Zanzibar

Quick Facts

Language: English
Swahili

Currency: Tanzanian Shilling

Area Codes: 024

Other Cities in this Region

Zanzibar is an exotic and illuminating destination that is tremendously alluring. Many actually call it Spice Island because of its seductive lures that can be found everywhere. No matter what each visitor has come looking for, they never leave disappointed. Zanzibar has a way of jumping into your soul and allowing the eyes and heart to see the beauty of its life and its land.

The beginnings of Zanzibar can be traced back to the early 19th century, when the Omani Arabs took control. As the years passed, it soon became the largest producer of cloves in the world, as well as the largest slave-trading port on the east coast. This is the reason Zanzibar soon became the most important town on the East African coast. Now the old Stone Town, with all of its imprints of past influences, makes Zanzibar a popular place to visit.

The old Stone Town is one of the most fascinating places to visit because of its labyrinth-like construction. The streets are narrow and winding, and as you walk along, there are tons of places to visit. These paths are full of mosques, bazaars, tiny shops, courtyards, and old colonial mansions. There are even whitewashed, coral-rag houses with overhanging balconies and great carved brass-studded doors. This is indeed an old Stone Town, so there are plenty of crumbling buildings. However, restoration has begun in order to save these historic sites. And there are plenty of other ancient locations around the island to see, so it is a good idea to do it in an orderly fashion and with the help of experts. This is exactly why the spice tours are very popular. They go to the ruins as well as to the spice and fruit plantations where you can also sample the tasty delights.

Parks, reserves, forests, beaches and much more are aching to be explored and to tell you stories that are highly unusual and imaginative. Let the sirens of the island seduce you onto their sands and get lost in the wondrous adventures of your own story.

Docking & Local Transportation

The cruise ship docks at the Port and Marine Department right on the island of Zanzibar

The taxi is the best mode of transportation here on Zanzibar island. They are easy to access and will take you anywhere you want to go. However, they do not have meters, so it is important to negotiate a price before entering the taxi. Many places rent out motorcycles and rental cars, and charge per day. If you know that you want to rent a car ahead of time, contact All About Zanzibar, the best travel resource for Zanzibar, for all of the details and the most affordable rates. Local buses, known as dalla dallas, span the entire island as well, and these are an affordable and convenient way to get around town

Local Interests

The Beit el-Ajaib (located in the old Stone Town) is the name given to what was formerly the sultan's palace, and one of the largest structures in all of Zanzibar. Its name, which is translated as House of Wonders, is just that, a masterpiece to visit and to be amazed at; today it is home to the Zanzibar National Museum of History & Culture as well. Just behind this wonder is the Arab Fort, a truly massive and impressive structure. The Portuguese originally built this fort in 1700, and it now houses the Zanzibar Cultural Centre.

The Old Slave Market (off of Creek Road) is a landmark here, and it is conveniently placed so one can also visit the very first Anglican cathedral in all of East Africa, the United Mission to Central Africa. Another place that is rich in history and just east of the cathedral are the old Hamamni Persian Baths. To preserve these baths, they are locked up, but if you show some interest, the guardian will show you around. Located on Creek Road is the Beit el-Sahel, (Palace Museum) which will give you all of the facts and stories about the island of Zanzibar.

An exotic place to visit is the Jozani Forest (between Chwaka and Uzi Bays), just 35 km southeast of Zanzibar town. It is a nature reserve and a home to many rare animals. Some of the species found here are the red colobus monkey, two kinds of antelope, and the Zanzibar duiker and sunni. Have fun viewing animals that you may not be able to see anywhere else in the world!

The most beautiful getaways are hidden in the Offshore Islets, which are a group of islands ringed with coral reefs. The most famous of these islands is Changuu Island, which is also called Prison Island. It was used to hold recalcitrant slaves when it was controlled in the 19th century. The island was then bought by a Briton, who constructed a prison but never used it. However, the ruins of this building still remain. You can get here by contacting Fisherman Tours & Travel (024/223-8791).

Activities

Nightlife and Entertainment

A beautiful place where people meet, greet and eat is the Forodhani Gardens (between Mizingani Rd. and the main sea wall). This area is a patch of greenery that was laid out to mark the silver Jubilee of Sultan Khalifa in 1936. It's a refreshing and invigorating place to spend time. The island of Zanzibar was made for partying. There are several fun clubs and discos on the island that will keep you dancing! A place that is always happening is the Garage Club (near the Tembo Hotel). Here you can dance and drink with the benefits of the best view since it is right on the seafront. This hot nightclub is thumping and pumping into the wee hours of the morning. But be careful, and don't force me to remind you of all of the trouble that you can get into with the combination of drinking, dancing, and desert heat!

Beaches

Not enough can be said to describe the beaches on the island of Zanzibar. A tropical paradise is just the beginning of the precious gifts you will find on these perfectly pale sands. Set your sights on the beaches that lie on the eastern coast of the island, that hug the most relaxing and unspoiled junction of land and water. The best beaches here are Makunduchi and Matemwe. The sparkling sand and glistening water will leave you in awe. Nungwi is also a great beach with fabulous scenery. Bring a picnic lunch or dream the day away with the ravishing sunset. The royal blue waters define the natural riches of this island. You will want to preserve this beauty, so don't forget to bring your camera!

Dining

The restaurants here are as delectable as the views they offer, creating the perfect ambiance for guests. A very good place to explore Goan, Indian and Zanzibari food is at the Chit Chat Restaurant (Cathedral St.). Reservations are definitely a must. A place that you cannot leave the island without visiting is the Baobab Bar (located in the Tarangire Treetops). It was built under a baobab tree and it truly defines creativity and talent. The fruit juice and ice cream they serve there is just as excellent as its location. One last restaurant to mention has to be Blues. It not only has great seafood, pizza, and food from the grill, but it literally juts out into the sea. Look out the large windows and feel like you are sailing on the waters. It is absolutely ethereal!