Zanzibar is an archipelago consisting of two main Islands of Unguja (commonly referred to as Zanzibar Island), Pemba and about 51 other surrounding small islets. Zanzibar is a partner state in the United Republic of Tanzania with the Mainland. The name Zanzibar is derived from a combination of two Arabic words, 'Zenj', meaning black, and 'bar', being the Arabic word for land, resulting in the ancient title 'Land of the Blacks'. As Zanzibar absorbed peoples from as far as the Orient and Iberia, Assyria and India. Pemba is the second largest island of the Archipelago, named Al-khudra "The Green Island” by the Arabic mariners. It is famous for its clove production and its channels offer some of the best diving experiences in East Africa.
The Zanzibar archipelago is a tropical island and its climate is subject to the whims of monsoon winds. The northern monsoon (known as Kaskazi in Kiswahili) lasts three to four months from December to March. The South west monsoon (Kusi) lasts from April to November. The rainy seasons (Masika) starts in March or April and lasts in May. June to October is the dry season and temperatures are clement. There are short rains known as Vuli. Zanzibar gets about 152 cm of rains annually. The maximum temperatures are 31.4 Celsius in February and 27.2 Celsius in July. The minimum temperatures are 26.6 Celsius in March and 21.7 Celsius in June.
Zanzibar’s allure is legendary. One of East Africa’s great trading centres, the archipelago has been for centuries a crossroads of culture, a melting pot of influences where Africa, India and Arabia meet, a complete change of pace from the mainland, a place where life’s rhythms are set by the monsoon winds and the cycles of the moon.
While Zanzibar gets most of the attention, the archipelago is also made up of Pemba to the north, plus numerous smaller islands and islets. Each of the main islands has its own distinct character. Zanzibar’s major attraction is Stone Town, with its whitewashed, coral-rag houses, quaint shops, bazaars, mosques, courtyards and squares. Another draw card is its spectacular sea, edged by fine, white-sand beaches. Although many places have become very developed, there are still some quiet spots left.
Verdant Pemba, in contrast, is hilly, densely vegetated and seldom visited. Voodoo flourishes amid its hilly terrain, winding creeks lace the shoreline, and the mangrove-lined coast opens occasionally onto hidden, pristine coves and bays the colour of emerald.