Zanzibar (zănˈzĭbär, zănzĭbärˈ) [key] or Stone Town, city (1994 est. pop. 160,000), capital of the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar and of Zanzibar West region, Tanzania, on the west coast of Zanzibar island, separated by a 22-mile (35-km) wide channel from the mainland of E Africa. It is the island's chief commercial center and seaport. Cloves and copra are the main exports. Zanzibar is a picturesque, cosmopolitan city, with winding streets, colorful bazaars, and interesting architecture. Of note are several mosques, the former sultan's palace, and Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals.
Founded in the 16th cent. as a Portuguese trade depot, the city remained insignificant until the 19th cent., when the sultan of Oman transferred (1841) his court there. It flourished as a major center of the E African ivory and slave trade and was regularly visited by U.S., British, and German trading vessels. In 1890 it became the capital of the British protectorate of Zanzibar (including the island of Pemba), and in 1963 it was made the capital of the independent republic of Zanzibar. When Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania, the city of Zanzibar continued as the seat of the archipelago's government.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.