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Zanzibar > Pictures and travelogues > Illegal slave trade at Mangapwani.

Pictures from illegal slave trade in Zanzibar: the slave chambers and coral cave at Mangapwani.

Slave chambers (indoor) at Mangapwani, Zanzibar
Underground slave chambers (indoor) at Mangapwani, Western Coast of Zanzibar. 

The slave trade was so lucrative that British efforts to stop it were strongly resisted by nearly all participants. In 1822, the Omani Arabs signed the Moresby treaty which amongst other things, made it illegal for them to sell slaves to Christian colonists. However, the slave trade actually continued. Instead, the growth of slave imports into Zanzibar reached its peak in the 1840s.

In 1873, Sultan Barghash was forced under the threat of a British naval bombardment to prohibit definitely the slave trade. He made it illegal to organize slave caravans and he closed the slave market in Stone Town. In 1887, the legal status of slavery was abolished in Zanzibar.

Nevertheless, merchants continued illegal raiding even as the demand for slaves at the coast was decreasing. Slaves were hidden in caves or underground chambers in Zanzibar before being shipped to their final destination in Arabia or Asia. At the time, slaves would come exclusively from East Africa since slave trading countries had lost control of the West Africa  

Illegal slave chambers are located in Mangapwani, just 25 km north of Stone Town, on the Western coast of Zanzibar. They are 2 rectangular cells hewn out of the coral rock, where over 50 slaves on each side may be hidden from the British cruisers. The slaves were then smuggled down to the slave ships to the Indian Ocean.

Pemba came to play a greater role in the illegal slave trade.

Illegal slave trade 
persisted in some places until the turn of the century when Britain controlled much of East African coast. The slave trade was abolished in 1904 in Kenya and in 1919 in Tanganyika. 

Illegal slave trade at Mangapwani, Zanzibar
Illegal slave chambers (outside) at Mangapwani, Western Coast of Zanzibar.

Coral cave at Mangapwani, Zanzibar
Coral cave at Mangapwani, Western Coast of Zanzibar.

Two kilometers south to Mangapwani slave chambers, there is a large natural coral cave that was discovered in the early 1900s by a plantation slave boy who was in search of a goat that had fallen into the cavern. The cave has a small pool of fresh water and is connected to the coast by a tunnel. It is alleged that the cave was used to conceal slaves. However, there is no evidence of such a use.


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Travel guide and travel directory to Zanzibar with many pictures.