The winding alleyways and Arabian feel is the reason to visit
Located in the Old Quarter of the main town, Zanzibar, “Stone Town” (as it is often called) is certainly an interesting place to spend a few hours. Made up of a myriad of winding streets and alleyways, the region was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000 for its remaining Arab and colonial architecture.
With the flood of tourism that has arrived onto the island, and the fact that there seems to be a new hotel springing up in the town every week, we are not huge fans of spending too much time here. It is, however, definitely worth a quick overnight on the way through to safari or on the way home to make the journey time to the nearby airport less drastic than from the beaches.
The main attractions to take a look at are as follows:
The Old Arab Fort is located right in the heart of the town and is definitely worth taking a look 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 is 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. Today the impressive balconies and balustrades house the island’s homage to its past and it offers a fascinating glimpse into Swahili and Zanzibari culture.
The Zanzibar Doors are 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 pretty much anywhere in the town (there are plenty of guides!), but can easily be stumbled upon through a bit of discovery.
Forodhani Gardens 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 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.