Where the first inhabitants of Zanzibar (Arabic: Zinj el-Barr = land of the black people) came from is unclear. Probably they were fishermen who – far before Christ – came from the mainland of Africa to sail to Zanzibar. For ages Zanzibar was a transit port and during many centuries Arabs sailed on the monsoons from Oman to trade ivory, slaves and spices. This is most certainly why there is a Muslim community in Zanzibar. Currently more than 95% of the inhabitants is Islamic, the majority of which are Sunnis. The rest of the population is Christian, Hindu or belong to other beliefs. Besides mosques there are also churches and temples in Zanzibar. Examples are the Anglican Cathedral ‘Church of Christ’ and the Catholic Church of Saint Joseph.

Zanzibar is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean about 25 – 50 kilometres off  the coast of the mainland of Tanzania of which it is a part. It consists of several islands of which Unguja is the biggest. This island is informally referred to as Zanzibar. Th two other larger islands are Pemba en Mafia. The capital is Zanzibar Town (located on Unguja) with it’s historic centre: Stone Town. Stone Town still maintains its old world appeal and was once considered one of the world’s most important trading ports. In 2000 Stone Town was recently declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. 


Zanzibar has a tropical climate. The best time to travel there is between June and October. In this period the average temperature is between 24 and 30°C (75 and 86°F). A seabreeze will bring fresh temperatures to the island. Between November and March temperatures can rise upto 35°C (95°F) The rainy season is in April and May. September until March are the best month for scuba diving and snorkeling. Zanzibar has a semi-autonomous status with their own president and parliament. The main sources of income are spices (cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper) and tourism.


The archipelago

Presidentiële paleis
Presidential palace

The archipelago has approximately 1,3 million inhabitants with an annual growth of about 3 %.  On the Human Development Report Tanzania currently holds the 152nd position in the world.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators. For Tanzania the HDI is 0,476 and for Zanzibar 0,662. The Netherlands hold the fourth position in the world with an HDI of 0,915. It is difficult to compare expenditures between the two countries. However, in 2011 the Netherlands spent approximately $ 6.000 per capita on healthcare whereas Tanzania spent $ 37,30 per capita: 160 times less.

Moreover the government of Tanzania only contributes 40 %. In comparison the Dutch government contributes 86 %. Although the local doctors have learnt to make the best of what they have, the above indicates the the quality of care in Tanzania and Zanzibar is far less than in the Netherlands. For instances, laboratory investigations are not available in many public hospitals because of high costs. Medication is in many cases unavailable for patients.

The underprivileged are dependent on the sporadic distribution of free medication, others can buy medication with their own money in local pharmacies.

Woonhuis van Dr Livingstone
Dr Livingstone’s house