As our short flight from Mount Kilanmanjaro airport was approaching Zanzibar it was apparent we were about to land on an island of paradise. Turquoise water and white sand beaches were stretched out for as far as our eyes could see below us. We were told Zanzibar is even more beautiful than the Caribbean islands, and having been to some of them to compare we agree. With several weeks on the island we explored the capital town of Stone Town as well as the beach areas of Nungwi and Paje.
One drawback was apparent from our first step off the plane, this place was hotter and more humid than anything we had experienced yet in Africa. The other delights of the island far made up for this. Zanzibar used to be the spice capital of the world, although not as strong of an export anymore it is spices are still very prevalent and the smell is present in the air. Several spice tours are available on the western and central parts of the island where the vegetation is abundant.
There is so much offered here, from a past full of rich history to a fascinating mix of cultures and architecture. The strong presence of the Muslim majority is visible right away, men walk the streets in their Kanzu and many women are completely covered and veiled with only their eyes visible.
The influences of Arabic, Indian, Persian and European cultures are everywhere. Some of the buildings are in an Arabic style with brass studded, intricately carved wooden doors. In fact there are so many interesting doors that several illustrative books have been published on the doors of Zanzibar. There are Indian Temples, Mosques and Christian Churches within a few hundred meters of each other. With all this ethnic diversity you can imagine what the food is like.
Exploring Stone Town
We spent our daylight hours getting lost in the maze of Stone Town’s cobbled streets and alleyways. It’s possible to walk for hours and never be on the same street twice. You need to keep your wits about you when exploring the town, vehicles and mopeds speed through the streets and alleyways. Sometimes you have to duck into a shop door way because an alleyway is so tight there’s not enough room for people and a moped to go through.
The atmosphere here is about as laid back as it can get. There are many restaurants overlooking the beach where you can witness dolphins playing in the water or take in a beautiful sunset as a dhow and small fishing boats sail past.
The Markets Are A Ongoing Zanzibar Tradition Worth Visiting
The Darajani Market is traditional bazaar style set up that has been running since the early 1900′s. It’s a great place to get a look into the daily pulse of Zanzibar life as you watch the chaos of locals haggle for spices, loaves of bread, vegetables, fresh caught seafood, meat, household goods and fabric.
Forodhani Gardens square is where another bustling market that sets up each evening. In the day the area is a tranquil park with beautiful views of the harbour. Each evening it is transformed into a lively market with rows of tables set up with BBQ’s and grills. An endless variety of seafood is available as well as fresh squeezed exotic juices, samosas and pizzas with some of the strangest ingredient combinations.