Stone Town of Zanzibar
It may not have a particularly romantic name, but Stone Town is the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar, little changed in the last 200 years. It is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose original owners vied with each other over the extravagance of their dwellings. This one-upmanship is particularly reflected in the brass-studded, carved, wooden doors – there are more than 500 different examples of this handiwork. You can spend many idle hours and days just wandering through the fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways. Stone Town was recently and deservedly declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Most of the houses that can be seen today were built in the 19th century when Zanzibar was one of the most important trading centres in the Indian Ocean region. The coralline rock of Zanzibar was a good building material, but it is also easily eroded. This is evident by the large number of houses that are in a bad state of repair. Several buildings have already been renovated and the Stone Town Conservation Authority has been established to co-ordinate the restoration of the town to its original magnificence. Pictured opposite is a ‘before and after’ look at the restoration work done on the Old Dispensary. As a result of sensible policy, nearly all of the major hotels built in Stone Town are housed in renovated buildings.
As you walk through the town, please remember that Stone Town is very much a real community, where real people live and work. It is not a museum piece or theme park created for tourists, and sensitivity should be shown to the local people.
If you want to learn more about Stone Town, there are various ways to do it. You can either wander through the narrow streets by yourself armed with a map, or you can embark on a tour with one of the local tour operators.
The Old Dispensary (now known as the Stone Town Cultural Centre) is a grand four story building with a set of decorative balconies. It served as a dispensary during colonial times but fell into disrepair in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It is one of the Stone Town buildings that has been successfully restored, in this case with funding from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. It can be found on Zanzibar’s seafront on Mizingani road.
Zanzibar Town market is a great place to visit even if you don’t want to buy anything. It is a vibrant place where everything under the sun is bought and sold. People bring their produce here from all over the island, and other people come to buy things they can’t get in their own villages. Of special interest is the huge selection of brightly coloured khangas (worn by the local women) and the auctions that are held regularly.
Livingstone’s House was built around 1860 for Sultan Majid, and was used by many of the missionaries and explorers as a starting point. Most notably, Dr David Livingstone lived here before commencing his last journey (Expedition) to the Tanzania mainland interior in 1866.
The Peace Memorial Museum is an interesting look at Zanzibar’s history. It has sections on archaeology, early trade, slavery, palaces, mosques, sultans, explorers (includes Dr Livingstone’s medical chest), missionaries, colonial administrators, traditional crafts and household items, stamps, coins, fishing, and clove cultivation. Now under renovations.
The Palace Museum is a large white building with castellated battlements, and was built in the late 1890’s for members of the Sultan’s family. Originally called the Sultan’s Palace, in 1911 it became the official residence of the Sultan of Zanzibar, but following the revolution in 1964, it was renamed the Peoples’ Palace. In 1994, the palace was turned into a museum dedicated to the history of Zanzibar’s Sultans which necessitated a third change of name to the Palace Museum. For the first time, visitors can see much of the Sultans’ furniture and other possessions that survived the revolution.
The House of Wonders is a very large square-shaped building, with several stories, surrounded by tiers of pillars and balconies, and topped by a large clock tower. It was built in 1883 as a ceremonial palace for Sultan Bar hash and was the first in Zanzibar to have electric light and an electric lift. Not surprisingly, when it was built, the local people called it Beit el Ajaib, meaning the House of Wonders. Today, it is still one of the largest buildings in Zanzibar, and it has just gazetted and opened as the Zanzibar National Museum.
The Arab Fort is situated next to the House of Wonders and was built between 1698 and 1701 by the Busaidi group of Omani Arabs. It is a large building with high, dark brown walls. Topped by castellated battlements. The fort is open to visitors and now contains various shops and an open air theatre.
There are lots of other interesting places to visit in Stone Town, so exploration is the order of the day!
STONE TOWN TOUR- 3HRS
This is an interesting three – hours much guided tour which takes you to most historical sites in this wonderful Spice Island of Zanzibar. You will visit Zanzibar town market (opened 1904).
Here you will be able to see and buy tropical fruits and spices (if you wish). You will also feel the pulse of Zanzibar and hear different dialects being spoken by the people at the market.
From there you will proceed to Old slave Market which now stands the Anglican Church of Christ built by Bishop Edward Steers in 1874 on the site of the old slave market. Remember Zanzibar was the Slave Centre Market in Africa up to 6th June 1873. You will see tiny and dingy room where the slaves were kept (Slave Chambers) before sent for the auction table which was placed in the Old slave market. You will then be driven or walk (optional) to National Museum of Zanzibar the (House of wonder built in 1883) to see many interesting relics from the time of the Sultans as you will remember Zanzibar ruled by Sultanate of Oman for couple of years, and also details of the early Explores.
Then a drive along the beach road up to Forodhani Gardens where you will see the Old British Consulate (the house where the body of late Dr. Living stone was kept and later sent to Britain), the Arab Old Fort built (1700), High Court Building, Old German Consulate, Africa House – (former English Club) Tip Tip House, kelele Square, Old British Consulate, Orphanage Home, Forodhani Gardens, Sultan Palace (Palace Museum).
Also you will be luck to watch former French Hotel in Zanzibar ,Custom House, Old Dispensary, Old Harbor are among the topic in this guided tour in Zanzibar.
Afterwards a leisure walking through the narrow streets of Stone town (old part of Zanzibar town) where most of the houses date back to more than 250 years. In this part of town you will find a lot of exotic small bazaars and shops. Meet Zanzibar People doing their local shopping
( they are very friendly and assistance) Finally you will be taken to Maruhubi Palace Ruins built by the third Sultan of Zanzibar in (1880) and Dr. Living stone House built in (1866 )
SPICE TOUR– 3HRS
This is another Extra ordinary Excursion which is not only a Tour but it is very rare experience which Prove out why Zanzibar is referred to as the “Spice Island”,Tropical fruits, spices and other rare species of plants are among the different vegetation to be seen ,tested and smelled in this very guided tour. This Three hours guided tour begins and end up at your hotel ,sea port or Airport via Kidichi, Kibweni Palace (Sultan rest House) to view the Persian Baths built in 1850 by Seyyid Said bin Sultan (first Sultan of Zanzibar) for his wife Princess Shehrzard
(grand daughter of Fateh Ali Shah of Persia). At Kizimbani Village you will visit Spice and tropical fruits Farms to see smells and test varieties of Tropical fruits & Spices. Zanzibar offers many Fresh Spices including (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black peppers, roots gingers ,vanilla sticks,lemon grass , nutmeg) and many others, Tropical Fruits like ,jack fruit, bread fruit, pineapples, bananas, coconut,mangles,malay apples ) and many others. Rare plants such as henna bush,Ylang lang (the perfume tree), anator (lipstick tree) are to be seen. Clients shall see the local peoples at their pulse and have opportunity to make good photographs.
PRISON ISLAND TRIP (HALF DAY)
A relaxing day in Zanzibar Channel of the Indian Ocean is achieved when we visit the small isle off the Western Coast of Zanzibar. This half day guided tour begins and ends at your hotel. This historical Island was formerly owned by an Arab and used for the confinement of refractory slaves.
It was bought by General Mathews and the jail (goal) which still stands was built in 1893 and hence the name “PRISON ISLAND” One time it was infectors quarantine station for East African Territory. Today Prison Island is one of the Tourist Resort. There is new Constructing Hotel and also bar and restaurant which serve Tourist, At the Prison Island you will see GIANT TORTOISES, and be able to swim, sunbathe and snorkel.
JOZANI MONKEYS FOREST 2HRS
This guided tour of three hours will take you to Jozani natural forest (it is only a natural forest in Zanzibar); where is home for Friendly rare red colobus monkeys which are species rare in the World. The smaller trees and shrubs make several sub canopies under the highest canopy. You will walk through the nature trail of the forest, which is a habitat for many species of animals
NORTH COAST (FULL DAY)
This is a full day guided tour that takes you to Nungwi via Mvuleni Portuguese Houses where you can visit the Ruins of the Portuguese Barracks. At Nungwi you find white sandy beaches to swim and relax. You will also visit a place where traditional Dhows are built. Nungwi aquarium to watch out sea titles . Excellent Lunch is to be served in one of better restaurant at Nungwi Village.
DOLPHIN SAFARI (FULL DAY)
This full day guided excursion begins at 09H00 when you are picked up from the hotel and transferred by minibus to the fishing village Kizimkazi 40 kilometers away. You will be given briefing on the day excursion. You will then board the dhows and set off in search of the dolphins (95% chances). The species frequently found at bay are spinner and bottlenose dolphins. You will swim with dolphins if they stay close by to the boat, but is unlikely to be able to touch the dolphins as they are of course wild animals. You will then go on to one of the selected snorkeling locations. Here you will snorkel while accompanied by a snorkeling guide to show points of interest and to assist with beginners. Snorkeling equipment will be provided on hire.
You will then move on to the island or sand bank for lunch. Lunch is a traditional Zanzibar meal and typically includes a selection of barbecued fish, rice, lentils and fish curry. Chilled fresh fruit juice, mineral water and bottled soft drinks are available through the day at sell. You will spend the remainder of the afternoon relaxing, swimming or snorkeling. Return to Kizimkazi Town. You will be transferred back to the hotel.
BUSH TOUR – (SWAHILI CULTURE) (FULL DAY)
Coconut Palms, Thatching, Baskets, Weaving, pottery, Grinding Millets, rice, Coconut Rope Making, Coconut Palm Climbing, Local Cuisine Cooking, Zanzibar Aroma and Incense, Construction of local Homes, Bread Making, Spices, Banana Plantations, Seasonal Fruits, Local Koran Schools, Local Traditional Music/Songs and Dancers.
The four-hour guided tour begins and ends at your hotel where you will be driven to FUONI on outskirts of Zanzibar Town. Here you will .be able to see while walking through the farm village and capitalizing on the village life of the locals who are always busy carrying on with their daily activities like: grinding millets with mortar pestles; thatching coconut palms; preparation of bread for evening meal – guests are welcome to taste -, we move further to see locals climbing Coconut Palm Tree guests to try it out; coconut products madafu milk; baskets; rope; poles coconut palm caps. Further afield cassava plantation and bananas with their various products can be seen and tasted cassava weaving of baskets, floor mats, brooms, food covers etc. Koran Schools will also be visited. We precede to the last stop to be welcomed by drumbeats where gusts are requested to participate with refreshments of fruits of the season and mineral water. Evening Guided walk – Stone Town. 2HRSThis two hours guided walk includes return transfers from hotel to hotel and takes you to a leisurely walk through the narrow streets of the Stone Town where you mingle with almost every eastern race in their diverse attire attending to the many small and exotic bazaars. Sunset is to be found at its best on the balcony of Africa House – formerly The English Club – Calling of the prayers . Mosques which are unpretentious by comparison with minaret and domed places of worship in other Muslim countries blare through the loudspeakers.
Visit to the Forodhani Gardens which adorns the House of wonders and the Palace Museum, is a must to see the diverse culture of Zanzibar in their true colors Dinner is to be served at Forodhani Food market.
MANGAPWANI SLAVES CAVE 3HRS
Slave Chambers: Built around 1880 from the cave and connected to the seaside 2kms away, the area is surrounded by varieties of indigenous trees such as Breadfruit, Rambo tans and scent shrubs. It was an important transit point for the captured slaves to be sold to the outside world at the time of the abolishment of slavery in 1873. Between 1880-1905, the chamber was being used as a place of concealment of the human cargo pending their disposal. A utilized as the hideout by the Arabs for their human cargo ready for shipment. The four hour guided tour begins and ends at your hotel. Mangapwani (“Arab Shore”) lies in a district where many Arabs used to live. In the village there is a Police Station, also a large government “Bungalow” which was built by the Arabs who originally owned Prison Island. Newly opened Serena Restaurant is nearby the Slave Caves. Swimming, Sun bathing may be done if interest.