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Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

Zanzibar is renowned for white sandy beaches, exquisite remnants of Stone Town, the Swahili culture, aroma of exotic spices, azure cloudless skies, diverse coastal reefs and pervading Indian Ocean. It’s no wonder that French Poet Rimbaud once sought inspiration from this charming destination. This archipelago is a winning combination of Arabic, Persian, and Indian culture. Wait no more and start your expedition to this less explored ‘Coast of the Blacks.’

History

Zanzibar was originally inhabited by the Bantu people from mainland of Africa 3,000-4,000 years ago. The name of this group of islands was derived from the Persian word ‘Zangi-bar’ (Zangi = Black, Bar = the Place of). Later, the Arabian invaders changed it to Zanzibar.

Things to Do in Zanzibar

Look no further than Zanzibar, this place is best equipped for trying out something for the very first time such as riding a Dhow (traditional wooden sailboats) on the sea or kite-surfing on a beach.

Explore Stone Town (Mji Mkongwe) – It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year 2000. House of Wonders (Beit-al-Ajaib) is the most recognized landmark in this old part of the city. The Old Fort, The Palace Museum, The Anglican cathedral of Christ Church, Hamamni Persian Baths, and Slavery Memorial are main tourist attractions here. About 50 mosques and a few Hindu temples speak for the multiculturalism of this enchanting town.

Visit Museums: Beit el-Sahel, Beit el-Ajaib, and Beit el-Amani offer an insight into rich Swahili culture, history of East Africa, and marine life of Indian Ocean. The collection of thrones, paintings, ceremonial furniture, and royal belongings in the Palace Museum (Beit el-Sahel) is engaging for history buffs.

Embrace the Beaches – Rest your feet on the sand, sip your favorite cocktail, and rejoice to the sound of waves! Miles of palm-fringed shoreline extends towards the vast ocean adored by surfers, sailors, swimmers, snorkelers, and honeymooners. Nungwi in the north, Kendwa in northwest, Paje and Bwejuu in southeast, and Kiwengwa in northeast coast are the beaches blessed with nature’s bounty.

Dive into the Indian Ocean – Swim with magnificent dolphins or take a dive with sea turtles, there is no limit to what you can do here for pleasure. Guided scuba-diving and snorkeling tours are available for tourists.

Buy Souvenirs – Narrow alleys, aroma of spices, and crowded bazaars represent the soul of the markets in Zanzibar. Gizenga Street behind the Old Fort is a popular shopping hub for wood carvings, handcrafted ukili bags, antique paintings, jewelry, massage oils, textiles, and even local remedies. Stone Town, Kiponda Street, Malindi Street, and Darajani Street are among other places to shop.

Nearby Attractions

House of Wonders, Old Fort, Forodhani Gardens, Spice plantations, Kizimkazi Mosque, Jozani Forest Reserve, and Prison Island.

Where is Zanzibar?

Zanzibar – a group of Pemba and Unguja islands – lies 36 km northwest off the mainland of Tanzania. The capital, Zanzibar city, is located on the Unguja Island.

Zanzibar Map

How to Reach?

By Air – Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) is the largest airport on the Unguja Island, and it is connected to flights from mainland Tanzania, Kenya, Oman, and Qatar. Pemba Airport (PMA), otherwise called Karume Airport and Wawi Airport, is the alternate option.

By Sea – The Zanzibar Ferry operates from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar Ferry Terminal as the main network connecting the islands. The Azam Marine and Coastal Fast Ferries is the fastest ferry service between mainland Tanzania and islands of Zanzibar and Pemba.

Zanzibar Restaurants

Impress your taste buds with local spices, Mandazi, Zanzibar pizzas, and famous coconut crabs. Lukmaan Restaurant, Mzuri Sana, and Al-Jabry are ideal for trying Zanzibari cuisine. Pagoda Chinese Restaurant, seafood recipes at The Rock Zanzibar, Mediterranean delicacies at House of Spices, and delicious desserts at Loulou give diners enough reason to be happy. Evening food markets near Forodhani Gardens are excellent for eclectic street cuisine.

Zanzibar Hotels

On reaching Zanzibar, the tourists may avail themselves of the accommodation facilities provided at some of the luxury hotels such as Zanzibar Serena Inn, Zanzibar Palace Hotel, Mashariki Palace Hotel, and Essque Zalu Zanzibar. For mid-range hotels, Dhow Palace Hotel, Emerson & Green, Al Johari and The Swahili House are good options. For budget travelers, St. Monica’s Lodge, Princess Salme Inn, Sagando Hostel, Mbuyuni Beach Village-Bungalows, and New Teddy’s Place are some of the value-for-money accommodations.

Hotels Name Website Type Address
Zanzibar Serena Inn serenahotels.com 5 star Shangani St, Zanzibar Town, Tanzania
Zanzibar Palace Hotel 4 star Zanzibar Palace Hotel Kiponda area housenumber 831 Stone Town, Zanzibar info@zanzibarpalacehotel.com
Mashariki Palace Hotel 4 star Mashariki Palace Hotel • Nyumba ya Moto cn.293 , Forodhani, Zanzibar reservations@masharikipalacehotel.com
Essque Zalu Zanzibar essquehotels.com 5 star Essque Hotels PO Box 3151 Zanzibar, Tanzania reservations@essquehotels.com
Dhow Palace Hotel 4 star Kenyatta Road / Baghani Street P.O. Box: 3974 Zanzibar – Tanzania reservations@dhowpalace-hotel.com/manager@dhowpalace-hotel.com
Emerson & Green emersonspice.com 3 star Hurumzi St, Zanzibar Town, Tanzania
Al Johari www.al-johari.com 3 star 116 Shangani (Stone Town), P.O. Box : 3234, Zanzibar Tanzania info@al-johari.com
Swahili House theswahilihouse.com 3 star The Swahili House, Kiponda St, Stone Town 00000, Tanzania marketing@moivaro.com
St. Monica’s Lodge zanzibarhostel.com Backpacker Hostel New Mkunazini Rd, Stone Town, Tanzania
Princess Salme Inn princesssalmeinn.com Bed & Breakfast Mizingani Rd, Stone Town – Zanzibar, Tanzania info@princesssalmeinn.com
Sagando Hostel sagandohostel.com Backpacker Hostel Kusini, Tanzania sagandohostel@gmail.com
Mbuyuni Beach Village-Bungalows www.mbuyuni.com 1 star East Coast of Zanzibar, Jambiani, Tanzania mbuyunibeachvillage@hotmail.com

mbuyunibeachvillage@yahoo.co.uk

New Teddy’s Place teddys-place.com Resort P.O. Box 3564 (Postoffice Shangani, Stonetown) Paje Zanzibar East Coast – Tanzania karibu@teddys-place.com

Best Time to Visit Zanzibar

June to October and December to February are considered ideal travel months. Avoid visiting Zanzibar in April as the heaviest rainfall is experienced in this month. July and August are preferred by those looking to indulge in water sports and outdoor activities.

Zanzibar Facts

  • Built in 11th century, Kizimkazi mosque is the oldest standing building in the archipelago.
  • Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, is the gateway to Zanzibar Islands.
  • Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of legendary British rock band Queen, was born in Stone Town of Zanzibar.
  • The place is often referred as “The Spice Island” as it produces cinnamon, vanilla, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg.
  • It is believed that this place has been home to humans for over 20,000 years.
  • The Zanzibar Red Columbus Monkey is endemic only to Unguja Island.
  • Zanzibar International Film Festival is the largest cultural event in East Africa.

Things to Remember

  • As a sign of respect to local sensibilities, take permission before capturing photographs of the natives.
  • The travelers would do themselves good if they avoid visiting Zanzibar during Ramadan since most of the restaurants and other attractions remain closed.
  • Acquire an international driving license if you are planning to drive vehicles.
  • Please do not buy products made out of endangered species such as sea shells and turtles.

Image Credit: Rob

MS20151028

Published On: Monday, October 7th, 2013