The beginning of the Shiraz Government and civilization in East Africa dating back thousands of years ago was yet another piece of evidence. Between 900 and 980 a significant number of Iranian merchants and mariners first migrated from the port of Syraf (Taheri) and then from the islands of Kish and Hormoz to the Eastern coast of Africa.
Settling in Kilwa (in present-day Tanzania) and expanding its influence along the coast and in riverine settlements opposite Zanzibar and between Mogadishu (Moghidishu) in present-day Somalia to Soughland (Sofala) in Mozambique was Shiraz. The coastal islands of Kenya, Somalia, Mozambique (Tungi Shiraz Settlement), Comoros, and Tanzania were ruled by Shirazi dynasties. And there are people in those areas who claim to be of Shirazi bloodline.
We understand that there was a Shiraz Government establishment in Lamu, Malaysia, and some other places which lasted for about 500 years until, finally around 1502, after the Portuguese invasion.
The long presence of the Shirazi did leave behind an ethnic group in such places as Mombasa, Mtwara, Mafia, Tanga and largely in Pemba identifying themselves as Shirazi descendants; and it is the same case with Baluchi who have both pure breed and half-cast elements some still in active connection with their homeland, Baluchistan in Iran.
The current archeological and other historical sources indicate 950 CE as the starting date for the migration of the Shirazi towards Eastern African coasts, and 1820s for the coming and settling of the Baluchi as mercenary soldiers of the Abu Said dynasty, protecting the Sultan, and his spheres of influence and collecting tax and reinforcing law and order in the royal polity.
The Shirazi people, also known as Mbwera, are a Bantu ethnic group inhabiting the Swahili coast and the nearby Indian Ocean Island. They are particularly concentrated on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Comoros.
A number of Shirazi legends proliferated along the East African coast, most involving a named or unnamed Persian Prince marrying a Swahili Princess.
The Shirazi are notable for helping spread Islam on the Swahili coast, their role in the establishment of the Southern Swahili sultanates like Mozambique and Angoche, their influence in the development of the Swahili language, and their opulent wealth. The East African coastal area and the nearby islands served as their commercial base.
The Shirazi people have primarily been a mercantile community, thriving on trade. Initially, between the 10th and 12th centuries, it was the gold producing regions of Mozambique that brought them to the coast of Africa. Later the trading in Africans slaves, ivory, spices, silk and produce from clove, coconut and other plantations run with slave labor became the mainstay of the trading activity.
Much of the evidence of the once established Shirazi-African civilization is buried under the soil so requiring more archeological studies, or is with private people(photographs, documents, oral traditions) and we are thus unable to access it to enable a more comprehensive information piecing together effort. It is our submission that what we have here is the first of so many future attempts that will enable a compilation of a near complete history of the Baluchi-Shirazi history in Eastern Africa. Of course, much has been done, in terms of archeological and textual research, but a lot has to be done yet as the work is intermittent and the few reports and archeological finds are not accessible to majority of the interested parties, with other reports staying in foreign university and museums.
Major pierce preliminary potential lists for archeological studies as follows;
- The ruined town on Tumbatu island
- The ruined houses at Mgogoni or Mvuleni
- Some ruined buildings at Kizimkazi
- A small ruined mosque at Chwaka
- Unguja Ukuu(Old Zanzibar).
- The Ndagoni group
- The Pujini group
- The Chwaka group
- Mtambwe Kuu(the Isles of Mystery)
- The mosque at Msuka Mjini
- The mosque at Chaoni
- The mosque at Verani
- The mosque at Fundo island
- The mosque at Kijiweni
- The mosque at Shengejuu
- The mosque at Mandani, near Ole
- ”The Lonely Tomb” at Vitongoji
- The mosque at Mtangani
- The mosque at Kiwani
- The ruin on Makongwe island.
The Mosque at Kizimkazi
Kizimkazi mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Zanzibar which is also the oldest mosque in Africa that was built by Shirazi people.
The Shirazi culture is Islamic in nature, identifying largely with its Persian and Arabic roots. There are also Bantu influences, such as the Swahili language.
The 900 year old mosque is still being used by prayers and many tourists visit the religious monument each year.
Kizimkazi mosque is a mosque situated on the southern tip of the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania and one of the oldest Islamic buildings on the East African coast.
Morteza Rezvanfar, an academic with the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism in Iran, said that according to information written on altar inscription of the mosque, Kizimkazi mosque had been built in 500 AH(over 940 years ago).
The academic went on to say that David White House(1941-2013), a British archaeologist, who studied in Iran and Africa, believed that Kufic inscription at Kizimkazi mosque is similar to inscriptions in Siraf Port in Southern Iran.
According to Murteza, residents living in Makunduchi village, Zanzibar, where the Kizimkazi mosque is located near the village, introduce themselves with Shirazi background and they hold Newruz in Persian month of Mordad(July 23 to August 22), which is concurrent with maritime Nowruz in Iran.
The day of Nowruz has its origins in the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism and is thus rooted in the traditions of the Iranian peoples; however, it has been celebrated by diverse communities for over 3,000 years.
While Nowruz has been celebrated since the reform of the Iranian calendar in the 11th century CE to mark the new year, the United Nations officially recognized the “Internal Day of Nowruz” with the adaption of Resolution 64/253 by the United Nations General Assembly in February 2010.