Zanzibar Has a Potential Million-Dollar Tourist Attraction. So Why Won’t they Acknowledge it?

Bearing the marks of countless cultural influences, from Dutch to Islam to Egyptian to Indian, and populated with scenic beaches, Zanzibar’s government has aimed to make the East African republic among the Indian Ocean’s top tourist attractions. But there’s one interesting distinction Zanzibar has that could give tourism a serious bump, if only the locals would acknowledge it. So why won’t Zanzibar honor the late Freddie Mercury, its most famous native son?

When Freddie Mercury died in 1991, the Queen frontman left behind a musical legacy as well as a reputation as a flamboyant, crowd-baiting showman. But while he was born Farrokh Bulsara to an Indian family and died in England, Mercury was born in Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania, before leaving as a child to study in India. Despite rarely acknowledging his birthplace over the course of his career, Mercury managed to become the only high-profile celebrity ever to come out of Zanzibar. With the 20th anniversary of his death on the horizon, you’d think it was a perfect opportunity for local officials to begin paying homage to their native son, slowly building a formidable tourism industry around the iconic singer. But it hasn’t happened yet and isn’t likely to happen soon.


A benefit concert honoring Mercury’s 60th birthday started coming together in 2006 as a gala beach party to bring together locals and perhaps begin drawing western tourists to the area. But as soon as posters promoting the event began popping up, local Muslims cried foul. A conservative Sunni muslim society, Zanzibar’s reticence to the Mercury celebration accelerated quickly. Upon hearing of the celebration, the country’s Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, known as Uamsho, threatened to demonstrate at the event after hearing that gay tourists might visit the island for the concert.

Considering Zanzibar’s religious makeup, any future celebrations of Mercury could be a problem. The hit singer was openly gay and HIV positive when he passed away. Having outlawed gay relations in 2004, local officials have since questioned Mercury’s allegiance to his birthplace, noting that he rarely, if ever, returned to Zanzibar despite being the country’s biggest celebrity. Local tours honoring Freddie Mercury still exist, but they don’t appear to have any real affiliation with Zanzibar’s Commission for Tourism. So while Zanzibar appears set on promoting itself as a prime tourist spot, it will do so without acknowledging a native son who became one of the 20th century’s greatest entertainers.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less