Zanzibar People and Culture
The Arab influence on Zanzibar and Pemba islands is evident in the people, who are a mix of Shirazia (from Persia), Arabs, Comorians (from the Comoros Islands) and Bantu from the mainland, though the latter predominate.
Asians are a significant minority especially in the towns and cities. Europeans (either by descent or expatriate) are a smaller minority.
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.
The Hadimu and Tumbatu tribes were the indeginous people of Zanzibar, most Hadimu live in the southern part the Island while the Tumbatu are predominantly found in the North.
The official languages of Zanzibar are Kiswahili and English. English is spoken by most of the islanders, and many have a working knowledge of Italian and Arabic.
The 6th Festival of the Dhow Countries
June / July
East Africa’s largest cultural event, takes place in Zanzibar in magnificent, historical venues along the waterfront of Stone Town. The festival celebrates the unique cultural heritage of the “Dhow” countries: the African continent and the Indian Ocean region and their global Diaspora.
The Zanzibar International Culture Festival
(Tamasha la Utamaduni la Mzanzibari) The Zanzibar Cultural Festival features traditonal and contemporary dance, music, arts and crafts. Many of the dances have their roots in ancient tribal rituals connected with the many stages of a human life or with royal ceremonies. Drawing participants as far as Mozambique, Kenya, Comoro, Germany, China, India etc., Cultural Festival has became very popular in Zanzibar.
July / August
A traditional festival to celebrate the local New Year. It is mainly practiced in the Southern Unguja, particularly in Makunduchi. Originating from Persia and brought here by early, Immigrants, Mwakakogwa is marked by sacrifices, dances, and the actual field fighting. In addition to the tourists from abroad, it draws participants from the whole of East Africa.
Cooking and Recipes
When the wind blows in the right direction, the fragrance of spice is deliciously strong, and you know you are in Zanzibar, the Spice Island, with its cloves and cinnamon, lichee nuts, cocoa beans, and coconut. A tiny island, it is a part of Tanzania, the name deriving from a combination of the names of the two formerly separate states, Tanganika and Zanzibar.
Arts and Crafts
Art lovers will find paintings by several Zanzibar artists, including the popular Tinga Tinga painting style, and contemporary views of Stone Town.
Zanzibar is famous for it’s carved chests and doors (each carving has a meaning).
During the 1800’s, special craftsmen in Zanzibar achieved a style and tradition of carving wooden doors that can be found nowhere else in the world! Their special style combined methods used in west India with Islamic decorative elements with Swahili tradition. When a house was built in Zanzibar, the door was traditionally the first part to be erected. The greater the wealth and social position of the owner of the house, the larger and more elaborately carved his front door. Many doors are studded with brass spikes.
At last count, there were 560 carved doors in Zanzibar. The oldest door discovered in Zanzibar is dated AD 1694.