Quick reference

General issues: British protectorate 1895-1963, Sultanate 1963-1964, Peoples republic 1964, Constituent part of Tanzania 1964-1967

Country name on general issues: Zanzibar

Special issues: Foreign offices France 1894-1904

Currency: 1 Rupee = 16 Anna 1895-1908, 1 Rupee = 100 Cent 1908-1936, 1 Shilling = 100 Cent 1936-1967

Population: 197 000 in 1913, 190 000 in 1967

Political history Zanzibar

The 19th century sultanate

Postal history Zanzibar

Please click on the image to enlarge

Zanzibar is located in eastern Africa. Zanzibar in the early 19th century is part of the sultanate of Muscat[1]The current Oman. on the Arabian Peninsula. In 1856, Zanzibar becomes a separate sultanate – although a tributary to Muscat until 1964. In 1856, the sultanate of Zanzibar comprises the Zanzibar Archipelago and, on the mainland of eastern Africa, the coastal region from Cape Delgado in Mozambique to the Benadir Coast in current Somalia and territories along the main caravan route from the coast to Lake Tanganyika and Congo – none of these territories having exactly defined borders.

European spheres of influence

European colonization will effect Zanzibar from the late 19th century. The colonial powers have, in 1885, in Berlin, agreed upon their respective spheres of influence in Africa. The territories of the sultanate of Zanzibar thus come to fall within the British, German and Italian spheres of influence. The British will establish themselves through the British East Africa Company, eventually forming the protectorate of British East Africa, the Germans establish themselves through the German East Africa Company to form the protectorate of German East Africa and the Italians will settle in eastern Africa through the Benadir Company to form the protectorate of Italian Somaliland.

Sultan Khalifa bin Harub 1879-1960 - ruled Zanzibar from1911 to 1960

Sultan Khalifa bin Harub 1879-1960 – ruled Zanzibar from 1911 to 1960


The colonization of eastern Africa greatly affects Zanzibar. First, in 1886 the British and the Germans, through a mutual treaty, limit the territory of Zanzibar to the Zanzibar Archipelago, a strip along the coast 10 nautical miles wide from Cape Delgado in the south to Kipini in the north and 5 cities on the Benadir Coast. The territory of Zanzibar is further encroached upon when the British and the Germans, from 1888, lease the parts of the coastal strip in British and German East Africa respectively – the Germans also leasing the island of Mafia. The Italians lease the cities on the Benadir Coast from 1889. In 1890, the British and the Germans sign an additional treaty. Zanzibar becomes a British protectorate. The coastal region owned by Zanzibar in British East Africa de jure becomes the protectorate of Kenya – de facto it will be administered as part of British East Africa. The coastal region in German East Africa – including Mafia – is bought by the Germans and becomes an integral part of German East Africa. The cities leased by the Italians will, in 1905, be annexed by Italy to become an integral part of Italian Somaliland. Thus, by 1905, the sultanate of Zanzibar has de facto been reduced to the islands of Unguja and Pemba.


Zanzibar will be a British protectorate until 1963, when it gains independence as the sultanate of Zanzibar. In 1964, a revolution turns the sultanate into the peoples republic of Zanzibar that – also in 1964 – will join Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanganyika & Zanzibar.  The United Republic of Tanganyika & Zanzibar will, later in 1964, change its name to Tanzania, as we know it today.

Zanzibar, within Tanzania, has a certain amount of self government and, as a consequence, has its own parliament. As part of Tanzania, Zanzibar will be part of the East African Community until its dissolution in 1977. The main population group in Zanzibar are the Swahili, a Bantu people. Zanzibar has a notable Arab minority. The production of spices are an important part of the economy.

Postal history Zanzibar

Postal history Zanzibar

1926 – Sultan Khalifa bin Harub

Foreign offices

The first post office to be opened in Zanzibar is a British Indian office that existed from 1868 to 1869, and again from 1876 to 1895. At this office the stamps of British India were used. The Germans open a post office in 1888 that is closed in 1891 – here German stamps are used. The French have a post office on Zanzibar from 1889 until 1904. Until 1894, and, again in 1904, the stamps of France are used. From 1894 until 1904, stamps are used issued specifically for the office in Zanzibar. These issues are mostly overprints on the stamps of France – the overprint being the face value in the local currency and – for part of the issues – ‘Zanzibar’.


As a British protectorate, Zanzibar issues stamps from 1895. The first set are overprints on British Indian stamps – the overprint reading ‘Zanzibar’. The first definitives are issued in 1896. Although several issues are of the common designs for the British colonies – including the omnibus issues – many issues are specific for Zanzibar showing the image of the sultan of Zanzibar. The independent sultanate of Zanzibar will issue one set of stamps in 1963 – commemorating independence. The peoples republic of Zanzibar will issue stamps from 1964.

Zanzibar will, as a part of the United Republic of Tanganyika & Zanzibar and of Tanzania, continue to issue stamps until 1967. The stamps of Tanzania will supersede the issues of Zanzibar in 1968. Also in 1968, the joint issues of the East African Community – inscribed Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda – will be introduced in Zanzibar to be used concurrently with the issues of Tanzania.

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