Where to go, what to do while in Zanzibar.
Recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site in the year 2000, Stone Town is a reflection of amazing culture and colonial architecture.
It is located on a promontory jutting out from the western side of Unguja Island into the Indian Ocean. Visitors to Zanzibar tend to arrive and leave via Stone Town, the island capital and which stands as a historic hub of commerce and culture. This ancient center was the seat of the Sultans, whose crumbling palaces, bathhouses and mosques are a legacy of this opulent and vibrant time at the heart of the gold trade.
This old town remains a wonderful place to spend a night or two, getting lost among the elegant, ancient buildings, eating fresh fish on the sea front and breathing in the sights, sounds and smells of a truly Swahili center.
WHAT TO SEE/DO
- The Beach: The beach in Stone Town is the liveliest for locals on the island and some may argue it is one of the best swimming beaches in Zanzibar. On weekends, expect the crowds to swell and the Zanzibar people to take part in swimming, football games, and gymnastic showdowns. This beach is also a great spot to watch the dhows sail off into the setting sun.
- The Old Arab Fort: Located right in the heart of the town and is definitely worth looking at. Dating back to the 16th century this old fort was built during the Omani occupation of the island and was built over the site of a Portuguese church constructed over a century before. Losing its standing as a means of defence in the 19th century, it is an interesting footnote in the island’s history.
- House of Wonders: Located right next door to the Old Arab Fort and, in a similar vein, it is interesting for its relevance to the island’s past. Built in 1883 it was originally constructed as a ceremonial palace and was the first building on the island to receive electricity.
- The Zanzibar Doors: Famous the world over for their intricate carving and ornate decoration. In fact, during the Arabian rule, many of them were imported from India and, subsequently started being made locally. A tour of the more famous and better preserved of these can be arranged anywhere in the town (there are plenty of guides!), but can easily be stumbled upon through a bit of discovery.
- Forodhani Gardens: This is the main gathering point for the town and, having recently had a facelift, is well worth a visit. The ornate gardens and great views out across the port make it one of the more popular evening haunts for the locals and merchants, selling their wares.
- Africa House Hotel: This becomes a hive of activity as the sun begins to set in the African sky. Once the English Club in the 1888s it possesses, without a doubt, the best open air patio/bar from which to watch the sun’s departure. Along with this, the building is a grand and elegant throwback to the days of western occupation and is worth a look.