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Before you go on holiday to Zanzibar, you might like to know a little more about the island. Read the fun facts and know-it-alls about this beautiful tropical island here.

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, singer and frontman of the legendary band Queen, who died in 1991, was born on Zanzibar on 5 September 1946. His name then was Farouk Bulsara and his father was working as an accountant for the British government at The House of Wonders in Zanzibar Town. His family had emigrated to Zanzibar from India, but they were thus originally of Persian descent.

The palm trees on Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s paradisiacal beaches are surrounded by an abundance of coconut palm trees. Unlike most tourists, locals see these trees as more than aesthetically pleasing flora. And apart from the famous coconuts, the coconut palm tree provides an impressive variety of products, including materials used for weaving, building, eating and drinking.

The roofs of many houses in Zanzibar – especially in rural areas – are built using makuti palm thatch, made from palm leaves. The many possible uses makes the coconut palm tree one of the most versatile of all plants on earth.

The first steam locomotive

Zanzibar had the first steam locomotive in East Africa. A small two-metre gauge engine pulled the Sultan back and forth to his summer palace in the 1880s. Zanzibar also boasted a seven-mile railway line to Bubububu, built in 1905, which became notorious for “illuminating” the countryside.

Shortest war in history

The shortest war in history was fought on Zanzibar in 1896. On 25 August, Sultan Hamid bin Thuwaini died; two hours later, an occupier broke into the Palace and declared himself ruler. In a show of Victorian gunboat politics, the Royal Navy was asked to evict him. Exactly at 9 o’clock on the 27th, three warships opened fire and in 45 minutes the Palace was in ruins, deposing the occupier. The bombardment has since been known as the “Shortest War in History”, which has also been confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records.

Door from 1694

At the last count, there were 560 carved doors in Zanzibar. The oldest door discovered in Zanzibar is dated anno 1694. When a house was built in Zanzibar, the door was traditionally the first part erected. The greater the wealth and social position of the owner of the house, the bigger and more lavishly he decorated his front door. Many doors are studded with copper spikes. This may be an adaptation from Indian practices where doors with sharp spines were fitted with iron to prevent them from being rammed in by war elephants. In the year 915, an Arab traveller recorded that Zanzibar island had an abundance of elephants and around 1295 Marco Polo also wrote this. However, there are no elephants now, and the copper tips you see today are purely for decoration.

More fun facts

And then some brief other fun facts about Zanzibar in a row:

  • Stone Town has been assigned to of the world’s heritage sites by the United Nations.
  • The rare Kirk’s Red Colobus monkey can only be found in Zanzibar.
  • Zanzibar was once the world’s largest producer of cloves and its history was heavily influenced by this activity. The Zanzibar islands are still sometimes called ‘Islands of Spice’ because of the large-scale production of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices. For instance, there are 3 million clove trees on Pemba alone.
  • The inhabitants of Zanzibar are known as Zanzibaris and their mother tongue is Kiswahili. Commonly known as Swahili.
  • Zanzibar is part of republic of Tanzania, which emerged from the two former British colonies, Tanganyika and Zanzibar, in the 1960s.
  • The Zanzibar islands are about 25-50 km east of Tanzania’s coast in the Indian Ocean.
  • ‘Karibu’ means ‘welcome’ in the vernacular Swahili language.
  • Over the centuries, different cultures have had their influence and ensured that Zanzibar became what it is today: Sumerians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Phonecians, Indians, Chinese, Persians, Portuguese, Arabs, Dutch and British were once settled here and influenced the local culture

Meet this amazing island for yourself and go for the experience full of beauty, history, cultures and adventure. Book your holiday on Zanzibar now.

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