The Al Bu-Said Dynasty


The Sultanate of Zanzibar (the Land of the Zenj) consisted of the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia, and Lamu, off the East African Coast. These territories formed part of the Omani maritime empire from the close of the seventeenth century. For a time, Zanzibar served as the capital under Sayyid Said bin Sultan the Great. At his death in 1856, a succession dispute erupted between his surviving sons, ended by the arbitration of the Earl Canning, Viceroy of India. Known as the "Canning Award", the 1861 settlement established Zanzibar as a separate sultanate under Majid, Said's former Governor of the East African dominions. Included in the settlement, an agreement that the Sultan of Zanzibar would pay an annual subsidy to the Sultan of Oman, as compensation for loss of revenues from East Africa.
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European interest in Zanzibar centred on two factors, trade and slavery. The first, because the island was the chief source of cloves, for which India was the largest market. The second because the British government championed a policy for the eradication of the slave trade and slavery throughout the world. The Moresby Treaty of 1822 made the sale of slaves to Christian powers illegal. The Hamerton Treaty of 1845 outlawed the export of slaves from Said's African empire. The following years saw a growth in the activities of the Anti-Slavery Society and campaigners against the trade, amongst whom David Livingstone remained prominent for many years. Further treaties with the British in 1873 and 1875 outlawed the slave trade completely and succeeded in closing the slave markets in Zanzibar. Their closing revealed that most of those who ran them came from Western India. The marketplace became the site of the Anglican Cathedral. However, the last vestiges of slavery, particularly domestic and debt bondage, remained until eradicated under the protectorate in 1897.
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In 1886, Britain and Germany attempted to settle some aspects of their colonial rivalry by the conclusion of the, so-called, Anglo-German Agreement. Germany acquired recognition of its control over the Tanganyika territory on the mainland. In return, the Imperial British East Africa Company acquired the coastal territories lying north of the Umbu River. The Sultan learned of the secret agreement only after its conclusion, but was powerless to do anything about it. The island territories of the sultanate became a British Protectorate in 1890, and British control over the remaining coastal territories were extended to the mouth of the river Juba.
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In 1963, Zanzibar became fully independent, a member of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations. However, the predominantly African population revolted against their largely Arab rulers within three months, forcing the Sultan to flee, first to Kenya, and then into exile in England. The revolt was a bloody one in which over 13,000 people lost their lives and over 21,000 "detained" within the few days. Ultimately, the principal African based political parties established a degree of control, restored law and order, and banned the instigator of the uprising, the former Uandan immigrant bricklayer turned "Field Marshal," John Okello. The island territories eventually united with Tanganyika, to form the United Republic of Tanzania in April 1964, but many of those imprisoned by the regime remained so for another 15 years. The Sultan went into exile in England, where he continues to reside.

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The Sovereign: Sayyid (personal name) bin (father's name), Sultan of Zanzibar and its dependencies, with the style of His Majesty.
The consort of the Sovereign: (personal name) bint (father's name), Sultana of Zanzibar, with the style of Her Majesty.
The Heir Apparent: Prince Sayyid (personal name) bin (father's name), with the style of His Royal Highness.
The younger sons of the Sovereign: Sayyid (personal name) bin (father's name), with the style of His Highness.
The daughters of the Sovereign: Sayyida (personal name) bint (father's name), with the style of Her Highness.
The brothers of the Sovereign: Sayyid (personal name) bin (father's name), with the style of His Highness.
The sisters of the Sovereign: Sayyida (personal name) bint (father's name), with the style of Her Highness.
The husbands of the sisters of the Sovereign: Sayyid (personal name) bin (father's name), with the style of His Highness.
The sons of the sisters of the Sovereign: Sayyid (personal name) bin (father's name), with the style of His Highness.
The daughters of the sisters of the Sovereign: Sayyida (personal name) bint (father's name), with the style of Her Highness.
Other male members of the Royal Family, being descendants of former Sultans in the male line: Sayyid (personal name) bin (father's name) Al-Said.
Other female members of the Royal Family, being descendants of former Sultans in the male line: Sayyida (personal name) bint (father's name) Al-Said.

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The constitution of the sultanate specified that the "Sultan may by writing under his hand nominate any person (sic!) to be the Successor to the Throne". It he has not nominated any person at his death or abdication, his eldest son succeeds. If the Sultan has no son, his nearest male next of kin succeeds.
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see link below.

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Al Bu-Saidi: 'of the house of Said', the name of the Omani rulin dynasty.
Amir: prince, commander.
Amira: princess.
Bait: mansion or palace.
Bibi: mistress, lady, a term frequently applied to female members of the family.
bin (or ibn): "son of".
bint: "daughter of".
gereza: fort.
Haram: wife of equal birth.
Hbabi: 'Sir'.
Imam: title of the elected religious and temporal ruler of Oman until 1811.
nikah: marriage contract.
Qadi: religious judge.
Suri: secondary wife.
Sarari: plural of suri.
Sayyid: the title borne by male members of the ruling house.
Sayyida: the title borne by female members of the ruling house.
shamba: plantation.
simba: lion.
Sultan: ruler, king. The title of the ruler of Zanzibar since the reign of Sayyid Sa'id bin Sultan.
Taj: crown.
tarika: widow.
tshui: leopard.
Umm al: 'mother of'.
Wisam: Order of chivalry or decoration of honour.

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Abdallah ibn Saleh al-Farsy. al-Bu Sa’idiyun: hukkam Zanjibar. Saltanat ‘Uman: Wizarat al-Turath al-Qawmi wa-al-Thaqafah, 1980.
Samuel G. Ayany. A History of Zanzibar: A Study in Constitutional Development, 1934-1964. East African Literature Bureau. Nairobi, 1970.
Arthur A. Baer. “Flight to Zanzibar”, read before The Chicago Literary Club on May 10th, 1958.
Burke’s Royal Families of the World, Volume II: Africa & The Middle East. Burke’s Peerage Ltd., London 1980.
Anne Estella, Viscountess Cave. Three Journeys. T. Butterworth, 1928.
Abdalla Saleh Farsi. Seyyid Said bin Sultan: joint ruler of Oman and Zanzibar (1804-1856). Lancers Books, New Delhi, 1986.
P. J. L. Frankl. “The Exile of Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-BuSa'idi
died Mombasa 1345 AH/AD 1927”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 33, Issue 2, November 2006, pp.161-177.
Genealogical tables [compiled 1907-08] of the principal descendants of Ahmad-bin-Said, Al Bu Said, founder of the ruling families of Oman and Zanzibar. IOR/L/PS/20/C91/5/3, Oriental & India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
John Gray. History of Zanzibar from the Middle Ages to 1856. Oxford University Press, London, 1962.
Russell Harris (comp.). The Lafayette Photographic Collection at the V&A Image Library, Kensington, London, 2000.
Captain A.B. Kemball. "Statistical and Miscellaneous Information connected with the Possessions, Revenues, Families, etc. of His Highness the Imam of Muskat; of the Ruler of Bahrein; and of the Chiefs of the Maritime Arab States of the Persian Gulf", 1st July 1854. Selections from the Records of the Bombay Government. No. XXIV - New Series, Bombay, 1856.
R.N. Lyne. Zanzibar in Contemporary Times. London, 1905.
Major F.B. Pearce. Zanzibar, the Island Metropolis of Eastern Africa. London, 1920.
Philip Pulliciano. ‘Aulad al-Imam’: A List of Members of the Royal family of Zanzibar. Government Printer, Zanzibar, 1954.
Alan de Lacy Rush (ed). The Ruling Families of Arabia. 12 vols. Archive Editions, Slough, Berks, England, 1991.
Rudolph Said-Ruete. Eine auto-biographische Teilskizze. (Die Al-bu-Said Dynastie in Arabien und Ostafrika). Luzern, 1932.
Rudolph Said-Ruete. Said bin Sultan (1791-1856), Ruler of Oman and Zanzibar. His Place in the History of Arabia and East Africa. London, 1929.
E. van Donzel (ed.). An Arabian Princess Between Two Worlds. Memoirs, Letters Home, Sequels to the Memoirs Syrian Customs and Usages by Sayida Salme/Emily Ruete. Arab History and Civilization, Studies and Texts. Volume 3. E.J. Brill, Leiden, the Netherlands, 1993.
Who’s Who in the Arab World. Publitec Publications, London, 1966-1999.
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Dr Morris Bierbrier, FSA.
H.R.H. Sayyid Wasfi bin Jamshid.
Gustav Andreas Tammann.
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I would be grateful to hear from anyone who may have changes, corrections or additions to contribute. Please contact me at:
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Copyright© Christopher Buyers, June 2001 - October 2012