Zanzibar is a series of many islands, the main ones being Unguja and Pemba and lies off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. In addition to the two main islands, there are many other islands and islets in the Zanzibar archipelago which stretches from the top of Pemba to the south point of Unguja. Zanzibar is famous for once being the commercial centre of East Africa and the last place to abolish the slave trade. Today it combines ancient Islamic ruins, noble Arabic houses with miles of white sandy palm fringed beaches and coves.
The ocean offers warm clear blue waters, idyllic islands excellent reefs for snorkelling and diving, fantastic deep sea fishing, water sports and of course delicious fresh fish. And if you thought that wasn’t enough, visiting the Spice plantations of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom and others, or haggling for carvings in the Central Market is great fun too.
Unguja is in the Indian Ocean about 40kms east of Bagamoyo on the Tanzanian mainland. It is more populated of the two main islands and is home to Stone Town (also known as Zanzibar Town or City), an historic, bustling city of narrow alleyways and stone coral buildings. Most of the population lives in the more fertile regions of the north and west. The beaches and the reefs on the eastern coasts make them ideal for fishing villages, tourist guesthouses and resorts.
Pemba, located about 50kms north of Unguja, is far less populated. Known also by its Arabic name, Al Khundra meaning Green Island, Pemba is covered in steep hills full of palms, clove and rubber trees, rice paddies and the Ngezi Forest in the north. There are many pure, beautiful beaches in and around the numerous inlets and coves.
The people of Zanzibar are predominantly Muslim, about 95% of the population being followers of Islam. The remaining percentage is a mix of Christians, Hindus and followers of various other religions. Swahili is the official and national language of Tanzania but English is also spoken in Zanzibar, and a percentage of the population also has a working knowledge of Arabic. The literacy rate in Zanzibar is very high.
Zanzibar is a few degrees south of the equator and enjoys a tropical climate that is largely dominated by the Indian Ocean monsoons. The winter months, November and December, experience short rains and the long rains arrive in March and last until late May or June.
January through March is generally hot and dry with little rainfall. April through June is wet because of the long rains which start to taper off in May. July through October are ideal months for visiting Zanzibar because the average temperature is 25 C, the air is dry and breezy and there is little rainfall.
Zanzibar as a cultural collage: Rice from Malaysia, Cloves from Indonesia, Bullfighting from Portugal, Islam from Arabia, Cassava and Cashews from Brazil, Tomatoes and Corn from the Americas, Turmeric from India, and some types of Bananas and Coconuts possibly from Pacific islands or Southeast Asia. The large, loud black birds seen in and around Zanzibar are Indian Crows imported by Sir Gerald Portal, who was hoping that the birds would help the sanitation effort by eating ‘waste’.
Swahili had been written only in Arabic script, using Arabic letters to spell Swahili words phonetically, until the arrival of the first English-Swahili dictionary that spelled Swahili words in the Roman alphabet. Bishop Edward Steere – the same man who oversaw the building of the Anglican Cathedral over the site of the old slave market, wrote the dictionary.
Easily accessible for the people of the African mainland, the Zanzibar islands are believed to have been settled first by Africans, three to four thousand years ago. Centuries later the island began a history of hosting foreigners from Egypt, Greece, Persia, Arabia, India, China and Europe. The first recorded visit to Zanzibar is from about 60 AD and appears in a work titled “The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea”, written by a Greek merchant who was living in Alexandria.
Trade routes from Egypt, Roman Europe and the African coast, including Zanzibar were, by the time of Ptolemy’s writing, extending to Indo-Chinese ports.
It is believed that Bantu people (Africans speaking Bantu languages) settled in Zanzibar somewhere around the 4th century AD. By the 7th century AD, Islam had made its way to Zanzibar by way of Arab and Persian immigrants who were fleeing political strife, war, and famine in their own lands.
The Arabs mixed with the local African population and along with trading goods, traded words as well, which eventually resulted in a language called Kiswahili today. The people referred to themselves and their culture as Swahili (thought to be named from the Arabic word sahil meaning coast) and thus the language was named as well.
For the following centuries the Arabs and Persians continued to trade with their homelands while marrying into local society in Zanzibar and along the East African coast.
Typical cargoes bound for Persia or Arabia consisted of gold, animal pelts, tortoise shells, ivory, ebony, and slaves; return ships contained porcelains, beads, and cloth. The Swahili culture reached its peak in the 13th century and it prospered up until the arrival of the Europeans in the late 15th century.
The oldest trace of Islam on the island is in Kizimkazi, the southern-most village on Unguja, where there’s a mosque with inscriptions dating back to 1107 AD. The mosque has been renovated several times but the old inscriptions are still there and available for viewing by tourists. Remember to remove shoes, keep shoulders and knees covered, speak quietly, and leave a donation. Women are allowed to enter this mosque.
By the 15th century, Zanzibar was its own Sultanate but this independence did not last. In 1498 Vasco da Gama’s expedition from Portugal began a stronghold over the whole East African Coast that lasted for two centuries. The Portuguese did not send enough men to protect their new territory and by the late 1600s they had lost their last East African holding by surrendering Mombasa on the now Kenyan coast.
There is little evidence left that the Portuguese dominated Zanzibar for two hundred years although there are still bullfights on Pemba, some words left in Swahili that originated from Portuguese, and the patterns of the kanga (ubiquitous local cloth) are said to have originated from Portuguese handkerchiefs.
The Bullfights in Pemba, assumed to be a cultural holdover from the Portuguese era, do not result in the death of the animal.
Zanzibar Stone Town
Zanzibar’s capital and largest town is Stone Town, located in the middle of the west coast of Unguja. The town was named for the coral stone buildings that were build there largely during the 19th century.
Stone Town is known for its narrow alleyways, large carved doors and covered balconies. The doors, large wooden carved affairs with or without brass studs, are a part of the Swahili culture influenced by Arab and especially Indian motifs. The large brass studs became decoration after first having served as spike covers; the spikes having been protection from elephant raids during wars in India. Doors with rounded tops, or lintels, reflect Indian influence while doors with flat lintels demonstrate a version popular with Omanis in Zanzibar. Many doors have Koranic inscriptions and some of the older doors found in town are much less ornate than the later ones. Different carvings to look for are chains around the edge meant to bring security, Lotus and rosettes in the center meant to represent prosperity, and fish at the bottom representing fertility.
On the waterfront, near the Old Dispensary, is an old tree known locally as the Big Tree. Some locals believe that Sultan Khalifa planted it in 1911 but others believe it was planted in 1944 as a bicentennial of Al Busaid. The Big Tree is quite visible from the harbor and is seen in many old photographs. The shaded area underneath it is currently used as a workshop for men building boats.
Only 226 or about 13 per cent of Stone Town’s buildings are considered to be in good condition – the remaining structures are either deteriorating or in ruins.
After the Portuguese were beaten out of the region, the Omanis took control of Zanzibar despite protest from local African chiefs. The Omanis ruled Zanzibar in actuality and in theory up until the bloody revolution of 1963. During this period, about a dozen sultans of the Busaidi family took the throne and ruled the islands. The most influential, successful, and possibly the most kind of these was “Said the Great” or Seyyid Said bin Sultan.
Sultan Said introduced cloves to the island in the early 1800s and, together with the lucrative slave trade that ran out of Zanzibar, put his empire in riches. Things were going so well for the Sultan in Zanzibar that, around 1840, he decided to move the Sultanate capital from Muscat to Unguja.
By mid 19th century, Zanzibar was the world’s leading clove exporter as well as a large exporter of slaves. A reported 25,000 slaves passed through Zanzibar every year. Slave trader Tipu Tip got so rich off the trade that he was able to afford over thirty concubines and their children in addition to his official wife and her two children.
After Sultan Said died in 1856 (on a boat while returning to Zanzibar from a placating visit to Oman), the royal family faced a series of near debilitating power struggles. Plagued by jealousy, intrigue, and the abolition of slavery, the sultans and their subjects faced a post-heyday slump during which the British were successful in wresting away from them much of the control of the island.
The British had been trying to abolish the slave trade from the island since Sultan Said’s rule but had only been successful in effecting quotas and intimidating traders of certain nationalities. After his death, the British succeeded in pressuring Said’s successors to stop the slave trade on Zanzibar.
In 1873, Sultan Barghash signed a treaty agreeing to the end of the slave trade in his dominions but didn’t honor it. By 1890, Sultan Ali, the last of Sultan Said’s successors, signed the third treaty of its kind promising an end to the slave trade in Zanzibar. This one stuck and all slaves to enter the area after that date were declared free and no more were sold.
On August 25, 1896, Sultan Hamed bin Thuwain (Grandson of Said the Great) died leaving the Sultanate’s throne empty. Hamed’s cousin, Khaled (the son of former Sultan Barghash,) claimed the throne by crawling through a window of the ceremonial palace, collecting supporters and then announcing that he was the new Sultan. During this time Zanzibar was a Protectorate under the British Government, and they were not about to release control of the island to an attempted palace coup. On August 26th they sent an ultimatum to Khaled stating that the British would use force if he did not lower his flag by 9:00 a.m. the next day. On August 27th in the early morning hours, the European women were shuttled to a boat offshore to wait out the day. At 9:00 a.m., with Khaled’s flag still flying, the British opened fire and in forty minutes managed to destroy the Palace, the Harem, the Sultan’s ship, the Glasgow, and the lighthouse, leaving the House of Wonders only slightly damaged. At 9:45am the war was over and Seyyid Hamoud bin Muhammed was proclaimed as the new, and British- approved, Sultan. The war lasted only forty-five minutes and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the shortest war in history.
From 1902 to 1970 Zanzibar was home to at least fifty newspapers, most of which were published in English, Swahili and/or Gujarati, an Indian language.
The British Protectorate continued until, realizing that independence was looming for the islands, the British granted them independence in June of 1963. Constitutional independence was established on December 10th, 1963 and control of the islands was passed to the constitutional monarch. The new monarchy didn’t last long, however, because on January 1964, just a month later, a violent revolution resulted in the emergence of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar led by President Karume, the leader of the Afro-Shirazi Party. The revolution was brief but brutal; over 17,000 Arabs and Indians were killed in a period of several days. Many of the remaining Asians and Arabs left the island and their possessions and land were nationalized.
On April 24, 1964 Zanzibar joined with Julius (Mwalimu – Swahili for ‘teacher’) Nyerere’s Tanganyika to form modern day Tanzania. Zanzibar’s autonomous state included a constitutional right to keep its own President, Chief Minister, Cabinet and House of Representatives. The union did not place Zanzibar at the feet of Tanzania, and Karume managed to keep profits from the clove plantations on Pemba without having to give any over to the mainland.
In the late 1980s Zanzibar opened to the idea of free market and started to take advantage of its tourism potential. Zanzibar held its first multi-party elections in 1995.
1998 marked the year of Zanzibar’s first traffic light.
Islands near Stone Town
Prison Island (Changuu) is the most popular island for people seeking an island excursion from Stone Town. It is a short boat ride (about 10 minutes) and the snorkelling is excellent. You’ll pass ruins of an old laundry center, a natural lagoon that can be quite beautiful if the tide is right, and the old quarantine housing.
Look for the old prison built on the island but was never used for its intended purpose, instead housing quarantined visitors to Zanzibar. There’s also a restaurant in the large house (formerly the General’s) and there is a smaller building that serves as a guesthouse.
One of the island’s main attractions, are the large land tortoises that roam around the big house. Peacocks are also inhabitants of the island.
Snake Island (Nyoka) doesn’t have a beach so is not frequently visited. There are no known trails on this small island that is between Prison and Grave Islands.
Grave Island (Chapwani) is a long and thin island just to the north of Snake Island; it has graves on it primarily belonging to the British who suffered casualties while fighting against Arab slaving ships. There are other graves dating from the First World War.
Bawe Island is south of Prison Island, about a 30-minute boat ride and has some of the best snorkelling spots in the archipelago. In 1870 the island was used to anchor the first telegraph cables to Zanzibar linking it with Aden, South Africa and the Seychelles. The beach is excellent at all times of the tide. There are some trees that provide shade allowing fair-skinned people to make a whole day just sitting on the beach.
Sandbar Island is an island only at low tide. It’s also located south of Prison Island. It’s a popular destination when the moon is full because of the view of sunset and moonrise. After the sun sets it’s very dark on the island and you can’t see much but once the moon comes up and loses its redness from the horizon it’s like being under a natural floodlight. The city takes on a special appearance under the red moon and looks beautiful too. As the tide continues to go out, the island gets bigger and people walk along the sandbar appearing as if they’re walking on water. It’s also good for day picnics, snorkelling and diving but keep in mind the lack of shade and equatorial sun.
Chumbe Island is Tanzania’s first Marine National Park and it is also home to a Nature reserve that boasts an abundance of local birds and flora. It is also known as Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP). Along with establishing Chumbe Island as a conservation area, several practical steps have been taken to preserve it; there are permanent moorings for boats landing at Chumbe and this prevents the need to drop anchor and kill coral. Chumbe is a private island and only authorized tour companies are allowed to moor here in an attempt to keep irresponsible boaters from causing damage to the reef. Nature trails have been set up on the island as well as an educational facility. There’s a lighthouse on the island slated to be converted into an observation tower and there is an old mosque that was built in an Indian style and is unique to Tanzania. There’s a nice restaurant on the island and the price of dinner includes boat transport.
While walking tours are nice and can be arranged with a guide, getting lost in Stone Town is fun and harmless. Because the town is small and all roads eventually lead to either the waterfront or large, car-traffic roads, tourists can wander and explore while they take in the sights. Local people, both adult and child, are very helpful in aiding visitors to find their way, and there are no dangers as long as you’re getting lost during the day. While in town it is polite (and much appreciated) to observe local custom by keeping your knees and shoulders covered; this applies to both men and women. Be sure to ask for permission before taking pictures of Stone Town residents. This is especially important when the subject of your picture is a woman.
Built in 1780 by the Omanis (not by the Portuguese, as is commonly thought), the large stone structure next to the House of Wonders (Beit-el-Ajaib) was used to protect people from at least one attack from the mainland. It was later used as a prison and a barracks. Within its walls are leftover structures from a Portuguese church and a previous fortification built by the Omanis in the beginning of the same century. The modern-day fort is a great place to stop for lunch and at night there are often Taarab, Ngoma (local styles of music and dance) or movie nights. Also inside the Fort are shops and a beauty salon that does henna painting.
Quickly becoming a posh neighbourhood with the opening of the Zanzibar Serena Inn and a new full service beauty salon, Dia Beauty Centre, Kelele Square was once the site of a slave market. The square was presumably named during the time of the slave trade and it must have been a source of considerable noise as its name suggests: ‘kelele’ is the Swahili word for noise.
Zanzibar’s High Court of Justice building is a combination of Arabic design and Portuguese influence and was designed by J. H .Sinclair, an architect and former British resident. It is on Kaunda Road near Victoria Gardens and the President’s House.
Hamamni Persian Baths
The Hamamni Persian Baths were commissioned by Sultan Barghash bin Said (son of Said the Great) and were built for public use. Hamamni translates into “place of the baths” and is now the name of the neighbourhood where these baths once were. (The tubs are still there, but the water is gone).
The baths are an interesting place to visit, but depending on how much time you have, how well you deal with heat, and how interested you are in history, you may want to skip the guide and have a look on your own. There’s a nominal fee for entering and it’s payable in US or local currency.
The front rooms were used for changing, barbering, paying dues and socializing. The long hall leads to the warm room that was heated by underground hot-water aqueducts. Remaining rooms include hot baths, cold baths, toilets and private shaving areas. The original building was larger and featured an arcade and restaurant but that part has since been turned into private residences. Although they were public, only the wealthy classes frequented the baths.
It was (and still is) customary for married Muslim men and women to rid themselves of all body hair; shaving vestibules were provided within the bathhouse.
Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ
The Anglican Church is located on Mkunazini Road and was started in 1873. It is said that the altar stands on the exact location of the whipping post from the island’s largest slave market. There is a small museum just before the church where tourists can crawl into a space that was allegedly used to hold slaves before they were sold (the space was originally built by missionaries who created it for cold storage). It’s a horrifyingly small space and gives the visitor a glimpse into the terror of the trade even if it wasn’t actually used to store slaves. Visitors pay a fee to enter the museum and this usually includes a guide for the museum and the Church.
St. Joseph‘s Catholic Cathedral
Built between 1893 and 1897 by French missionaries, St. Joseph’s Cathedral was designed by the same architect who designed the cathedral at Marseilles, France. Its spires can be seen from any elevated point in town and it serves as a handy landmark for those in search of Chit Chat restaurant although the spires are hard to see from the narrow streets of Stone Town.
The Old Dispensary
The recently restored Old Dispensary, also known as the Aga Khan Cultural Centre is worth a visit for the small museum on the upper level that describes and depicts the restoration process. Old photos of the waterfront are also on display. The first stone of the Old Dispensary was laid in 1887 and the building was finished in 1894. It was built by Tharia Topan, one of Zanzibar’s richest men in order to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
The Shakti Temple had a sizable congregation before the revolution, but after a large number of Hindus departed from Zanzibar in 1964, this temple is now rarely full. Its chimes and bells, rung every day around sunrise and just before sunset, can be heard from the rooftop restaurant of Emerson’s & Green, just across the street (as the crow flies).
Aga Khan Mosque
Another place of worship that was built for a larger congregation than it now services is the Aga Khan Mosque. It is a large and beautifully detailed building with an airy courtyard in the front. The façade shows European influence in its gothic windows.
One of Stone Town’s oldest mosques and was built by the Sunni sect in a typical simple style. This mosque is unusual because its minaret is conical, one of only three in East Africa. Another unusual trait is that the minaret sits on a square platform instead of starting from the ground as most minarets do. To see the minaret you’ll need to stand on a baraza (stone or cement benches on the outside of Swahili style buildings) of a neighboring building that is down an alley and across the road from the mosque itself. Across from the mosque entrance is an old mausoleum, one of the few left in Stone Town.
The Palace Museum has a room dedicated to the life of Princess Salme of Zanzibar, daughter of Sultan Said. It contains family photographs and excerpts from her book titled, “Memoirs of an Arabian Princess,” as well as a sample of her typical wardrobe. The Palace also has other rooms on display showing a mix of various types of furniture acquired by the sultans over the years that provide a good idea about the quality of life for the sultan’s family toward the end of their reign. Standing on one of the balconies and looking out toward the harbour, one might get a similar view to what the Sultans saw from the same spot.
‘Memoirs of an Arabian Princess’, by Princess Salme, is an account of her life in the royal court of Zanzibar in the 1800’s. It is considered to be a very important work because it is the only one of its kind. Women in the royal court of Oman and Zanzibar were not taught to read or write (outside of basic Koran lessons) and therefore there are no written legacies that describe what life was like for them, except for Salme’s. The book is available at some shops in town and it is highly recommended reading for those visiting Zanzibar.
The Peace Memorial Museum
Located on Creek Road near the intersection of Kuanda Road and designed by the same architect who designed the High Court, J. H. Sinclair, the National Museum is home to many of Zanzibar’s memorabilia including, most notably, Livingstone’s medical chest. Also on display are a piece of Zanzibar’s (and East Africa’s first) railroad, and an old, palm oil-powered bicycle lamp. For history buffs it’s a great place to read up on Zanzibar’s history as it relates to everything from slavery, the royal families, coins, stamps, local crafts, trade and the many and varied colonial years. Next door to the museum is a small Natural History museum that includes some stuffed and jarred specimens along with a few bones, including those of a dodo. The only live specimens are the large land tortoises that live outside in a large cage.
Beit-el-Ajaib (House of Wonders)
Sultan Barghash built Beit-el-Ajaib (Arabic for ‘House of Wonders’) in 1883 on the site of former Zanzibar Queen Fatuma’s residence of the 16th century. It got its name by being the first house in Stone Town with electric lights. It was also the first building in East Africa to have an electric elevator. It is easily found because it’s the largest building on the island; it’s white, has a clock tower, and faces the ocean and fronts on Mizingani Road.
In 1977 the CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Swahili for ‘the Party of the Revolution’) made the House of Wonders their party school and museum. There are still CCM signs up around the ground-floor veranda and some larger signs closer to the clock tower. Some of President Karume’s old cars, including a Zephyr and an Austin are inside.
Darajani Bazaar and Dala-dala Station
Zanzibar’s ‘mall’ is across Creek Road near the main market on Darajani Road. Also known as Darajani Bazaar, this shopping strip is a fun walk. Things available in the Darajani bazaar are mostly Chinese and Iranian imports such as sheets, synthetic fabrics, metal pans, plastic shoes, radios and other products of the modern world. For people planning a long stay in Zanzibar, Darajani is a great place to stock up on items like portable mosquito nets, thermoses and flip-flops. It’s also a good place to pick up fabric.
Matwani or Basi, the giant wooden-sided trucks, are the long-haul public transport vehicles. They stop on the Stone Town side of Creek Road near the market. They travel to village destinations beyond the reach of the dala-dalas but they travel slowly and usually there is only one trip to a village per day.
A Dala-dala is a small pickup truck whose bed has had benches installed around the edges and a roof placed on top. Dala-dalas got their name from the Swahili pronunciation of ‘dollar’; the original fare was a five-shilling coin the size of a silver dollar. The tailgate has been removed and in its place steps have been installed making the dala-dalas easy to board. Passengers sit on the benches in the trunk-bed as well as whatever available seats are in the cab. Plastic tarps are rolled down from the roof on the outside when it’s raining. The roof has a rack where parcels are placed.
Zanzibar is reputed to have some of the best diving in the world, and the coral reef structures that surround Unguja and Pemba ensure that the marine life is abundant. Good visibility and a year-round average water temperature of 27°c ensure that you enjoy your Zanzibar diving experience, and also present an ideal opportunity for learning to dive or upgrading your diving qualification. There are several dive centres on the island and most run courses using the international PADI system of diver education.
Diving in Zanzibar isn’t restricted to beginners. Experienced scuba divers can enjoy exciting wall dives, night dives and drift dives. In deeper waters, lush coral gardens often stretch as far as the eye can see, and large gamefish (barracuda, kingfish, tuna and wahoo) hunt together with large Napoleonic wrasse, graceful manta rays and sharks. Shallower waters are the playgrounds of tropical fish, including a huge variety of Indo-Pacific marine fauna.
Shopping in Zanzibar
Whether you’re in the market for T-shirts, spices, kangas, furniture or hand sewn pillow covers, Zanzibar is one of the last places left for fun shopping and bargain hunts. You will find the inevitable ashtray carved out of a coconut shell, but there are enough Tinga-tinga paintings, woodcarvings and woven goods to keep almost everyone in the market for a tasteful souvenir.
Look for stamps, coins, currency bills, furniture, ceramic bowls, wooden frames, metal signboards advertising Simba Chai (Lion Tea), antique wall clocks and copper and brass bowls, pans and tea kettles. Coconut massage oil with lemongrass, bitter orange soap and other locally-made products are affordable and unavailable at home so consider stocking up. Spice baskets are available all over town, they travel well, make easy souvenirs for friends and they’ll clear customs in no time.
Gizenga Street, off Kenyatta Road by the Post Office is an excellent street for finding all the things mentioned above plus postcards, stamps, skin-covered drums, spices, and antiques. Sasik, a store representing a women’s cooperative, is highly recommended for locally sewn pillow covers in traditional Arabic and Persian patterns. Some of the fabrics are even dyed on the island from local plant dyes.
Throughout town there are several shops (called dukas) that sell everything from groceries to fuel. There are also some antique stores that have some interesting pieces that may bear historical importance and almost all of them sell the ceramic bowls leftover from the colonial era (50 to 60 years old).
The Spice Tour
Finding nutmeg sitting on the forest floor or peeling the bark off of a cinnamon tree are some of the fun things to do on Spice tour. Visitors go from plantation to plantation and from plant to plant trying to find the spice within.
Nutmeg grows on a tree and is sort of the pit of a fruit that looks somewhat like an apple. The nutmeg trees are huge and the under-forest is dark. Vanilla is a vine that grows on large trees and cardamom seeds grow at the base of large, ginger-cousin light green plant that has shoots or runners from which the seeds are picked. Cinnamon leaves are good for chewing and pepper is hot, green and fresh tasting before it is dried and ground to become black pepper.
All along the tour there are kiosks where tourists can buy packaged spices including the following: turmeric, tandoori, vanilla beans and extract, masala, hot chilies, black pepper (ground or whole), cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks or powder, saffron (not locally grown but affordable), ginger, and others.
Architectural Tour of Stone Town
Discover the origins of architectural trends in Stone Town. Explore subtleties in building structure that the untrained eye just may not catch. See how they built drainpipes into the walls of local homes only to come out again at the bottom of the wall to drain. They do this because the streets were so narrow, they put the pipes into the walls so no one would hit his head or catch his cart on the pipes as he walked by. Old lattice work balconies, decrepit buildings, light fixtures and more than a handful of carved doors, each with its own story. This tour is highly recommended.
Located in the heart of Stone Town, this stunning property is set in two historic seafront buildings that have been integrated and restored into a unique single property echoing the grandeur of days past.
The hotel is elegance itself as well as romantic and it offers the best in island hospitality. All the bedrooms overlook the azure waters of the Indian Ocean and the lazy dhows that plough beneath the restaurant’s windows. The interiors echo Zanzibar’s rich Arab influence: intricately carved doors and furniture coupled with colourful mosaic flooring. The local specialities are freshly caught seafood with spices. A team of chefs prepare sumptuous meals daily that guests enjoy in the seafront restaurant.
Emerson and Green
An exquisite luxury hotel furnished with original Zanzibar antiques of varied origins and styles. The elegant décor together with the surrounding mosque minarets, Hindu temple towers and church spires, creates a classic Arabian Nights feel.
The ten guestrooms are very romantic and nine of them are equipped with large stone bathtubs. The sultan-sized rooms on the first and second floors have 20 foot ceilings, carved doors, original stucco décor and hand painted glass lamps and window panes. All guest rooms have large Zanzibari beds complete with netting.
The Tower Top Restaurant features a panoramic view of Stone Town and a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean. Eighty feet above the Stone Town and seated on Persian carpets and Arabian style pillows, guests can enjoy exotic Zanzibar cuisine served in five or more delicious courses.
Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel
Situated in a glorious natural paradise with a vision for nature and the hotel to coexist harmoniously so guests can enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings without forsaking creature comforts. An eco-sensitive approach has ensured that the delicate balance of land and sea, flora and fauna is preserved for all to enjoy in the years to come.
The hotel overlooks a sparkling expanse of iridescent Indian Ocean, a cluster of whitewashed and palm thatched cottages in rich tropical gardens. Its myriad pathways are shaded by elegant palms, creating soft sun-dappled walkways between beach and banda, balcony and bar.
Infused with the laid-back, exotic yet ultimately natural spirit of Zanzibar, this is the place to relax and enjoy all that this extraordinary part of the world has to offer. The lush gardens drop down onto one of the finest and most unspoilt beaches on the island, which in turn is fringed by a wide and thriving coral reef.
Breezes Beach Club & Spa
With the distinct advantage of being located on the South East coast which is the most quiet and untouched part of the Island, Breezes Beach Club & Spa, Zanzibar is the ultimate retreat for those looking to get away.
This beautiful resort is situated along a pristine, untouched beach stretching as far as the eye can see. It marries old warm charm with the highest level of service and lies on a palm fringed stretch of sand that was voted the ‘Best Beach in the World!’
It offers a selection of al fresco restaurants and bars, the first Spa in East Africa that features world-class treatments and facilities, a dive center and extensive sporting activities…all this without compromising the relaxed yet elegant atmosphere which has become synonymous with the name Breezes.
The resort features twenty suites, forty deluxe rooms and ten standard rooms. All rooms are beautifully decorated, spacious, with air condition, a personal safe box and en-suite bathrooms.
With great attention to detail, a unique charm, personalized service and warm hospitality, Breezes Beach Club & Spa, Zanzibar is a traveler’s home away from home.