Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres off the coast of the mainland, consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja and Pemba Island; the capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, a World Heritage Site. Zanzibar's main industries are spices and tourism. In particular, the islands produce cloves, nutmeg and black pepper. For this reason, the Zanzibar Archipelago, together with Tanzania's Mafia Island, are sometimes referred to locally as the "Spice Islands". Zanzibar is the home of the endemic Zanzibar red colobus, the Zanzibar servaline genet, the Zanzibar leopard; the word Zanzibar came from Arabic zanjibār, in turn from Persian zangbâr, a compound of Zang + bâr, cf. the Sea of Zanj. The name is one of several toponyms sharing similar etymologies meaning "land of the blacks" or similar meanings, in reference to the dark skin of the inhabitants.
The presence of microliths suggests that Zanzibar has been home to humans for at least 20,000 years, the beginning of the Later Stone Age. A Greco-Roman text between the 1st and 3rd centuries, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, mentioned the island of Menuthias, Unguja. Zanzibar, like the nearby coast, was settled by Bantu-speakers at the outset of the first millennium. Archaeological finds at Fukuchani, on the north-west coast of Zanzibar, indicate a settled agricultural and fishing community from the 6th century CE at the latest; the considerable amount of daub found indicates timber buildings, shell beads, bead grinders, iron slag have been found at the site. There is evidence for limited engagement in long-distance trade: a small amount of imported pottery has been found, less than 1% of total pottery finds from the Gulf and dated to the 5th to 8th century; the similarity to contemporary sites such as Mkokotoni and Dar es Salaam indicate a unified group of communities that developed into the first center of coastal maritime culture.
The coastal towns appear to have been engaged in Indian Ocean and inland African trade at this early period. Trade increased in importance and quantity beginning in the mid-8th century and by the close of the 10th century Zanzibar was one of the central Swahili trading towns. Excavations at nearby Pemba Island, but at Shanga in the Lamu Archipelago, provide the clearest picture of architectural development. Houses were built with timber and in mud with coral walls; the houses were continually rebuilt with more permanent materials. By the 13th century, houses were built with stone, bonded with mud, the 14th century saw the use of lime to bond stone. Only the wealthier patricians would have had stone and lime built houses, the strength of the materials allowing for flat roofs, while the majority of the population lived in single-story thatched houses similar to those from the 11th and 12th centuries. According to John Middleton and Mark Horton, the architectural style of these stone houses have no Arab or Persian elements, should be viewed as an indigenous development of local vernacular architecture.
While much of Zanzibar Town's architecture was rebuilt during Omani rule, nearby sites elucidate the general development of Swahili, Zanzibari, architecture before the 15th century. Persian and Arab traders used Zanzibar as a base for voyages between the Middle East and Africa. Unguja, the larger island, offered a protected and defensible harbor, so although the archipelago offered few products of value, traders settled at Zanzibar City a convenient point from which to trade with the other Swahili coast towns; the impact of these traders and immigrants on the Swahili culture is uncertain. During the Middle Ages and other settlements on the Swahili Coast were advanced; the littoral contained a number of autonomous trade cities. These towns grew in wealth as the Swahili people served as intermediaries and facilitators to local, inland mainland African, Persian, Malaysian and Chinese merchants and traders; this interaction contributed in part to the evolution of the Swahili culture, which developed its own written language.
Although a Bantu language, the Swahili language as a consequence today includes some elements that were borrowed from other civilizations loanwords from Arabic. With the wealth that they had acquired through trade, some of the Arab traders became rulers of the coastal cities. Vasco da Gama's visit in 1498 marked the beginning of European influence. In 1503 or 1504, Zanzibar became part of the Portuguese Empire when Captain Ruy Lourenço Ravasco Marques landed and demanded and received tribute from the sultan in exchange for peace. Zanzibar remained a possession of Portugal for two centuries, it became part of the Portuguese province of Arabia and Ethiopia and was administered by a governor general. Around 1571, Zanzibar became part of the western division of the Portuguese empire and was administered from Mozambique, it appears, that the Portuguese did not administer Zanzibar. The first English ship to visit Unguja, the Edward Bonaventure in 1591, found that there was no Portuguese fort or garrison.
The extent of their occupation was a trade depot where produce was purchased and collected for shipment to Mozambique. "In other respects, the affairs o