Tippu Tip, or Tippu Tib (1832 – June 14, 1905), real name Ḥamad ibn Muḥammad ibn Jumʿah ibn Rajab ibn Muḥammad ibn Saʿīd al Murjabī ( ar, حمد بن محمد بن جمعة بن رجب بن محمد بن سعيد المرجبي), was an Afro-Omani ivory and slave trader, explorer, governor and
plantation A plantation is an agricultural estate, generally centered on a plantation houseA plantation house is the main house of a plantation A plantation is a large-scale estate, generally centered on a plantation house, meant for farming that spe ...

owner. He worked for a succession of the
sultans of Zanzibar The sultans of Zanzibar ( ar, سلاطين زنجبار) were the rulers of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, which was created on 19 October 1856 after the death of Said bin Sultan, Sultan of Muscat and Oman, Said bin Sultan, who had ruled Oman and Zan ...

sultans of Zanzibar
. Tippu Tip traded in slaves for Zanzibar's
clove Cloves are the aromatic flower A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom Image:Cerisier du Japon Prunus serrulata.jpg, Cherry blossoms in Paris in full bloom. In botany, blossoms are the flowers of stone fruit fruit tree, trees (genu ...

plantations. As part of the large and lucrative
ivory trade The ivory trade is the commercial, often illegal trade in the ivory Ivory is a hard, white material from the tusk Tusks are elongated, continuously growing front teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcification, calcified structur ...

ivory trade
, he led many trading expeditions into
Central Africa Central Africa is a subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhab ...

Central Africa
, constructing profitable trading posts deep into the region. He bought the ivory from local suppliers and resold it for a profit at coastal ports. He was also the most well known slave trader in Africa, supplying much of the world with black slaves.

Early life

Based on descriptions of his age at different points in his life, it is believed that Tippu Tip was born around 1832 in Zanzibar. Tippu Tip's mother, Bint Habib bin Bushir, was a
Muscat Muscat ( ar, مَسْقَط, ) is the Capital (political), capital city and is the most populated city in Oman. It is the seat of the Muscat (governorate), Governorate of Muscat. According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information ( ...

Arab The Arabs (singular Arab ; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, : , Arabic pronunciation: , plural ar, عَرَبٌ, : , Arabic pronunciation: ) are an mainly inhabiting the . In modern usage the term refers to those who originate from an Arab co ...
of the ruling class. His father and paternal grandfather were coastal
Arabs The Arabs (singular Arab ; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technica ...

of the who had taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. His paternal great-grandmother, wife of Rajab bin Mohammed bin Said el Murgebi, was the daughter of Juma bin Mohammed el Nebhani, a member of a respected Muscat (
Oman Oman ( ; ar, عُمَان ' ), officially the Sultanate of Oman ( ar, سلْطنةُ عُمان ), is a country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. Formerly a maritime empire, Oman is the oldest continuously in ...

) family, and a
Bantu Bantu may refer to: *Bantu languages, constitute the largest sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages *Bantu peoples, over 400 peoples of Africa speaking a Bantu language *Afro-textured hair#Styling, Bantu knots, a type of African hairstyle *Blac ...
woman from the village of Mbwa Maji, a small village south of what would later become the German capital of
Dar es Salaam Dar es-Salaam (; from ar, دار السلام, Dār as-Salām, lit=Place of Peace) or commonly known as Dar, is the largest city and financial hub of Tanzania Tanzania (; ), officially the United Republic of Tanzania ( sw, Jamhuri ya Mu ...

Dar es Salaam
. Throughout his lifetime Hamad bin Muhammad bin Juma bin Rajab el Murjebi was more commonly known as ''Tippu Tib'', which translates to "the gatherer together of wealth". According to him, he was given the nickname Tippu Tip after the "tiptip" sound that his guns gave off during expeditions in Chungu territory. At a relatively young age, Tippu Tip led a group of about 100 men into Central Africa seeking slaves and ivory. After plundering several large swathes of land, he returned to Zanzibar to consolidate his resources and recruit for his forces. Following this he returned to mainland Africa.

Later life

Tippu Tip built a trading empire, using the proceeds to establish
clove Cloves are the aromatic flower A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom Image:Cerisier du Japon Prunus serrulata.jpg, Cherry blossoms in Paris in full bloom. In botany, blossoms are the flowers of stone fruit fruit tree, trees (genu ...

plantations on
Zanzibar Zanzibar (; ; ) is an insular autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnational administrative division Administrative d ...

. reported that when he left for his twelve years of "empire building" on the mainland, he had no plantations of his own. By 1895, he had acquired "seven 'shambas' lantationsand 10,000 slaves". He met and helped several famous western explorers of the
African continent Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical r ...

African continent
, including
David Livingstone David Livingstone (; 19 March 1813 – 1 May 1873) was a Scottish physician, Congregationalist, and pioneer Christian missionary A missionary is a member of a Religious denomination, religious group sent into an area to promote thei ...

David Livingstone
Henry Morton Stanley Sir Henry Morton Stanley (born John Rowlands; 28 January 1841 – 10 May 1904) was a Welsh-American explorer, journalist, soldier, colonial administrator, author and politician who was famous for his exploration of Central Africa Cent ...

Henry Morton Stanley
.Stanley, H. M., 1899, ''Through the Dark Continent'', London: G. Newnes, Vol. One , Vol. Two Between 1884 and 1887 he claimed the Eastern Congo for himself and for the Sultan of Zanzibar, Barghash bin Said of Zanzibar, Bargash bin Said el Busaidi. In spite of his position as protector of Zanzibar's interests in Congo (area), Congo, he managed to maintain good relations with the Europeans. When, in August 1886, fighting broke out between the Swahili people, Swahili and the representatives of King Leopold II of Belgium at Boyoma Falls, Stanley Falls, al-Murjabī went to the Belgian consul at
Zanzibar Zanzibar (; ; ) is an insular autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnational administrative division Administrative d ...

to assure him of his "good intentions". Although he was still a force in Central African politics, he could see by 1886 that power in the region was shifting.

Governor of the Stanley Falls District

In early 1887, Stanley arrived in Zanzibar and proposed that Tippu Tip be made governor of the Stanley Falls District in the Congo Free State. Both Leopold and Sultan Barghash bin Said of Zanzibar agreed and on February 24, 1887, Tippu Tip accepted. At the same time, he agreed to man the expedition which Stanley had been commissioned to organize for the purpose of rescuing Emin Pasha (E. Schnitzer), the German governor of Equatoria (a region of Khedivate of Egypt, Ottoman Egypt, today in South Sudan) who had been stranded in the Bahr el Ghazal (region of South Sudan), Bahr el Ghazal area as a result of the Mahdist Sudan, Mahdi uprising in Sudan. Tippu Tip travelled back to the Upper Congo in the company of Stanley, but this time by way of the Atlantic coast and up the Congo River. Aside from its doubtful usefulness, the relief expedition was marred by the near annihilation of its rearguard, a disaster for which Stanley attempted to place the blame on Tippu Tip.

Congo–Arab War

After his tenure as governor, the Congo–Arab War broke out. Both sides fought with armies consisting mostly of local African soldiers fighting under the command of either Arab or European leaders. When Tippu Tip left the Congo, the authority of King Leopold's Free State was still very weak in the Eastern parts of the territory and the power lay largely with local Arabic or Swahili strongmen. Amongst these were Tippu Tip's son Sefu bin Hamid and a trader known as Rumaliza in the area close to Lake Tanganyika. In 1892, Sefu bin Hamid, Sefu bin Hamed attacked Belgian ivory traders, who were seen as a threat to the Arab-Swahili trade. The Free State government sent a force under commander Francis Dhanis to the East. Dhanis had an early success when the African warlord Ngongo Lutete changed sides from Sefu's to his. The better armed and organised Belgian force defeated their opponents in several fights until the death of Sefu on 20 October 1893, and finally forcing also Rumaliza to flee to German territory in 1895.


After returning to Zanzibar around 1890/91, Tippu Tip retired. He set out to write an account of his life, which is the first example of the literary genre of autobiography in the Bantu languages, Bantu Swahili language. Dr. Heinrich Brode, who knew him in Zanzibar, transcribed the manuscript into Roman script and translated it into German. It was subsequently translated into English and published in Britain in 1907.Tippoo Tib, The story of his career in Central Africa, narrated from his own accounts by Dr. Heinrich Brode, London, Edward Arnold 1907
/ref> Tippu Tip died June 13, 1905, of malaria (according to Brode) in his home in Stone Town, the main town on the island of Zanzibar.



* * * * * Maisha ya Hamed bin Mohammed el Murjebi yaani Tippu Tip kwa maneno yake mwenyewe, kimefasiriwa na W.H. Whitely (toleo la Kiswahili - Kiingereza), East Africa Literature Bureau 1974 * * Sheriff, Abdul. ''Slaves, Spices & Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770-1873.'' London, Nairobi, Tanzania, Athens,OH: James Currey, Heinemann Kenya, Tanzania Publishing House, Ohio University Press, 1987.

External links

{{DEFAULTSORT:Tip, Tippu Zanzibari people African slave traders Arab slave traders 19th century in Zanzibar 1832 births 1905 deaths African warlords Deaths from malaria Infectious disease deaths in Tanzania Congo Free State History of Central Africa History of Zanzibar Tanzanian people of Omani descent 19th-century African businesspeople Congo Free State people 19th-century Arabs 19th-century Omani people Arab explorers Slave traders of Zanzibar Afro-Arab peoples