Zanzibar, a country on the E. coast of Africa, comprising the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia, and other smaller islands, and the coast opposite to them from the island of Warsheikh, lat. 2° 30' N., to the village of Kionga, S. of Cape Delgado, in lat. 10° 45' S. The word Zanzibar is a modification of Zanguebar or Zinguebar, the name given by Portuguese traders to that part of the mainland of Africa between the river Juba and Cape Delgado, which is inhabited by the indigenous negro race. It is derived from Zing, the old Arabic name of the E. African negroes, and bar, the Persian or Indian word for country. The name is now obsolete among the natives, and the coasts of the mainland are called simply Es-sawahil, the coasts; but it is still used by Europeans to designate the entire territory ruled by the seyid or sultan of Zanzibar, as well as the island on which is his seat of government. The mainland has been but little explored back of the coast, as the seyid's authority is scarcely recognized beyond the walled towns garrisoned by his troops. The country N. of the Juba is occupied mostly by the Somauli or Eesah tribes, and S. of it by the Gallas and other smaller tribes.
The principal rivers are the Juba, which, though closed by a bar, is navigable for small craft, the Dana, the Sabaki, the Rufu, the Wami and Kingani opposite the island of Zanzibar, both of which are navigable, the Lufiji or Rufiji, and the Rovuma. The Lufiji is probably the most important, as it has a depth of five or six feet and a width of 250 yards, 30 m. from its mouth, in the dry season. The country watered by these rivers is very fertile, and supplies all kinds of tropical productions, including sugar, cotton, coffee, cocoa, cloves, nutmegs, cinnamon, Guinea pepper, sesame, and indigo, besides maize, millet, and rice. The forests furnish valuable timber and great quantities of caoutchouc and copal, and much fossil copal is dug in the country S. of the island of Zanzibar. All kinds of tropical fruits and vegetables abound. The elephant, rhinoceros, lion, leopard, hippopotamus, several kinds of antelopes, and the crocodile are found, and the rivers are well stocked with fish. Cattle, sheep, goats, and fowls are abundant. The principal towns on the coast held by the seyid are Makdishu, Marka, and Barawa, in the Somauli country, and Kismayu, Malindi, Mombas, Pangani, Bagamoyo, Kondutchi, Kilwa or Quiloa, and Lindi, on the Galla coast and the region S. of it.
Of the larger islands, Pemba has an area of 227 sq. m., and Mafia of 200 sq. m. The greater part of the trade of Zanzibar is in the hands of the banians or Hindoo traders, who collect the African produce for the European and American export houses, and distribute the. imported goods to the natives. They reside mostly in the coast towns, the interior commerce being carried on by Arabs, who make journeys of great length, sometimes as far as Angola on the "W. coast. The amount of trade can scarcely be estimated, as the custom-house returns are not to be depended upon; but according to Dr. Kirk, the Indian capital invested in Zanzibar island alone is more than £1,600,000. In 1872 the exports from that island were estimated at about $2,500,000, and the imports at nearly the same amount; the exports of ivory amounted to $770,000, of gum copal to $284,000, and of cloves to $267,000. The other principal exports are hides, goat skins, archil weed, surisuri seed, ebony, cocoanut oil, and gum myrrh. The revenue of the seyid is derived chiefly from the customs, which are farmed out to the banians for about $210,000 annually. - The island of Zanzibar, which extends from lat. 5° 42' to 6° 37' 8., has an area of 630 sq. m. and a population variously estimated from 100,000 to 380,000. It is separated from the mainland by a strait about 25 m. wide, filled with coral reefs and islets, and navigable only close to the island, which is itself of coral formation.
The W. shore is low and indented by many small inlets; the E. presents cliffs of coral reefs about 30 ft. above the level of the sea. The surface of the island, no part of which exceeds 250 ft. in elevation, is undulating. The soil is fertile, and is watered by many small streams. The climate is hot, oppressive, and enervating, and is generally considered unhealthy. A large part of the island is covered with groves of cotton trees, palms, and mangoes, and all the vegetable products of the mainland grow luxuriantly. There are but few wild animals, but all the domestic animals have been introduced. - The city of Zanzibar, or Beled-Zanzibar, called Unguja by the natives, is situated on the W. side of the island, in lat. 6° 10' S., Ion. 39° 14' E.; pop. estimated in 1875 at 80,000. It is built on a sandy peninsula, which was formerly insulated at high water, but is now connected with the main island by a stone bridge. The town has narrow crooked streets, which are cleaned only by the rains. The principal public buildings are the custom house, the mosques, and the bazaars, the last of which are large and well filled with merchandise.
The palace of the seyid and the houses of the foreign merchants are near the sea, opposite the harbor, and this part is much better kept than the city proper. Good water is supplied by aqueducts from small streams in the interior. The population is composed of various races, each of which has separate quarters. The Arabs constitute the bulk of the people, but there are also many negroes, Madagascans, and East Indians. The harbor is good, and generally safe at all seasons, but in 1872 many ships were destroyed there by a cyclone. The port is now the chief market for the ivory, gum copal, and clove trade. It was formerly also a great slave market, but the trade has been abolished by treaty, although it is still carried on surreptitiously on the mainland to a considerable extent. - Zanzibar became independent of Oman in 1862. (See Oman.) The seyid Majid died in 1870, and was succeeded by his younger brother Burghash. In 1873 the latter concluded a treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade, which was supplemented by another treaty signed in 1875, and a more decisive one in 1876. He visited England in 1875. In November, 1875, an Egyptian force occupied several of the seyid's towns in the Somauli country, but retired in December at the request of Great Britain.