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Zanzibar Island

For a small island in the southern waters of the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar has a long and unexpected history. For centuries the island has been a center of slave and ivory trade, if not all trading, from central Africa to the rest of the world and was the world's main producer of the highly valued clove spice.

It is also the center of Swahili language and culture. Zanzibar is the undisputed capital of the Swahili coast.

The first Europeans to encounter this vast trading network and culture around Zanzibar were the Portuguese, who arrived in the late 15th Century.

The Portuguese were ousted with the help of Oman, in the mid- 16th Century, whose vast trade connections had severed by the entrance of the Portuguese.

Zanzibar became the seat of the Omani empire, when Sultan Seyyid Said moved his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar in 1840, due largely to its economic importance in the empire and unrest at home. This was to last only 50 years until the British, keen on expanding their colonial reach, declared Zanzibar a British Protectorate. This, in turn, was to last until 1963, when the British handed power back to the Sultan in a constitutional monarchy which was itself overthrown in early 1964 in a violent revolution which established the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, which rules the country to this day.

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