The shortest war...
Territorial/ Colonial disputes between Britain and Germany, led to what has been recorded as the `shortest war in history'.
Britain attacked Zanzibar August 25 1896, when the Sultan of Zanzibar, with German support, tried to defy its prevailing influence in the region.
A fleet of British warships bombed the island and the Sultans palace, leaving it in ruins and with hundreds dead.
The `war' lasted all of 45 mins, before the Sultan surrendered, and the battle is officially listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the shortest war in history.
The “Spice Island”
35 kilometers off the coast of east-central Africa lies the island Zanzibar. Surrounded by the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean, lined with white beaches and adorned with undulating hills and palm trees that sway in the trade winds, Zanzibar is truly a picturesque island. While relatively small—85 km at its greatest length and 39 km wide—it has played a large role in Africa’s history.
For centuries Persians, Arabs, Indians, Portuguese, British, Asians, North Americans, and, of course, mainland Africans have visited Zanzibar. The main attraction then was the lucrative slave trade. It was also where traders and explorers obtained supplies. Indeed, most of the European explorers of Africa in the 19th century passed through this isle! Little wonder that it came to be called the Gateway to Africa. The Sultan of Oman, Sayid Said, left his homeland on the Persian Gulf and settled in Zanzibar during the first half of the 1800’s. As the ruler of this isle, he made the Arab plantation owners stop growing coconuts and instead plant a far more profitable crop: cloves. By the end of his life, clove profits were exceeded only by the slave and ivory trade. So when the slave trade was abolished, Zanzibar became known as the Spice Island. Today it is the world’s chief source of cloves.
Cloves are actually the dried flower buds of a tropical evergreen. The scientific name of the tree is Eugenia caryophyllata. In Zanzibar, the average tree is about 9 m tall. The flower buds are generally harvested when they are reddish-brown in color and are about 1.3 cm in size. A healthy tree can produce up to about 34 kg of the buds. After being harvested they are laid out to dry in the hot tropical sun.
Central Market area
In the old Stone Town I prefered more the area around the Central Market, west of the Creek Street than the area around Kenyatta Road. In the market area you find many tiny shops and streetstalls, where you can buy almost everything, food, herbs, spices, shoes, clothing, batteries, electronics.
I enjoyed the colours, smells and flavours and the local atmosphere. Here you don't see many tourists. It's more relaxed to walk here, because the vendors don't bother you by asking to enter their shops or to buy something. It's a good area to buy fruits, herbs and spices.
The roofs of Stone Town
The world of the narrow twisting alleyways is one world. The world of the rooftops is another. Many old mansions in the old town have a rooftop bar, like our hotel, from where you have nice views at the town and surrounding ocean.
During the 19th century many of the houses had flat stone terraces. Because the heavy rains destroyed the poles, supporting the roofs the houses were capped by roofs of iron sheets. It was wonderful to sit at the rooftopbar of our Arab mansion in the little breeze and have a look at the various colours of the roofs of iron and tiles. In the evening it was even better, seeing the lights of the town.
The Verandas of Stone Town
When you are strolling around in the alleyways of Stone Town, there is more than enough to see at eyes height. But its also worth not to forget to look up, to see the many lovely balconies and verandas.
The Indian merchants at Zanzibar often started with buying a Arab or Swahili house, to which they added their characteristic outer verandas, to increase ventilation. Later they built their houses on Indian design with elaborate verandas with intricate railings and fascia boards.