What is Zanzibar?
The name Zanzibar is exotic, sounds simple, but practically confusing. Its origin has been speculated to be either Persian or Arabic (see People and Culture on this website). Let the history aside, Zanzibar refers to the archipelago, the island of Unguja, and the urban centre. The name Zanzibar is definitely going to be used a couple of times on this website but as a word of caution, always check the context.
Zanzibar archipelago comprises the islands of Unguja (also called Zanzibar) and Pemba with a number of islets adjecent thereto. It is part of the United Republic of Tanzania but administratively there is an autonomous government for matters that are not part of the union agreement.
The island of Zanzibar, also called Unguja, is separated from the mainland of East Africa (Tanzania) by a channel which is at its narrowest part 36 km (22 1/2 miles) across. It lies between latitudes 5° 40' and 6° 30' South; and longitude 39° East. It is about 85 km (53 miles) in lenght and 39 km (24 miles)in breadth at its broadest point. Its area is about 1 660 square km (640 square miles). It is the largest island on the east caost of Africa.
The island of Pemba lies about 40 km (25 miles) NNE of Zanzibar between latitude 4° 80' south and longitude 39° 35' and 39° 50' east. It is separated from the main continent by a channel some 56 km (35 miles) wide. It is smaller than Zanzibar, being 67 km (42 miles) long by 23 km (14 miles) wide (maximum) and having an area of 985 square km (380 square miles).
Zanzibar is an autonomous part of the United Republic of Tanzania (URT). It has its own government catering for matters not part of the union agreement of 1964. The House of Representatives or as known in Swahili, Baraza la Wawakilishi (BLW), consisting of elected members from constituencies throughout the archipelago is the sole law making organ. However, the power is in the hands of the President who, under the current constitution, is also a member of the URT Cabinet. There is also a Revolutionary Council, also known in Swahili as Baraza la Mapinduzi (BLM) whose role is, at present, somehow obscured.
Zanzibar has five administrative regions and 10 districts:
- Kaskazini Unguja (North Zanzibar)
- Kaskazini A (North A)
- Kaskazini B (North B)
- Kusini Unguja (South Zanzibar)
- Kati Unguja (Zanzibar Central)
- Kusini Unguja (Zanzibar South)
- Mjini Magharibi (Urban West)
- Mjini (Zanzibar Urban)
- Magharibi (Zanzibar West)
- Kaskazini Pemba (North Pemba)
- Kusini Pemba (South Pemba)