Who Are The Sultans Of Zanzibar?

The Sultan's Palace at Zanzibar.
The Sultan's Palace at Zanzibar.

History Of Zanzibar

In 1698, Saif bin Sultan of Oman gained control of present-day Zanzibar after a conflict against Portugal in present-day Kenya. Over 100 years later (sometime between 1832 and 1840) under the rule of Said bin Sultan, the capital of Oman was moved to Stone Town, the oldest city on the largest island of Zanzibar. Upon his death in 1856, the kingdom was divided into two realms to be controlled by his two sons: Thuwaini bin Said, who ruled Oman, and Majid bin Said, who ruled the newly created Sultanate of Zanzibar. This article takes a closer look at some of the sultans of the Sultanate of Zanzibar throughout history.

Majid bin Said

As previously mentioned, Majid bin Said became the first sultan of Zanzibar after dividing his father’s kingdom with his brother. He ruled over the Sultanate of Zanzibar from 1856 to 1870. During his time as sultan, Majid bin Said participated in the East African slave trade to help increase his power. Said’s 14-year rule was contested by his brother Barghash bin Said, who tried to overthrow him from the throne in 1859. Barghash spent the next two years in exile in Bombay. Because Said only had one daughter and no sons during his marriage, he had no heirs to the throne. The crown was given to Barghash when Said passed away in 1870.

Barghash bin Said

Barghash bin Said, the brother of Majid bin Said, became the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1870. During his first year as Sultan, his younger brother Khalifah bin Said attempted a military coup to take control of the throne. Barghash had him thrown in prison for 3 years. Barghash is most remembered for his contributions to the infrastructure of Stone Town, including: bridges, hospitals, roads, police force, buildings, telegraph poles, and piped water. Additionally, he is credited with abolishing the slave trade in Zanzibar in 1873. Although Barghash managed to fight off European influence for the majority of his time as Sultan, he began to lose control of his empire to Germany towards the end of his reign. In 1886, he entered an agreement with the United Kingdom, which said that candidates for the Sultanate must be approved by the British consul.

Khalifah bin Said

Khalifah bin Said became the third Sultan of Zanzibar upon his brother's death in 1888. Although his Reign only lasted for two years, he is known for supporting the abolition of the slave trade. When Khalifah died in 1890, his brother Ali bin Said took the throne.

Ali bin Said

Ali bin Said became the fourth Sultan of Zanzibar in 1890. He entered the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty with the United Kingdom and the German Empire, making Zanzibar a British protectorate. He ruled Zanzibar until his death in 1893 when his nephew, Hamad bin Thuwaini, took the throne.

Hamad bin Thuwaini

Hamad bin Thuwaini was the fifth Sultan of Zanzibar and ruled between 1893 and 1896. This Sultan was known to be a pro-British ruler, which means that he supported cooperation between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar. Some historians believe that he was poisoned by his cousin, Khalid bin Barghash, who immediately took the throne after his death.

Khalid bin Barghash

Khalid bin Barghash, the sixth Sultan of Zanzibar, only ruled for 3 days. Not only was his reign the shortest in the history of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, but he also participated in the shortest recorded war in world history - the Anglo-Zanzibar War. This war was fought between Zanzibar and the United Kingdom in August of 1896, because Khalid bin Barghash had not obtained approval from the British Consul to assume the throne. It only lasted between 38 and 45 minutes.

A more complete list of the Sultans of Zanzibar can be found in the chart published below.

Who Are The Sultans Of Zanzibar?

NumberSultanBegan ruleEnded rule
1Majid bin Said19 Oct 567 October 1870
2Barghash bin Said7 October 187026 March 1888
3Khalifa bin Said26 March 188813 February 1890
4Ali bin Said13 February 18905 March 1893
5Hamid bin Thuwayni5 Mar 9325 August 1896
6Khalid bin Barghash25 August 189627 August 1896[C]
7Hamoud bin Mohammed27 Aug 9618 July 1902
8Ali bin Hamud20 Jul 029 Dec 11
9Khalifa bin Harub9 December 19119 October 1960
10Abdullah bin Khalifa9 October 19601 Jul 63
11Jamshid bin Abdullah1 July 196312 Jan 64

More in Politics