List of sultans of Zanzibar

The sultans of Zanzibar (Arabic: سلاطين زنجبار) were the rulers of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, which was created on 19 October 1856 after the death of Said bin Sultan, who had ruled Oman and Zanzibar as the sultan of Oman since 1804. The sultans of Zanzibar were of a cadet branch of the Al Said Dynasty of Oman.[1]

Sultan of Zanzibar
Sultanate flag
Longest serving ruler:
Khalifa bin Harub of Zanzibar
9 December 1911 – 9 October 1960
First monarchMajid bin Said
Last monarchJamshid bin Abdullah
ResidenceSultan's Palace, Stone Town
Pretender(s)Jamshid bin Abdullah

In 1698, Zanzibar became part of the overseas holdings of Oman, falling under the control of the sultan of Oman. In 1832,[2] or 1840[3] (the date varies among sources), Said bin Sultan moved his capital from Muscat in Oman to Stone Town. He established a ruling Arab elite and encouraged the development of clove plantations, using the island's slave labour.[4] Zanzibar's commerce fell increasingly into the hands of traders from the Indian subcontinent, whom Said encouraged to settle on the island. After his death in 1856, two of his sons, Majid bin Said and Thuwaini bin Said, struggled over the succession, so Zanzibar and Oman were divided into two separate principalities; Thuwaini became the sultan of Oman while Majid became the first sultan of Zanzibar.[5] During his 14-year reign as sultan, Majid consolidated his power around the East African slave trade. His successor, Barghash bin Said, helped abolish the slave trade in Zanzibar and largely developed the country's infrastructure.[6] The third sultan, Khalifa bin Said, also furthered the country's progress toward abolishing slavery.[7]

Until 1886, the sultan of Zanzibar controlled a substantial portion of the east African coast, known as Zanj, and trading routes extending further into the continent, as far as Kindu on the Congo River. That year, the British and Germans secretly met and re-established the area under the sultan's rule. Over the next few years, most of the mainland possessions of the Sultanate were taken by European imperial powers. With the signing of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in 1890 during Ali bin Said's reign, Zanzibar became a British protectorate.[8] In August 1896, Britain and Zanzibar fought a 38-minute war, the shortest in recorded history, after Khalid bin Barghash had taken power after Hamid bin Thuwaini's death. The British had wanted Hamoud bin Mohammed to become sultan, believing that he would be much easier to work with. The British gave Khalid an hour to vacate the sultan's palace in Stone Town. Khalid failed to do so, and instead assembled an army of 2,800 men to fight the British. The British launched an attack on the palace and other locations around the city. Khalid retreated and later went into exile. Hamoud was then installed as sultan.[9]

In December 1963, Zanzibar was granted independence by the United Kingdom and became a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth under the sultan.[10] Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah was overthrown a month later during the Zanzibar Revolution.[11] Jamshid fled into exile, and the Sultanate was replaced by the People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. In April 1964, the republic was united with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which became known as Tanzania six months later.[3]

Sultans of Zanzibar

No.SultanFull namePortraitBegan ruleEnded ruleRule durationNotes
1Majid bin Said[A]Sayyid Majid bin Said Al-Busaid19 October 1856[12]7 October 187013 years, 347 daysBargash bin Said attempted to usurp the throne from his brother in 1859, but failed. He was exiled to Bombay for two years.[13]
2Barghash bin SaidSayyid Sir Barghash bin Said Al-Busaid7 October 187026 March 188817 years, 148 daysResponsible for developing much of the infrastructure in Zanzibar (especially Stone Town), like piped water, telegraph cables, buildings, roads, etc. Helped abolish the slave trade in Zanzibar by signing an agreement with Britain in 1870, prohibiting slave trade in the sultanate, and closing the slave market in Mkunazini.[6]
3Khalifa bin SaidSayyid Sir Khalifa I bin Said Al-Busaid26 March 188813 February 18901 year, 352 daysSupported abolitionism, like his predecessor.[7]
4Ali bin SaidSayyid Sir Ali bin Said Al-Busaid13 February 18905 March 18933 years, 20 daysThe British and German Empires signed the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in July 1890. This treaty turned Zanzibar into a British protectorate.[B]
5Hamid bin ThuwayniSayyid Sir Hamad bin Thuwaini Al-Busaid5 March 1893[14]25 August 18963 years, 173 days
6Khalid bin BarghashSayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid25 August 189627 August 1896[C]2 daysWas a belligerent in the Anglo-Zanzibar War, the shortest war in recorded history.
7Hamoud bin MohammedSayyid Sir Hamoud bin Mohammed Al-Busaid27 August 1896[15]18 July 19025 years, 325 daysIssued the final decree abolishing slavery from Zanzibar on 6 April 1897.[15] For this, he was knighted by Queen Victoria.
8Ali bin HamudSayyid Ali bin Hamud Al-Busaid20 July 1902[16]9 December 1911[D]9 years, 144 daysThe British First Minister, Mr A. Rogers, served as regent until Ali reached the age of 21 on 7 June 1905.[17]
9Khalifa bin HarubSayyid Sir Khalifa II bin Harub Al-Busaid9 December 19119 October 196048 years, 305 daysBrother-in-law of Ali bin Hamud. Oversaw the construction of harbor in Stone Town and tar roads in Pemba.[6][18]
10Abdullah bin KhalifaSayyid Sir Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Busaid9 October 19601 July 1963[E]2 years, 265 days
11Jamshid bin AbdullahSayyid Sir Jamshid bin Abdullah Al Busaid1 July 196312 January 1964[F]195 daysOn 10 December 1963, Zanzibar received its independence from the United Kingdom as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth under Jamshid.[10]

Family tree

  • Sayyid Said, Sultan of Muscat, Oman and Zanzibar (1797–1856)
    • Sayyid Thuwaini, Sultan of Muscat and Oman (1821–1866)
      • Sayyid Harub (1849–1907)
        • IX. Sayyid Khalifa II (26 August 1879 – 9 October 1960; r. 9 December 1911 – 9 October 1960) 9 Al-Said
          • X. Sayyid Abdullah (12 February 1910 – 1 July 1963; r. 9 October 1960 – 1 July 1963) 10 Al-Said
            • XI. Sayyid Jamshid (b. 16 September 1929; r. 1 July 1963 – 17 January 1964; Head of the Zanzibari royal house: 17 January 1964 – present) 11 Al-Said
      • V. Sayyid Hamad (1857 – 25 August 1896; r. 5 March 1893 – 25 August 1896) 5 Al-Busaid
    • Sayyid Muhammad (1826–1863)
      • VII. Sayyid Hamud (1853 – 18 July 1902; r. 27 August 1896 – 18 July 1902) 7 Al-Said
        • VIII. Sayyid Ali II (7 June 1884 – 20 December 1918; r. 18 July 1902 – 9 December 1911) 8 Al-Busaid
    • I. Sayyid Majid (1834 – 7 October 1870; r. 19 October 1856 – 7 October 1870) 1 Al-Busaid
    • II. Sayyid Barghash (1837 – 26 March 1888; r. 7 October 1870 – 26 March 1888) 2 Al-Busaid
      • VI. Sayyid Khalid (15 December 1874 – 19 March 1927; r. 25–27 August 1896) 6 Al-Busaid
    • III. Sayyid Khalifa I (1852 – 13 February 1890; r. 26 March 1888 – 13 February 1890) 3 Al-Busaid
    • IV. Sayyid Ali I (September 1854 – 5 March 1893; r. 13 February 1890 – 5 March 1893) 4 Al-Busaid

House of Busaid
bin Sultan

r. 1804–1856
bin Said

r. 1856–1870
bin Said

r. 1870–1888
bin Said

r. 1888–1890
bin Said

r. 1890–1893
bin Said
bin Said

r. 1856–1866
bin Barghash

r. 1896
bin Mohammed

r. 1896–1902
bin Thuwaini
bin Thuwaini

r. 1893–1896
bin Hamud

r. 1902–1911
bint Hamud
bin Harub

r. 1911–1960
bint Ali
bin Khalifa

r. 1960–1963
bin Abdullah

r. 1963–1964

See also


  • A Majid bin Said, the youngest son of Said bin Sultan, became the Sultan of Oman after his father's death on 19 October 1856. However, Majid's elder brother, Thuwaini bin Said, contested the accession to power. Following a struggle over the position, it was decided that Zanzibar and Oman would be divided into two separate principalities. Majid would rule as the Sultan of Zanzibar while Thuwaini would rule as the Sultan of Oman.[19]
  • B From 1886, the United Kingdom and Germany had plotted to obtain parts of the Zanzibar Sultanate for their own empires.[13] In October 1886, a German-British border commission established the Zanj as a 10 nautical mile (19 km) wide strip along most of the coast of East Africa, stretching from Cape Delgado (now in Mozambique) to Kipini (now in Kenya), including Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. Over the next few years, almost all of these mainland possessions were lost to European imperial powers.
  • C Hamoud bin Mohammed, the son-in-law of Majid bin Said, was supposed to become the Sultan of Zanzibar after Hamid bin Thuwayni's death. However, Khalid bin Bhargash, son of Bargash bin Said, seized the Sultan's palace and declared himself the ruler of Zanzibar. The British, who had supported Hamoud, responded on 26 August by issuing an ultimatum to Khalid and his men to leave the palace within one hour. After he refused, the Royal Navy began firing at the palace and other locations in Stone Town. Khalid assembled an army of 2,800 and stationed them all around the town. Thirty-eight minutes later, Khalid retreated to the German consulate, where he was granted asylum. This conflict, known as the Anglo-Zanzibar War, was the shortest war in recorded history. Khalid later went into exile in Dar es Salaam until being captured by the British in 1916.[20][21]
  • D After attending the coronation of King George V, Ali decided to abdicate from the throne to live in Europe.[6][16]
  • E Abdullah bin Khalifah died from complications of diabetes.[6]
  • F Jamshid bin Abdullah overthrown on 12 January 1964 during the Zanzibar Revolution.[22] Jamshid managed to flee to Great Britain with his family and ministers.[23]


  1. "Zanzibar (Sultinate)". Henry Soszynski. 5 March 2012. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  2. Ingrams 1967, p. 162
  3. Appiah & Gates 1999, p. 2045
  4. Ingrams 1967, p. 163
  5. Ingrams 1967, pp. 163–164
  6. Michler 2007, p. 37
  7. Ingrams 1967, p. 172
  8. Ingrams 1967, pp. 172–173
  9. Michler 2007, p. 31
  10. United States Department of State 1975, p. 986
  11. Ayany 1970, p. 122
  12. Ingrams 1967, pp. 162–163
  13. Appiah & Gates 1999, p. 188
  14. Ingrams 1967, p. 173
  15. Ingrams 1967, p. 175
  16. Ingrams 1967, p. 176
  17. Turki 1997, p. 20.
  18. Ingrams 1967, p. 178
  19. Keane 1907, p. 483
  20. Ingrams 1967, pp. 174–175
  21. Owens 2007, pp. 1–5
  22. Conley, Robert (13 January 1964), "African Revolt Overturns Arab Regime in Zanzibar", The New York Times, pp. 1, 8
  23. "London Cuts Support For Rent-Poor Sultan", The New York Times, p. 2, 26 January 1964

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