunguja and Wapemba, but this is more political. The majority of citizens on Pemba Island support the majority opposition party, whilst the citizens on Unguja support the ruling CCM Party. All the political hype surrounding Zanzibar is as a result of this.


A young Muslim child



Religion forms a major part of the Zanzibar culture. If you are staying in Stone Town you will hear the calls for prayer from the local mosque.

The most common religion followed is Muslim. 95% of the population follow the laws of Islam, this dating back to the original Arab settlers. The remaining mix is a combination of Hindu and Christian. A large Hindu population existed on the island, but many of them fled the country, or were killed during the revolution in 1963. The Christians came later during the period of Portuguese rule and British Colonialism. Swahili is the most spoken language on the island and is the official language of Tanzania. It is derived from Kiswahili, which was a language formed by the intermarriages between Arabs, Omanis, Persians and the Zanzibar Bantu's.

The Zanzibaris speak the most pure form of Swahili. Kenyans and mainland Tanzanians will always remark on your Swahili if you learned it from a Zanzibarian. English is spoken by most of the islanders, and many have a working knowledge of Italian and Arabic

Ladies from Nungwi beach


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