Mangapwani Slave Cave

Useful Information

Location: On Zanzibar Island. 20 km north of Zanzibar Town. From Zanzibar Town take main road through Bububu to Chuini, then turn left to Bumbwini. After 7 km, in Mangapwani village, turn left towards the coast. After 2 km turn right into a narrow dirt road at a large house overlooking the sea. 1 km to the Slave Cave.
Open: All year daily 8:30-10:30, 13:30-17:30.
Fee: Nominal fee.
Classification: SubterraneaCellar
Light: none.
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Mangapwani Slave Cave is not natural, but cut out of the coral limestone. Two rectangular pits were originally covered with coral rag, laid on mangrove poles. A sunken pathway provided a concealed connection to the beach. The slaves were unoaded from boats on the beaches, then kept in the Slave Cave until they were transported to their new owners, to Zanzibar Town or to Oman. Today, the cave itself remains, although the wooden roof under which the slaves were hidden is gone and replaced by a concrete roof. There is a stone staicase cut out of the coral limestone leading down onto the cavern floor. The rooms on both sides of the staircase held over 50 slaves on each side, separated by gender.

It was built for storing slaves by Mohammed Bin Nassor Al-Alawi, a prominent slave trader. It was built in 1880, seven years after the official abolishment of slave trade, and the illicit trade continued for many years until 1905.

In 1698 Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman. The ruling Arabs established the grow of certain crops and spices, and the trade in ivory and slaves from mainland Africa. In 1873 Sultan Barghash signed the Anglo-Zanzibari treaty which officially abolished the slave trade. The Arab rule was replaced by British government in 1896 with the Anglo-Zanzibar War, the Shortest War in History, which took 38 minutes. The area around Mangapwani was still inhabited by many Arabs until January 1964. In December 1963 the Britain protectorate became an independent sultanate. Actually this was a poor decision by the still ruling Arabs, as the frustrated and underrepresented African people started a revolution only one month later. This Zanzibar Revolution is also called Blood Revolution as many Arab and Indian people were killed, the rest fled. So today only the name Arab shore remains of the former Arab population.