This trip took us up to the Northern tip of the main island, Unguja Island, which most people just call "Zanzibar." So, already I feel like I need to back up. Zanzibar is a semi-automous island archipeligo which is governed by the Republic of Tanzania. The population is 99% Muslim and 100% awesome.
People there speak Swahili and English, although if you are in the hospitality business, as most everyone we interacted with, you likely speak Italian, French, Spanish, German, Dutch and anything else that is deemed useful. This fact made a huge impression on our boys who were embarrassed to only speak English and have a solid but beginning grasp on French. They have heard enough Swahili in their lives to be comfortable trying out new vocabulary and spent a lot of time while we were there quizzing eachother and TJ and anyone who would talk to them on "how do you say....?" We, the parents were also scolded severely for not making sure they were bi- or tri- lingual. This is a sore point for us all because it is a real regret about living in an environment where we are regularly exposed to other languages but almost never have to use it. (ciNyanglish does NOT count as a language, boys, sorry!)
To try to unravel Zanzibar's 20,000 year history of human settlement in one post is not something I'm going to attempt. Given the republic's 50th anniversary, however, I can take a stab at that. In 1963 the island archipeligo become independent from their UK protectorate and soon after (April 1964) another step was taken towards autonomy mainland Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to become "The United Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar...which then soon became "Tanzania". Here is a good "SAT word" for you: portmonteau. It is a linguistc blend, or morphemes of two words. Tanzania...which we pronounce as TAN-ZAN-EE-YA but we hear occasionally as TAN-ZAANE-EEYA. As a very side side note, portmonteau is also "coatrack" in French. In the context of being a linguistic term in english it was first used in 1871 by Lewis Carroll as Humpty-Dumpty explained to Alice about slithy (lithe and slimy) and mimsy (flimsy and miserable). Which reminds me that we regularly use the term "Zamboozled" to describe the many ways we are bamboozled by Zambia.
At any rate, Tanziania for the time being remains the protectorate of Zanzibar. This could change, however. At the very least, the details of the Tanzanian-Zanzibari relationship could change because there is a genuine undercurrent of discontent that Zanzibar does not have enough control of their own population and even that the Tanzanians (and Kenyans) are basically bullies to the 'native' population of Zanzibaris...economically, socially, etc.
The physical relationship between the two republics IS clear. The two main islands, Unguja and Pempa sit offshore from the mainland, separated by a channel between 23 and 35 miles. Unguja is 53 miles / 85 kilometers long. Pemba is 42 miles/ 67 kilometers long.
It's hot (70-95 degrees) and humid and as a result is lush and green and insanely beautiful. Which...is what makes it so dang popular with tourists.
Our last trip took us mainly to Jambiyani but we also spent time at the southern end of the island (Kizimkazi) and in Stonetown. This time we ventured up to the northern tip to the beaches at Nungwi and then to a super-posh resort in Kiwenga on the Eastern side of the island. We did a day-trip by dhow to Mnemba Atoll for snorkelling and an amazing lunch on the beach and had some time in Stone-town to roam around. Fun Stuff. By some weird glitch, the posh place was a great deal...we were there on the cusp of 'seasons' and this particular hotel not only started their low season rates a week earlier but they also had a weird 'teenager' rate for our 12 year old where every other place was still in high season and only had child or adult rates. Adult rates start at 12. (But judging from the argument going on downstairs between our two boys...12 is a lot more like 3! Sigh.) It was great to go someplace new and as much as we are not 5-Star tourists, it was nice to be somewhere where all the thinking was done for you. The few occasions where we have stayed at posh resorts, we have been lucky enough to end up in ones that are not so generic that you really could be anywhere in the world. This place definitely was "Zanzibar"...but Zanzibar with cold drinks, AC, cable TV and...bush-babies cheering us on during our night-time tennis match.
Needless to say the trip was wonderful and a great way to celebrate our 15th (while Zambia celebrated her 50th.)