Zanzibar is a dazzling and fascinating island that lies a few miles off the mainland of Tanzania. Holding its heartbeat is Stone Town, where vibrant history mixes with eclectic culture and amazing architecture to create a simmering pot of diversity and tradition that is mesmerising to explore. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the magical jumble of this ancient city is a rare jewel to find.
Zanzibar is also referred to as the ‘spice island’, as it was once an important port along the spice trade route. Today, you can still find spices from all around the world and there are great aromatic markets to explore in Stone Town. Spice tours are also available.
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Although Stone Town does not feature the sandy white beaches that are on the east side of the island, the sea is still warm and peaceful, and the beautiful buildings that hug the shoreline make for a gorgeous contrast.
The House of Wonders is the largest and tallest building in Stone Town and was once the most modern building in East Africa. It blends European style with Zanzibari tradition and features elaborate door carvings, opulent marble floors and mangrove ceilings.
House of Wonders, Sokoku St, Zanzibar Town, +255 754 710 807
St Joseph’s Cathedral is one of the most important historical buildings in Stone Town and also a favourite stopover for visitors. Although it may be difficult to find among the maze of streets, it is one of the easiest elements to spot on the city’s skyline.
Zanzibar is renowned for having some of the friendliest locals you could wish to meet. Expect to hear ‘jambo’ wherever you go – a Swahili greeting that means ‘hello’.
Intricate wooden doors
The beautiful wooden doors that are found throughout Stone Town in Zanzibar are not only pretty to look at but also give a good insight into the history of the island. If you look carefully, many of the intricate masterpieces recall the clash of Swahili, Arabic and Indian influences on the island and tell stories of the past residents’ social status, religion and profession.
Although Zanzibar can be considered a melting pot of culture, religion and tradition, today most of the inhabitants are Muslim. Stone Town is slightly more conservative than the rest of the island and a deep spiritual ethos can be felt throughout. Uplifting religious inscriptions on doors and walls are a common sight.
Make a stop at the Rooftop Tea House Restaurant for cocktails come sunset. The restaurant is located within an intricately carved gazebo and offers awesome views over the shores of Stone Town. The seafood-based dinners are a treat and plated with a good dash of Zanzibari.
For a feast of flavour, head to Forodhani Gardens where the evening food markets offer all the tastes of Zanzibar. The small and historic park is located in the heart of Stone Town and is the perfect spot to socialise and catch a bite to eat.
Forodhani Gardens, Zanzibar Town, +255 762 039 310
Much of Stone Town consists of old buildings that reflect an eclectic architectural style and beautiful designs. These buildings hold the essence of the island and whisper the secrets of times gone by. They are too beautiful to ignore!
Getting lost in the narrow, winding street of Stone Town is pretty easy, and sometimes part of the fun. Leave the GPS at home and let the streets of Stone Town lead you to unexpected treasures.
Savour the small things
Don’t expect life on an island to provide super-fast anything. Slow down and match the rhythmic pace of the locals. Taking the time to savour the small things is what life is all about.
In keeping with the slow pace of island life, visitors to Stone Town may find they want to ditch technology in favour of a good paperback novel or writing letters or postcards. Connectivity does not top the list of important things in life in Zanzibar, and why should it when there is so much more to enjoy?
It could be argued that you have not experienced the true beauty of Africa until you take in a panoramic sunset while reclining on a dhow. These traditional fishing boats offer scenic cruises into the still Indian Ocean for absolutely epic views of the setting sun.
African retail therapy
Shopping in Zanzibar is like diving into a treasure-trove filled with delightful surprises and sometimes hidden gems. From fresh fruit to fabric and everything in between, you will probably find it in Stone Town.
Taste the flavours of the island and try a coconut drink. Coconuts grow all over Zanzibar and coconut milk is highly nutritious, providing high levels of electrolytes such as potassium and plenty of minerals, helping to keep you hydrated and healthy.
Soak up the beauty
Embrace your time in Stone Town and always remember that life is too short to take it for granted. The beauty and vibrancy of this gorgeous island turns moments into memories that will last a lifetime. So don’t rush your tour and miss the moment that may just become your favourite, treasured memory.
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