Revolution: The Zanzibar
On 10th December 1963
gained independence form Great
Britain. A month later, on the night of
January 12th 1964, a band of some 300 people, violently seized the
island of Zanzibar (Unguja) and overthrew
the Sultan of Zanzibar and his mainly Arab Government. In this bloody
Zanzibar Revolution hundreds and thousands of Arabs and Indians were
killed in genocide and thousands more expelled.
On the morning of the revolution the square in front of our house was surrounded by revolutionaries with guns and Machetes (broad heavy knives) but because of the British locality none of the houses were stormed (attacked), although observed day and night. None of us would dare go out for several days in fear of being attacked and killed. We eventually ventured out to get to work, shopping etc., at first by car and then walking to work.
Most of the killings occurred outside the town in rural areas although few were killed in town caught unawares outside and others attending the church service. The Zanzibaris were caught unawares, as none of us, visualize that this would happen, as in
all the citizens
lived together in harmony regardless of class or creed. Zanzibar
Kanga Family: from Hoshie Eddie Kanga
Hoshie & Bepsy's father on 'protection' duty during the visit of Princess Margaret to Zanzibar in 1956
My upbringing was a happy one. After graduating with GCE “O” levels from
After the Revolution, in January 1964, I with other Asian officers was sacked on the spot without prior notice. On the day of the sacking all the staff was called to assemble outside the corridor and was told “When your names are called out, Step forward”.
I was amongst the ones whose names were called and were then told that we were all sacked. I had completed two and a half years of service. No compensation was paid. This sacking was in a way, blessing in disguise, which gave me opportunity to go to
and I took it.
Beginning of May 1964 without notifying anyone outside the family, I set out to go first to the mainland
Dar es Salaam, stayed for a fortnight
and then got a passage on French ship to go to London
via Suez Canal. Ports of call: Dar es Salaam – Mombasa – Djibouti – Port
Said – Port Suez – Alexandria – Marseilles – Paris - and finally arrived at
Dover, Kent (UK) on 31 May 1964 – then by Train to London, Victoria.
My sister, Bepsy, was also in
during and after the Revolution. The people in power after the revolution were
planning to forcibly marry with young Persian and Indian girls. My parents,
requested me to call my sister to the United Kingdom. I, therefore,
arranged to enroll Bepsy for a secretarial course at a college in Dublin, Southern Ireland. Bepsy also quietly left Zanzibar for Dar-es-Salaam to avoid suspicion (after revolution one could travel to the mainland);
then after a fortnight stay travelled in
August 1967 to Dublin, Southern Ireland, via London. I also flew from London to greet her on arrival at Dublin airport. Bepsy was 17 years old at the
My Brother, Dhanjishaw, escaped the turmoil of Zanzibar Revolution as he was already living and working in
Salaam since i962.
My Father was born in Navsari, Gujarat state,
in 1908; after his secondary school education, at the age of 18 years,
immigrated to Zanzibar
and started working at first in the Shipping Company, African Mercantile, and
then joined the British Colonial Service, worked in various government
departments and finally In Attorney General’s office.
After retiring from the Government Service in Attorney General’s office, my Father worked as a part time Priest (while in
my Father also did our Zoroastrian Religious studies and was ordained to become
a priest) at our
(Agiari), which was situated on the outskirts of town, near the Zanzibar
Prisons. The Parsee Fire
Temple Fire Temple at night was isolated and after the Revolution
was not safe so we pleaded with my parents to consider leaving Zanzibar. In the beginning
they were reluctant to do so as both loved the island so much, besides lived in
a beautiful house in town in Shangani area which was a nice location. Our house
was opposite then Cable and Wireless which was later converted into now . Serena
My sister and I persuaded our parents to leave
to go India. Finally, in 1983 our parents left Zanzibar secretly to Dar-es-Salaam,
the mainland and stayed couple of months with my brother before travelling to
Mumbai ( Bombay) India. Had to keep the travel plans
secret; although, soon after the revolution, many people
were expelled, later the government were reluctant to let them leave.
As a result of people leaving
, especially businessmen, the
thriving economy of the island suffered; and the once well known trade, in
Cloves and copra (dried coconuts), coconut oil and clove oil also deteriorated. Zanzibar
The Bulsara Family
Another Zoroastrian (Parsi) family, Bomi & Jer Bulsara, whose son Freddie Mercury born Farrokh Bulsara, the front man of Rock Band “Queen” and charismatic solo performer became famous in the
Kingdom and all over the world. “We will
Rock You” the Queen’s musical in London,
one of the best.
Freddie was born in
Zanzibar on 05th
September 1946 and went to an English style boarding school in India
when he was eight. Freddie always loved to sing and set up a school band when
he was 12. He later joined his parents in the United Kingdom. Freddie lived first
in a flat and then a big mansion, also in Kensington, London.
In 1964 as a result of the Zanzibar Revolution the family including Freddie’s younger sister Kashmira, now 60 fled to the
United Kingdom and settled in
Feltham, Middlesex. Jer
Bulsara (Freddie’s Mum) who is 90 is still living in . Her husband
Bomi, a former cashier in the British Colonial office, died nine years ago,
aged 95. Nottingham, England
Freddie Mercury died tragically of Aids related pneumonia in November 1991. He was 45. Mrs. Bulsara is particularly keen on a lavish new book which is about to be published, twenty years after the death of Rock’s most famous singers. The new book “Freddie Mercury, The Great Pretender: A Life in Pictures", is full of wonderful photographs including several never-before seen images, that span the rock star's life.
Although Freddie’s house in Shangani was close to ours, I have never met Freddie, either in
Zanzibar, or in the
. However, we used to visit his parents
frequently in United Kingdom
and have also met his parents and sister Kashmira on numerous occasions in
Other Parsi Families
Another well known, Jasavala family, used to live in a beautiful big house which is now converted into Hotel “Tembo” ran a thriving business, Liquor and General store, established by Coswjee Dinshaw of India. After the Revolution, the property was confiscated by the Revolutionary Government. Eventually the house was converted into the present hotel “Tembo”, so named because originally, in the house courtyard stood a big statue of an Elephant (Tembo in Kiswahili). There is now a swimming pool.
Gradually, one by one, most of the Zoroastrians (Parsi) family left the shores of Zanzibar, first to the mainland, Dar es Salaam, and then to India, United Kingdom, U. S. A. and Canada. Also the Indians as well as other nationalities had to flee leaving their thriving businesses behind.
At the present time, there is only one Zoroastrian family, father and daughter, remaining in
Zanzibar, they are also planning to
go to Canada
to be reunited with another daughter who has settled there.
My Brother, Dhanjishaw, goes to
regularly three to four times in a year for holidays and relaxation.
Since settling in
May of 1964, I have visited Zanzibar many times;
in the beginning, I was refused permission to visit my parents, as I was
declared Prohibited Immigrant but gradually situation improved in Zanzibar and then I could
All the visits to
since the Revolution has been peaceful and brought all the beautiful memories
flooding back of my growing up in Paradise, on the spice .
At present, island of Zanzibar Zanzibar is in the limelight; as we
noticed many tourists are now visiting Zanzibar
and staying in Stone town, as well as different beautiful beaches all over the
island. Let’s all wish that Zanzibar
I have often wondered, what I would have been doing, if the Zanzibar revolution did not take place. However, I have no regrets; have enjoyed life to the full.
I arrived in
on 31st May 1964; after three days of my arrival, I was fortunate to find a
temporary job in a cigarette manufacturing company, worked there for eleven
months; was unemployed for one month (received Social Security benefit); then
joined the British Civil Service in May 1965.
I Retired from the Civil Service; H.M. Treasury, on 10th November 2001 after a service of over 18 years. In the New Years Honours list of 2001 I was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) from Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II for my services to HM Treasury. I received the MBE at the Investiture Ceremony and it was presented by His Royal Highness Prince of Wales, Prince Charles at
on 17th April 2002. Buckingham Palace
THE ZOROASTRIAN BACKGROUND: WHO ARE THE ZOROASTRIANS?
Zoroastrians are the followers of great Iranian prophet, Spitaman. Zarathushtra (known to the Greeks as Zoroaster). Zarathushtra lived and preached somewhere around the Aral sea, about three and thousand years ago, circa 1500 BCE.
For over a thousand years circa 549 BCE to 652 CE the religion taught by Zarathushtra flourished as the state religion of three mighty Iranian empires, that of Achaemenians (549-330 BCE) , the Parthians (28 BCE – 224 CE) and the Sasanians (224-652 CE). Amongst the many subjects of the Achaemenian empire were the Jews who adopted some of the prophet’s main teachings, and transmitted them in due course to Christianity and later to Islam.
THE PARSI ARRIVAL:
In the 7th century CE, the Arabs conquered
Iran and many of them settled there
and gradually imposed their own religion of Islam. In the early 10th
century, a small group of Zoroastrians seeking freedom of worship and economic
redress, left Iran and
sailed towards the warm shores of Western India.
They eventually arrived along the Gujarat coastline in 936 CE at a place they
named Sanjan, 180 kms north of Mumbai ( Bombay).
There they flourished and came to be known as Parsis (Persians). Over the
millennium, a small band of faithful Zoroastrians have continued to live in Iran, and have tried to preserve their culture and religious traditions as best as
Today, the Zoroastrian community, consisting of about 130,000 individuals, live in
India, Iran and various parts of the
English speaking world.
by Hoshie & Bepsy Kanga