There is no doubt at all that Zanzibar, and the whole coast of East Africa for that matter, has been greatly influenced ethnically and culturally by people from Persia, or Iran, as it is now called. The Persian new year, the Nairooz, is celebrated with a good deal of local enthusiasm in the islands as well as in several parts of the Coast. The majority of the people, the Wahadimu, the Watumbatu and the Wapemba, are referred to collectively as Washirazi who claim descent from early immigrants from Shiraz in Iran. In 1955 Sir John Gray, former Chief Justice in Zanzibar writing in a report on his investigation into claims to certain land in Pemba says:
"...for want of a better name it has become customary to call the era preceding the advent of the Portuguese the Shirazian era and call those inhabitants of Pemba, who claim descent from these early colonists, the Wa-Shirazi."
The true picture is not as simple as all that. Let us attempt to look into it more analytically than has so far generally been done. The most prevalent story relates that a prince from Shiraz by the name of Hassan bin Ali and his six sons arrived in East Africa about 985 AD., that is about one thousand years ago, and established themselves at several points on the coast and the isles. This is according to an Arabic chronicle found in Kilwa. However, another chronicle found in Pemba relates that a Sultan of Shiraz by the name of Darhash bin Shah was the one who betook himself from his home country to flee from famine. He was accompanied by two brothers, one sister, three sons of an aunt, a number of neighbours and slaves. A cousin of Darhash, named Shame bin Ali made his settlement in Pemba
Another cousin Daud bin Ali, and another cousin, and Darhash's sister, Kazija binti Shah, came down in Zanzibar, Kilwa and the mainland of Tanganyika. Kazija's child with a slave girl called Tanu binti Shah settled at Tumbatu. It is difficult to say whether these two chronicles of Kilwa and Pemba speak of the same incident, or relate two separate incidents which took place about the same time. What we can be certain of is that there did come some people to East Africa from Shiraz to make a permanent settlement about one thousand years ago.