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Early residents of Tanzania's coastal region experienced heavy Eastern, rather than African, cultural influences, developing a different culture from the people living in the interior. Merchants from Egypt, Assyria, Phoenicia, Greece, India, Arabia, Persia, and China were already visiting this region during the first century A.D. By the ninth century, Arabs and Shirazi Persians were significant traders on the coast, and large numbers of them settled on the offshore islands. In time, the Arab and Shirazi communities intermingled with the Bantu-speaking mainland groups and a new culture - the Swahili - was born.
During the late 19th century, European explorers and missionaries used Zanzibar as a point of departure for the mainland. Their travels helped define future colonial boundaries and paved the way for Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries.
In its desire to establish an economic and political foothold among other European powers, a newly unified Germany entered mainland Tanzania in 1884 and signed a series of agreements with local rulers that ceded administrative and commercial protection to Germany. With the onset of World War I, Germany lost control of mainland Tanzania. Great Britain took over and renamed the mainland Tanganyika. In 1922, the League of Nations consigned Tanganyika to the British Empire under its mandate system.
It was not until 1961 that Tanganyika gained independence from Britain, with Julius Nyerere serving as the country's first president. In January 1964, revolutionary forces overthrew the sultan of Zanzibar, and three months later, the mainland and the islands of Zanzibar joined to become the United Republic of Tanzania.