Professor Beatrice Nicolini

Click on Photo


Zanzibar (/ˈzænzɨbɑr/; from Arabic: زنجبارZanjibār, from Persian: زنگبارZangibār "Coast of Blacks"; zangi [black-skinned] + bār [coast])[3][4] is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar), and Pemba.


Western Indian Ocean History


"METODO", N. 18/2002

Beatrice Nicolini
(Researcher of History and Institutions of African and Asian Countries
Faculty of Political Science – Catholic University of the Sacred Heart– Milan)


The aim of this short note is focusing on the role played by religion and its influence, both numerous and complex, on Zanzibar Island and on the Subsaharan East African littorals throughout history with special reference to the nineteenth century.
Due to the wide and extremely complex subject, I would like to concentrate on Zanzibar, Unguja in kiswahili, as a case study, as I consider to be one of the most interesting and fascinating islands of the Western Indian Ocean.
From time immemorial, the spread of Islam through short as well as long-distance trade routes strongly influenced, and in many cases modified, East African societies. Islam undoubtedly made a tremendous impact upon the people of East Africa and of Zanzibar. Along the centuries, due to an increasing number of merchants, travellers and immigrants coming from southern Yemen, from Hadramawt and from other non Shiite areas, a solid Sunni-Shafi’i community emerged(1).
Along the littorals of East Africa the impact of Islam with pre-existing religious realities, mostly animism, was inevitably a shock for the latter ones. The growing predominance of Islamic trade and exercise of power politics in East Africa led to a misconception of the delicate, as well as of the troublesome, relationships between different societies and cultures. And the process was getting deeper and deeper within both Islamic and non-Islamic societies, especially western societies. So much so that Chabal still thinks today about East Africans:



Near the turn of the last century Stone Town was a bustling port, a trading centre, a supply and communication hub and a true International City. Travellers from many lands passed through Zanzibar and like modern tourists, many wanted to keep a record of the sights they had seen.

Cameras were large and complex in those days, hard to maintain and transport. But Zanzibar was fortunate to have intelligent citizens and business interests with enough foresight and skill to risk importing a number of these new-fangled cameras to the Islands. They were at once set up to photograph important events, buildings and sometimes local "colour" in order to sell pictures to an eager public. We are fortunate that many of these early photos were later made into post cards which survive to this day to give us a glimpse of the past.





Oman and Zanzibar


Only once in its history has Zanzibar had a leader rule for more than 25 years. There has only been one Zanzibar Silver Jubilee.
That of: Seyyid Khalifa bin Haroub bin Thuweini bin Said bin Sultan.

History of the Oman and Zanzibar Sultanate


Welcome to Real History World Wide


Western Indian Ocean History

African Books Collective

Buy African-published books online here for immediate shipping worldwide. Your one-stop shop for African books, African writers and African scholarship. African Books Collective is a non profit distribution collective owned by publishers on the continent.

Kenya's legendary international photojournalist Mohinder Dhillon (b.1932) gets honoured and recognised to be featured in the book 'Jewels of Punjab' (2019) as an iconic filmmaker and author.




Click above to order your copy

Tippu Tip Facts

Click above

Tippu Tip Facts

Tippu Tip (ca. 1840-1905), or Hamed bin Mohammed bin Juma bin Rajab el Murjebi a Swahili, was a Zanzibari trader who extended his influence into the Congo region and much of East Africa.

His mother, Bint Habib bin Bushir, was a Muscat Arab of the ruling class. His father and paternal grandfather were coastal Swahili who had taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. His paternal great-grandmother, wife of Rajab bin Mohammed bin Said el Murgebi, was the daughter of Juma bin Mohammed el Nebhani, a member of a respected Muscat (Oman) family, and a Bantu woman from the village of Mbwa Maji, a small village south of what would later become the German capital of Dar es Salaam

Hamed bin Mohammed el Murjebi was born into a Zanzibar merchant dynasty at a time when trading routes from that East African metropolis were beginning to reach into the area which today forms the Republic of Zaïre. His first expedition around the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika into northern Katanga took place in 1859-1860 and was followed by two more campaigns along the same route (which he preferred to the more commonly traveled route via Tabora and Ujiji) in 1865 and 1867-1869. It was during the course of his third expedition that he gained the nickname of Tippu Tip, an onomatopoeic imitation of his firearms, and befriended the British missionary and explorer David Livingstone.

Click above

Zanzibar with Coutinho Bros.


The Coutinho brothers established perhaps the first commercial photographic firm in East Africa. They had a studio in Zanzibar and then later also one in Dar es Salaam. In the 1890's J.B. Coutinhohad a brief partnership with A.C. Gomes.




Zanzibar, Vintage Post cards, click below



Historic Collections of Photos



Historic Zanzibar



A Selected Bibliography Asian African Writing


Swahili Chronicles Paperback –

December 16, 2015

by Mark Walker (Author, Photographer)


Mark Walker is a teller of stories, a poet, writer and photographer. His first book, "Swahili Chronicles", describes a journey of 5,000 kilometers taken through Tanzania exclusively using public transport. Told through diary entries, poems and photographs, Mark shares the characters he encounters and the many chance incidents that weave a fantastic tale – sometimes gritty, sometimes warm and uplifting, but always endearing.

Michèle Mouton French former rally driver with Tim Davis looking at his book on the History of the Safari



This book is not just another historical look back at the Safari, but it’s one that covers everything involved with the event from the cars, drivers & navigators, the weather, controllers, statistics and more - basically a complete all-rounder.

Please contact me at.....


On Call in Africa, in War and Peace, 1910-1932

Welcome to the website for On Call in Africa, in War and Peace, 1910-1932.

The book contains the story and eye-witness account of events based on the personal diary, memoirs and extensive photography of Dr Norman Parsons Jewell who served as a Medical Officer throughout the first world war in East Africa, as well as a Doctor and Administrator in the UK colonial service in Seychelles (pre-war) and Kenya (post-war).


Mr Shiraz Durrani
Let's meet at the Kenya National Theatre tomorrow 16/10/2018 to celebrate a real shujaa....


A Passage to Kenya (2017) by John Lawrence Nazareth 

John Lawrence Nazareth was educated at the University of Cambridge (Trinity College) and the University of California at Berkeley. He is a mathematical and algorithmic scientist, and university professor. He makes his home on Bainbridge Island near Seattle Washington.

Mr Muzzafar Khan, Author,Monsieur Adam, Zarina Patel with Zahid Rajan and Harsita Waters.

A new book titled INDIAN AFRICA, Minorities of Indian-Pakistani origin in East Africa, Edited by Michel Adam was launched at the residence of the French Ambassador on Thursday night 02 nd March 2017. Several writers and other dignitaries were invited for the book launch. Guests were treated to some of the best French wines and local Swahili cuisine.

Kenya-born Sultan Somjee

 is a Canada-based ethnographer and writer. He studied product design but soon his interest shifted from designing products to what stories were told in products – about people’s lives and how they reflected on the individuals, their families, ethnic and faith groups and in general on the human society. He pursued his interests through his MA and PhD, studying art and material culture…….continued… . 

Click on photo

The Beggar's Dance by Farida Somjee




Farida Somjee was born in Mbeya, Tanzania. She grew up in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam. Many of her childhood memories resonate with her and come across in her writing. She moved to Canada in her late teens with twenty dollars in her pocket, a lot of dreams and God on her side.

She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband and son. The Beggar’s Dance is her first novel. She moved to Canada in her late teens with twenty dollars in her pocket, a lot of dreams and God on her side.

She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband and son. The Beggar’s Dance is her first novel.......... 


Click on photo

Life Actually - My Memoirs


Who knew the eyes of a young girl from the East coast of Africa would see the far corners of the world? Indian-African Nargis Gercke was born in the Kenyan town of Mombasa before her family moved to Dar-es-Salaam ("the haven of peace) in neighbouring Tanganyika where she enjoyed a childhood so idyllic it felt like a hazy summer day. In Life Actually, Nargis tells her story of growing up in a vibrant multicultural family, being shipped off to boarding school in England and finally spreading her wings across the globe. As one of the first women in Dar-es-Salaam to marry a Caucasian, she and her Swiss husband, Siggi, leave the nest in 1970 and immerse themselves in a swath of cultures from Israel and Spain to China and Canada. The world is a pearl that Nargis has discovered time and time again. This isn't a life half-lived, this is life... actually.

Click on Photo


Mohamed Keshavjee's book "INTO THAT HEAVEN OF FREEDOM".
Dr Chhaya Goswami

When Gujarat’s Kachchhi Traders Had the World in Their Palms


By recreating a whole world around a group of traders in western India, Dr Chhaya Goswami’s Globalization before Its Time is business history as it should be.

The Arabian Sea has a special place in Indian business history. For centuries the cities and settlements on the Arabian Sea littoral traded with each other, exchanging Indian textiles for horse, armaments, pearls and ivory. In turn, some of the textiles were passed on to the Atlantic slave trade in Africa as a medium of exchange, or sent overland to European markets. Coastal merchants indigenous to the region bordering the sea engaged in this business and developed sophisticated systems of banking and shipbuilding to support the mercantile enterprise. The Hindu and Muslim traders of Kachchh were examples of such groups of people.

Click above

Meet the author, Judy Aldrick.


The Sultan’s Spymaster tells the story of Peera Dewjee, an Ismaili merchant who crossed from India to Zanzibar as a boy. Later he became Sultan Barghash’s barber and valet, where he became a confidant to the Sultan and a trusted advisor. Peera Dewjee acted behind the scenes during momentous events in the history of Zanzibar and EastAfrica – the closing of the slave markets and imperial expansion by Germany and Great Britain.

The Sultan’s Spymaster displays 16 pages of rare photographs from Zanzibar as well as numerous old line drawings in the text of the book itself.

Judy Aldrick, an expert on East African carved doors, spent over two years researching and writing this book using original documents from archives in the UK and Zanzibar. Spurred on by a request from Peera Dewjee’s descendants to learn more about their ancestor, Aldrick’s book tells a hidden story and spotlights the important role Indian merchants played in East African history



BREATH OF AFRICA is a novel by Jane Bwye

Shillingi, and Kenya’s Black History….. Jane Bwye Jane Bwye with her book at Eastbourne Christian Resource Centre.

Shillingi, and Kenya’s Black History….. Jane Bwye

Posted on February 5, 2016by jbwye

This year in the UK we are celebrating Black History in this month of February, 2016. Its purpose is to make people aware of the so-called Dark Continent which is often forgotten, cast aside as of no importance in our rapidly moving society, with its frenetic politics and economics, all tied up in red tape.


Click on Photo

Sana Aiyar Assistant Professor of History


Sana Aiyar is a historian of modern South Asia. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2009 and held an Andrew Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in 2009-10.  From 2010 to 2013 she was Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Her broad research and teaching interests lie in the regional and transnational history of South Asia and South Asian diasporas, with a particular focus on colonial and postcolonial politics and society in the Indian Ocean.

Her book Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora (Harvard University Press, 2015) explores the interracial and extraterritorial diasporic political consciousness of South Asians in Kenya from c. 1895 to 1968 who mediated constructions of racial and national identity across the Indian Ocean. Her recent publications include “Anticolonial Homelands across the Indian Ocean: The Politics of the Indian Diaspora in Kenya c. 1930-1950," American Historical Review, 116(4), 2011; “Empire, Race and the Indians in Colonial Kenya’s Contested Public Political Sphere from 1919-1923," AFRICA: Journal of the International African Institute, 8(1) 2011; and “Fazlul Huq, Region and Religion in Bengal: The Forgotten Alternative of 1940-43," Modern Asian Studies, 42(6), 2008.

An African History of the Global Indian


Who was  Ali Mazrui?

Other Books of Interests

Other Books of Interests


Old Africa magazine




Books of East Africa, Shakari Connection


A listing of books about Africa, and Kenya in particular is available here.


Asians in East and Central Africa " by Shanti Pandit.


Portrait of a Minority ", by Dharam P Ghai/ Yash P Ghai.


MEGHJI PETHRAJ SHAH " , a biography by Paul Marett !!!


The Asians in East Africa by Agehananda Bharati


Books on Wars in Africa


Click on Photo

Click on Photo


Cynthia Salvadori

The news of Cynthia Salvadori’s sudden death in Lamu on Monday 27th June, at the age of 76? , will come as a sad shock to her many friends. 

She will be remembered chiefly for her books about the Asian Communities and the Asian pioneers in Kenya.  She chose to draw attention to these communities at a time when their history had been largely ignored and their contribution to Kenyan society was underrated.

Obituaries, Cynthia Salvadori, a tribute

Neera Kapur-Dromson


We came in dhows

We Came in Dhows: Three Volumes in a Box Set Compiled by Cynthia Salvadori
Paper Chase Kenya 1996, 630 Pages

by Cynthia Salvadori


The Asian legacy in Africa and the white man's colour culture Hardcover – January 1, 1979 by H. E Mohamed (Author)

The Asian Contributions in East Africa (click on books for more info)

Fatma Jinja