Shared history: Omanis celebrate Samia Suluhu Hassan becoming president of Tanzania

Hailing from Zanzibar, Tanzania's first female president has family ties to Oman

Tanzania's new President Samia Suluhu Hassan is seen after taking oath of office following the death of her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli at State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 19, 2021. Tanzania State House Press/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
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Samia Suluhu Hassan became president of Tanzania on Wednesday after the death of John Magufuli and news of her inauguration was welcomed by some Omanis.

She is not only the first female president of Tanzania, but the first leader of the country born in the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar.

We are all proud of her. She is a living example of the deep ties between Oman and Zanzibar

She also has links to Oman through her paternal grandfather, who was born in the eastern town of Al Mudhaibi.

Her relatives in Oman are proud of her.
"We never expected her to become president of Tanzania and that is the reason she is now the centre of euphoria in Mudhaibi, a town where her grandfather was born," a cousin and resident of the town, Mohammed Al Naamani, told The National.

“The last time she visited Oman was in 2016 and she came right here in Mudhaibi to see us. After that, due to her busy political life, she could not make it again.”

Ms Hassan, 61, served as Magufuli’s vice president and last year the pair were re-elected for another five years.

Under the constitution, she will complete the rest of the term in the top job.

Khadija Al Ghaithi, a retired civil servant in Muscat, went to school with Ms Hassan in Zanzibar and said they exchanged messages last week.

"I was expecting her not to answer her WhatsApp messages because of her new powerful position. But she answered my messages of congratulations very warmly. That shows how humble she still is and that power did not get into her head," she said.

Ms Al Ghaithi said she went to school with Ms Hassan when they were 12 years old and kept in touch over the years.

“She was a high achiever in class and very good at communication. She was also always ready to help her friends with anything," Ms Al Ghaithi said.

"I am personally proud of her as a friend but not at all surprised that she made it to the top in her political career."

It was not only those who personally knew her who had warm words.

Residents of Al Mudhaibi rejoiced at her new status, despite having never met her.
"I know her family in Al Mudhaibi but never met her personally when she came here to visit them. But the whole town is talking about her," Ahmed Al Sinawi, 58, told The National.

“We are all proud of her. She is a living example of the deep ties between Oman and Zanzibar, tying the two countries together in our common heritage. I really hope she will be back in town to visit us again."

Camel breeders in Al-Mudhaibi. Saleh Al-Shaibany for The National

Some people from Zanzibar consider Oman to be their ancestral home. It was ruled by Oman between 1698 and 1890 and during that time, a large number of Zanzibaris emigrated.

In 1890, Zanzibar became a British protectorate and was ruled by local sultans, who all had Omani ancestry.
The last sultan who ruled Zanzibar was Jamshid bin Abdullah, who was deposed in a coup in January 1964. In April that year, Zanzibar united with Tanganyika to form the republic of Tanzania.
The last sultan of Zanzibar retired in Oman in September last year after more than 50 years in exile in the UK.

Gallery: Historical sites of Oman