Zanzibar has a most romantic, old and fascinating history which emanates from long interaction with many cultures. As early as AD 60, Zanzibar was first mentioned by the Periplous of the Erythraen one of the famous Greek sailors of that time, in his writings. This suggests that residents and traders from other continents must have visited Zanzibar. The earliest travelers came from Persia, India and North Africa. Then the arrival of Shirazis, Omanis, Portuguese and the British exposed Zanzibar to the rest of the world. Legendary Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama visited Zanzibar in 1499 on his way to India. The British warship, Edward Bonaventure anchored at the Zanzibar port in 1592 lead by James Lancaster. British colonization of Zanzibar begun later and ended in 1963.
After ousting the Portuguese, the Omani Arabs ruled over Zanzibar. Their influence wasnt really felt until 1804, when Seyyid Said bin Sultan arrived from Oman and fell in love with this lush tropical island. He made Zanzibar the capital of the Omani empire and moved his court and palaces to the island in 1832. In 1818, he introduced cloves to the islands and they flourished in the sunshine and fertile soil on the west coasts of both Unguja and Pemba. During the nineteenth century, clove mania hit the islands and the archipelago became the largest producer of cloves in the world. Coconuts, cloves, ivory and slaves powered Zanzibars economy, making it a centre for trade. In 1860, cloves made up 22% of Zanzibars exports, with the royal family receiving a hefty 25% export tax on all clove exports, despite the stagnation of the market caused by overproduction.
The royal family owned several plantations, manned by slaves, picking, drying and sorting cloves in the baking sun. Over time, other spices were introduced from Asiaand South America, including cinnamon, ginger and cardamom, which have come an ingrained part of Zanzibari life. The archipelago became known as the Spice Islands and it was said that sailors were greeted by the scent of cloves on the wind as they sailed into port in Zanzibar.