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Zanzibar and Trade Routes

In 1806 Sayyid Said bin Sultan became ruler of Oman, and by 1814 he began to establish a firmer hold on Oman's dominions south of Mombasa and to consider gaining control over Mombasa and its environs, which, under the Mazrui family, had maintained its independence of Oman and had developed a good deal of influence in areas to the north and west. In 1822 Said's forces took over Pemba, which had served Mombasa as a granary, but it was not until 1837 that Said established Busaidi rule in Mombasa and exiled the Mazruis. In 1840 the capital of the Omani state was transferred from Muscat to Zanzibar.

Although Said was concerned with establishing a degree of political control over the islands and the coast, his primary interests lay in commerce. As long as the flow of production and trade was maintained and the suzerainty of the Busaidis duly recognized, de facto political control of specific communities remained in the hands of local elite families. Still less did the Zanzibaris attempt to dominate politically the peoples of the interior.

As the century wore on. Arab and Swahili traders were increasingly found in various parts of mainland Tanzania, and some towns had a substantial resident population of coastmen. These traders played a part in local politics as advisors and as suppliers of weapons but they did not, either on their own behalf or as agents of the sultans of Zanzibar, seek to govern the communities in which they lived or traded.

Said was interested not only in developing Zanzibar's external trade but also in making it a center of clove production. By the end of his reign in 1856, Zanzibar was producing three-quarters of the world's clove supply. In order to do this, local Africans on Zanzibar were forcibly removed from the most productive land to make room for plantations, and many of them were required to do forced labor. The remainder of the labor fence consisted of slaves brought from the mainland's interior. Arabs were less intrusive on Pemba where the mixed Afro-Arab population became involved in clove production.

The growth of the plantation economy attracted numbers of new Arab immigrants and contributed to the rise of an Arab planter aristocracy supplementing the Arab urban elite, itself increased by officials and administrators brought in by the sultan. As a consequence of these economic and social changes, the relative political autonomy of African communities on Zanzibar gave way to direct rule 1w Arab administrators. B the mid-nineteenth century the so-called pure Arab, once a minor element in the Zanzibari population, respected but not politically or economically significant, wielded great political and economic power; it remained a numerical minority, however.

Not all of the non-Africans were Arabs, nor were all the Arabs Omanis, although the Omanis were politically the most important. In addition to relatively small groups of Arabs from Yemen and the Persian Gulf there were large numbers from the Hadramaut and adjacent areas on the Arabian Peninsula.

Said had also encouraged the immigrations of Indians (locally called Banians) because. of their financial expertise and as sources of capital for trading ventures. In 1840 there were 2,000 Indians e: the island or working out of it; by the 1850s there were 5,000, both Hindu and. Muslim. There was also a smattering of other peoples including Somalis, Comorians, and Baluchi.

By the 1830s Zanzibaris were ready to respond to opportunities in the interior. Their interest specifically aroused by the ivory delivered by the Nyamwezi, the Zanzibaris undertook the development of a number of trading routes, some already established.

There were three major routes: the southern route from Kilwa west and southwest through Yao, Bena and Hehe country; the northern route from Tanga via the Pangani River valley northwest past the Pare Mountains to Mount Kilimanjaro, a branch veering off to what is now Kenya; and the central route from Bagamoyo through Sangu country east of Lake Rukwa to the southern end of Lake Tanganyika.

A second branch of the central route went through Cogo, Nyamwezi, and Ha territory to the important regional market at lijiji near the northern end of Lake Tanganyika. At Tabora in Nyamweziland, the central route branched north to Sukumaland and the southern shores of Lake Victoria and northwest through Karagwe west of Lake Victoria and thence to Buganda, which in the nineteenth century had become perhaps the most powerful of the interlacustrine Bantu states. By the 1850s Tabora had become the chief focus of trading activities for Arabs, Swahili, and Nyamwezi, and Indian financiers had sent a representative to the town to look after their own interests.

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