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 Click here for Zanzibar Desis article on Abdul Sheriff
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 Click here for Zanzibar Desis article on Abdul Sheriff
 Click here for more interesting articles


Abdul Sheriff, Director of the Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute (ZIORI), is an internationally-respected author of major works on east African history.

Formerly a professor of history at the University of Dar es Salaam, he was an advisor on National Heritage and Principle Curator of Zanzibar Museums. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Prince Claus Award for his work in creating of the House of Wonders and the Sultan’s Palace, two thriving museums which showcase the rich traditions of the island of Zanzibar and help make it an important centre on the global cultural map.

McGill University has awarded Professor Sheriff the Maxwell Cummings Distinguished Lectureship which he will take up in March and April of 2007 at the Indian Ocean World Centre and CDAS. While in Montreal, Professor Sheriff will give a major public lecture, a specialist seminar in the History Department and will participate in the international conference on Sex, Power & Slavery from 19th-21st April 2007 organised by the IOWC.

He is currently a valued partner in the McGill Canadian Field Studies in Africa programme (see research).

Abdul Sheriff’s Current Research Interests:

The Dhow Culture of the western Indian Ocean.
History & Culture of Zanzibar
History & Conservation of the Zanzibar Stone Town


sheriffPresentation 2005 Prince Claus Award to Abdul Sheriff in Zanzibar.

Abdul Sheriff has played a crucial role in preserving Zanzibar’s cultural heritage. He directed the restoration of a sultan’s ceremonial palace, using local expertise and materials, organising the training of local staff and setting up large-scale collections. The House of Wonders recently opened as the Museum of History and Culture of Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast. A consummate professional with a profound knowledge of, curiosity and dedication to academic standards, he has worked for several decades on raising historical awareness among students and the general public. He is living proof of the importance of self-reliance and the significance of cultural heritage for identity and self-esteem.

In a beautifully organised ceremony in antique surroundings of the Mbweni Ruins Dutch Ambassador, H. E. Karel van Kesteren presented the 2005 Prince Claus Fund Award to Prof Abdul Sheriff on 11 March 2006. This is the first time that a Prince Claus Fund Award has been granted to a resident of Zanzibar, and of Tanzania.

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Extract from Karel van Kesteren’s speech:

sheriff“Not only, professor, are you a leading authority on the history and culture of the Indian Ocean. Not only, Professor, were you Advisor on National Heritage. Not only did you publish books on East Africa’s History, including on Stone Town. Not only are you a professional with profound curiosity and dedicated to academic standards, you were also the Principle Curator of Zanzibar’s Museums.

When you “inherited” these museums some 14 years ago in this capacity, they were dusty and neglected buildings. Now, the House of Wonders and the Sultan’s Palace are two thriving museums that contribute enormously in putting Zanzibar on the global cultural map.”




2006. with Paul Voogt & Mubiana Luhila, The Zanzibar House of Wonders. Museum: Self-Reliance & Partnership, Amsterdam: KIT.

1998. Zanzibar Stone Town: an architectural exploration, London: HSP.

1995. Historical Zanzibar: Romance of the Ages, text and captions, London: HSP.

1995. Ed. The History & Conservation of Zanzibar Stone Town, London: James Currey.

1991. Eds. A. Sheriff & Ed Ferguson, Zanzibar Under Colonial Rule, London: James Currey.

1987. Slaves, Spices & Ivory in Zanzibar, London: James Currey,

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Selected Articles:

(forthcoming) ‘The Dhow Culture of the western Indian Ocean’, in H. Basu, ed. Journeys and Dwellings – Indian Ocean themes in South Asia, Hyderabad: Orient Longman.

(forthcoming) ‘The Gulf and the Swahili Coast: A History of Acculturation over the Longue Durée’ in L. Potter, ed., The Persian Gulf in History, Palgrave Macmillan.

2006 ‘Between Two World: the littoral peoples of the Indian Ocean’, in Roman Loimeier & Rudiger Seesemann, eds. The Global World of the Swahili, Berlin: LIT, pp. 15-30.

2005 ‘Slave Trade and Slave Routes of the East African Coast’, in E. A. Alpers & B. Zimba, eds., Slave Routes and Oral Tradition in Southeastern Africa, Maputo, Filsom Entertainment.

2005 ‘The twilight of slavery in the Persian Gulf’, in A. Sheriff, ed. ZIFF Journal 2: Monsoons & Migrations.

2005. ‘The Slave Trade and its Fallout in the Persian Gulf’, in G. Campbell, ed., Abolition and its Aftermath in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia, London and New York, Routledge, pp. 103-19.

2004. ‘Sur: The World of a Dhow Port’, in Journal of Oman Studies, Vol. 13, pp. 99-112.

2004. ‘People on the Move’, in A. Sheriff, ed. ZIFF Journal 1: Dhow Culture Dialogues, pp. 27-40.

2003. ‘Encapsular la historia. La experiencia de los museos de Zanzibar’, in Entrepasados: Revista de Historia, No. 24/25, pp.253-62.

2002. ‘Navigational Methods in the Indian Ocean’, in D. Parkin and R. Barnes, eds., Ships and the Development of Maritime Technology in the Indian Ocean, London: Routledge Curzon, pp.209-26.

2002. ‘Zanzibar: citta Swahili o coloniale?’, Storia Urbana 98/9:119-135.

2001/2. ‘The spatial dichotomy of Swahili towns: the case of Zanzibar in the nineteenth century’, Azania XXXVI/XXXVII (2001/2): 63-81.

2001. ‘Race and class in the politics of Zanzibar’, Afrika Spektrum 36/3: 301-18.

2001. ‘Capitalist Hegemony Reconsidered’, in L. Marfaing and B. Reinwald, eds., African Networks, Exchange and Spatial Dynamics, Hamburg: Lit, pp.147-54.

2001. ‘The Slave Trade and Slavery in the Western Indian Ocean: Significant Contrasts’, in G. Oostindie, ed., Facing up to the Past: Perspectives on the Commemoration of Slavery from Africa, the Americas and Europe, Kingston: Prince Claus Fund Library, pp.43-47.

2001. Afro-Arab Interaction in the Indian Ocean - Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society, Cape Town, Occasional Paper No. 13.

2001. ‘The Records of the Wakf Commission as a Source of Social and Religious History of Zanzibar’, in Biancamaria Scarcia Amerotti, ed., Islam in East Africa, Rome: Herder, pp.27-45.

2001. ‘The Historicity of the Shirazi Tradition along the East African Coast’, in Cultural Council of the Embassy of I. R. Iran, Historical Roles of Iranians (Shirazis) in the East African Coast, Nairobi: Cultural Council, pp. 21-41.

1999. ‘Zanzibar & la cote Swahili’, in Marie-Paule Pelle, ed., Zanzibar & la cote Sultane, Paris: Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche, pp.28-54.

1998. ‘Zanzibar: Encapsulating history - The Palace Museum & the House of Wonders,’ in C. D. Ardouin & E. Arinze, eds., Museums & History in W. Africa, London: James Currey, pp.155-63.

1998. ‘Le Peuplement et l'islamisation’ and ‘Le vielle ville de pierre un heritage en transition ‘, in C. Le Cour Grandmaison, ed., Zanzibar Aujourdhui, Paris: Karthala, pp. 21-34, 189-202.

1994. ‘The Union and the struggle for democracy in Zanzibar’, in R. S. Mukandala & H. Othman, eds., Liberalisation & Politics: the 1990 Election in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam: University Press, pp.146-74.

1992. ‘Mosques, Merchants and Landowners in Zanzibar Old Stone Town’, Azania 27:1-20.

1990. with C. Tominaga, ‘The Ambiguity of Shirazi Ethnicity in the History & Politics of Zanzibar’, in Christianity & Culture,No.24:1-37.

1989. ‘Localisation and social composition of the East African Slave Trade, 1858-1873’, in W. G. Clarence-Smith, ed., The Economics of the Indian Ocean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century, London: Cass, pp.131-45.

1986. ‘Ivory & commercial expansion in East Africa in the 19th century’, in G. Liesegang, H. Pasch and A. Jones, eds., Figuring African Trade, Berlin: Reimaer, pp.415-50.

1985. ‘The slave mode of production along the East African coast, 1810-1873’, in J. R. Willis, ed., Slaves & Slavery in Muslim Africa, London: Frank Cass, Vol.II:161-81.

1985. with L. Larson, ‘East Africa in the nineteenth century’, in J. F. Ajayi & M. Crowder, Historical Atlas of Africa, Harlow: Longman, Essex.

1985. ‘Social formations in pre-colonial Kenya’, in B. A. Ogot, ed., Kenya in the Nineteenth Century, (Hadith, 8), Nairobi: Bookwise, pp.1-32.

1981. ‘East African Coast and its role in maritime trade’, in G. Mokhtar, ed., UNESCO General History of Africa, Vol.II, London: Heinemann, pp.551-67.

1980. ‘Tanzanian Societies at the time of the Partition’, in M. H. Y. Kaniki, ed., Tanzania Under Colonial Rule, London: Longman, 1980, pp.11-50.

1975. ‘The dynamics of change in pre-colonial Africa’, in African Economic History, I/2:7-13.

1975. ‘Trade & Underdevelopment: the role of international trade in the economic history of the East African coast before the 16th century’, in B. A. Ogot, ed., Hadith, 5, Nairobi: EAPH, pp.1-23.

1971. with B. Datoo, ‘Patterns of Ports and Trade Routes in different periods’, in L. Berry, ed., Tanzania in Maps, London.

1971. ‘Indians in East Africa: a review article’, in Tanzania Notes & Records, 72.

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