Zanzibar Town

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Zanzibar is semi-autonomous archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, consisting of Zanzibar Island (locally, Unguja), Pemba Island, and many smaller islands. Zanzibar island is approximately 90km long and 30km wide. In 1896, Zanzibar was the location of the world's shortest war — they surrendered to the British Army after 38 minutes.

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Points of Interest in Zanzibar Town

  • Zanzibar Island, a.k.a., The Spice Island, was an important stop in the Spice Trade centuries ago. Today, it is one of the few places in the world where saffron is produced, and many other Middle Eastern/Asian spices (cardamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, etc.) are grown here. For $10-$15 you can go on a spice tour, which winds you around the island, showing you how anise (licorice) grows; letting you sample some of the exotic fruit grown on the island; and allowing you to tour the beautiful plantations.
  • Jozani Forest has excellent nature trails, featuring some very exotic (and large) trees. Even more interesting, though, are the Red Colobus Monkeys that live here. Native to the Island, these monkeys are now nearly extinct. They are very curious and playful and will likely pose for a picture. The entry fee (8$) also include an optional visit to a beautiful mangrove forest which is highly recommended.
  • There are a number of historically important (and frankly, just plain beautiful) buildings in Stone Town, like The House of Wonders and The Arab Fort. It is easy to arrange a simple walking tour with a local guide who can teach you some history.
  • The market in Stone Town is one of the largest, most vibrant open-air markets anywhere. Here, you can find several varieties of bananas, "elephant garlic" unique to the island, the largest avocados you'll probably ever see, and more. Prices are extremely reasonable. Even if you have no intentions of purchasing food, the spectacle alone is worth a visit.

House of Wonders

Old Fort

Anglican Cathedral

Slave Market

Forodhani Gardens

Shangani Beach

Livingstone\'s House

Prison Island

Kwale Island

Chumbe Island

Chapwani Island

Jozani Forest Reserve

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About Zanzibar Town

Background

The island and the surrounding islets are divided into three regions. They are Zanzibar Central/South, Zanzibar North and Zanzibar Urban/West. Zanzibar City, on the central west coast, is the capital and largest city of Zanzibar and the region of Zanzibar Urban/West. The population of Unguja was 984,625 in the census of 2002, with the most concentrated populations located in the Zanzibar Urban region.

The larger and more populated of Zanzibar's two main islands, Unguja is separated from its northern neighbor Pemba by some 48i kilometres of open sea. The mainland of Tanzania, which lies to the southwest of Unguja and is separate from it by the Zanzibar Channel, is considerably closer, as is the major Tanzanian mainland port of Dar Es Salaam. Smaller islands surround the coast, notably Tumbatu in the northwest, Uzi in the south, and Mnemba Atoll in the northeast. A considerable number of smaller islands and reefs lie off Unguja's southwest coast.

Many of Zanzibar's main centres are on Unguja, and most of the Zanzibari economy is also based here. Other than the capital, the island's major population centres include Mbweni, Mangapwani, Chwaka, and Nungwi. Tourism is a major industry.

The island is rich in history, with numerous archaeological sites dotting the island, most notably at Unguja Ukuu, just to the north of the causeway which links Unguja and Uzi Islands.

Activities

There are a lot of things to do on Zanzibar Island. It just depends on where your interests lie.

  • Stone Town, recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most unique cities in the world. Blending Moorish, Middle Eastern, Indian, and African traditions and architectures, it is possible to spend days winding through Stone Town's labyrinthine alleys; shopping; drinking tea; and visiting the city's historic sites. Be sure to take sun screen, a hat and lots of water since your tour through Stone Town can be quite tiresome.
  • Visit Slave Market, The site of the old Slave Market is quite an experience. Go into the holding chambers to see how this wretched piece of history played itself out in small dark dungeon-type cells. Priced at $3 or TS3.5 its well worth it.

In the tourist areas around the waterfront, Kenyatta Road and Shangani Road, you will be beset by all manner of papasi, touts and others wanting to offer you taxis, spice tours, music, gifts, etc. A polite but firm No, thanks usually does the trick, but it can get exhausting. Best thing to do here is wander into the more residential alleys where you won't be disturbed.

  • Be certain to have dinner on the wharf near Blue's Restaurant in Stone Town. Every evening, for just a few dollars, you can sample local fish, food, drinks, and hear local music.
  • Visit Forodhani Gardens If you are not scared of local food, then this place is definitely worth a visit. It is possibly the cheapest food you will find on the island, and value for money too. Ranging from crab claws, calamari steaks to plain old chips done in big woks. You are well advised to try the local sugar cane juice. The curio market can be found next to the food market. Here you will find all the gifts you may want to take back to friends and loved ones. Do not buy the first thing you see. First take a walk through the market, and you will see prices get progressively less. You must always haggle and bargain with the vendors or try to set the prices off against each other. This is their way of doing business and it also ensures that you get the best price.
  • Spice tours are being offered by many companies, they take you out to a spice farm, where your guide will show you how things like cinnamon, jack fruit and kukurma are grown, and will let you taste most of them. Be wary of buying them on the street, in which case the tout might just take your money without a booking. Another common scam is for a tout to follow you into (or give you directions to) the office, in which case the tour price will change from $10 to $15, with you paying the commission.
  • The East Beaches are popular among travelers. The sand is brilliant white, and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are a deep teal. Here, you can:
  • Kendwa Beach on the North Western coast is beautiful. Here you can swim during low and high tide, which is not always possible on the East side of the island. Just beware of the "Sea Urchins" that gives a powerful sting if stepped upon during low tide. Kendwa offers lots of beach bars and restaurants serving everything from pizza to local curries. Kendwa Beach is also known for the Full Moon Party, arranged Saturdays just before or after a full moon. While not as big or extreme as those arranged in Thailand, the parties on Zanzibar attract quite a large group of people, especially when the full moon coincides with public holidays in Europe and North America (i.e. easter and christmas).
  • Zanzibar Butterfly Centre (Located near to Jozani National Park). 9AM - 5PM. The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre is a community development project and tourist destination just down the road from Jozani Forest. Revenue from admissions is used to pay farmers in the village sustainably farming butterflies. This genuine little project really makes a real difference to the farmers' income and provides a wonderful experience for visitors as they can see spectacular local species flying close at hand in a beautiful tropical garden. $5 per person.

Food

  • Hurumzi, 236 Hurumzi Street in Stone Town. Earlier known as Emerson and Green and later as Emerson's Tower Top Restaurant, is well worth a visit. Amazing food and sublime atmosphere. While dinner is quite expensive and has to be booked in advance, the rooftop view of the sunset punctuated by the sound of prayer calls is not to be missed.
  • Kidude (near Hurumzi). Serves traditional Zanzibari cuisine at moderate prices
  • Forodhani Gardens. Is a nightly affair by the water. You can purchase 'Zanzibari pizza' or get all sorts of grilled seafood and meat for less than $1 per serving. Also available are banana and chocolate pancakes which are to die for (Note: bring an extra bar of chocolate for them to add to your pancake) Some consider the market to be overrated -- the food quality can be mixed and there will be papasi or touts who may hassle you. The twilight atmosphere however makes for a nice setting to have a cheap meal.
  • Amore Mio. On Shangani Street, serves good Italian gelati ice cream, pizzas and pasta. ~ $10-15 per person.
  • Monsoon Restaurant. Just to the west of the Tunnel at the edge of the harbour and the southern corner of Forodhani Gardens.
  • Passing Show Restaurant (next to the Malindi Police Station just outside the harbor). A place where they have very decent local food, like pilau, and all sorts of stews. All the men go there in the evening to drink tea. Muslim place, so no alcohol.
  • Mercury. Near the port, is dedicated to Freddie Mercury who was born on the island. The only interesting thing in the place is the atmosphere and the nice view over the harbor and bay -- skip the food unless you're in for a stomach ache.
  • Serena Hotel, Stone Town. Has a very nice restaurant with live music almost everyday. Beautiful view of the ocean and excellent, although expensive, food.
  • Botanic Country Resort (Tunguu central region, 14km from the Stone Town towards the East Coast behind the new Tanzanian Houses of Parliament.). Taarab Square and Kipepeo Grill and Pub/Beer Garden with discotheque on weekends, live music on public holidays including outdoor cinema and live sports events on giant screens. Beautiful Gardens, food is from traditional Swahili & Zanzibarian dishes to International Cuisine.
  • Lukmaan. A small restaurant on the same road as the slave market does very affordable and delicious food. Point at what you want and you get it right away. The prices and convenient speed makes it a favourite for many lunchers.

Drinks

While predominantly a Muslim community, small bars can be found everywhere in Zanzibar. Try the ginger beer - tangawizi. The sugar cane juice and fresh coconut milk are not to be missed.

  • Africa House Ice cold beer and a huge balcony that overlooks the ocean - great at sunset.
  • Taarab Square At the Botanic Country Resort, Tunguu Central Region offers reasonably priced spirits and drinks compared to most of the bars on the island. Live sports bars and the only outdoor cinema showing Indian, African and English movies, discotheque over weekends and live music on public holidays.
  • Various Beach Bars On the beaches you will find beach bars who will supply you with good local beer and cocktails. You must try a Dawa-cocktail!

Shopping

Zanzibar currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TSH), which is exchanged at a rate of around 1EUR = TSH1800. On the beaches, US $ and TSH are accepted. However, $1 = TSH 1500, which is much less than the official exchange rate. Best would be to trade some of your dollars or euros for TSH, and use that to buy food.If you buy curios with dollars and euros you will get a better deal, since the hawkers are more prone to bargaining when buying with foreign currency. Remember! You get a better exchange rate on large $-notes i.e. $ 50,100 than on smaller $-notes i.e. $20, $ 10. There are four ATMs on the island, all in Stone Town. A store that accepts credit card payment is a rarity. Don't rely totally on your bank card. Take extra cash or traveler's cheques.

Stone Town is a one-stop-souvenir-shopping for the traveler. You can find beautiful textiles, handmade jewelry, intricate wood or stone carvings, spices, knick-knacks, and the list goes on and on . . .

Buy a cookbook and spices. Take the trip home with you! Beware that many of the vendors sell fake saffron (appears waxy like a shredded red crayon).

  • Mitus Spice Tour (Spice Tour), Malindi Rd,  +255652581439, e-mail: mituspicetour@yahoo.com. half day tour. Offers lunch as well as tours. 12$ -25$ per person but depend kind of tour.
  • HALAI'S, HURUMZI STREET (opposite Emerson Spice Hotel),  +255717147199. A small shop in stone town where you can get the best deals. prices are usually fixed but are fair than the other places in town. the shop is filled with colourfull textiles of different kinds. well worth a visit if you are in town.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Zanzibar on Wikivoyage.

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