The Spice of life: Just the name, Zanzibar, evokes dreams of romance and mystery and the reality will not disappoint the traveler bored with mass tourism and seeking an enlightening and enjoyable holiday experience.
Zanzibar the name includes the main island, Unguja, and its sister island, Pemba has for centuries attracted seafarers and adventures from around the world. Now it welcomes a new generation of explorers those who have come to marvel at the rich heritage, reflected in the architecture and the culture of the people. For this is where Arabia meets Africa.
Visit Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town, where the sultans once ruled.
Relax on one of 25 dazzling white, palm-fringed beaches, where the azure waters of the Indian Ocean beckon swimmers, divers, fishermen and water sports enthusiasts alike. Breathe in the fragrant scents of cloves, vanilla, cardamom and nutmeg, and discover why Zanzibar is called The Spice Island explore the forests, with their rare flora and fauna. Or visit some of the ancient, archaeological sites. Spend a few days here after a safari on the African allocate a week or two and immerse yourself in the magic that is Zanzibar.
Where Arabia meets in Africa
It may not have a particularly romantic name, but Stone Town, is the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar, little changed in the last 200 years. It is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose extravagance is reflected in their brass-studded, carved, wooden doors.
The National Museum is a good starting point for finding out more of the history and culture of Zanzibar. It opened in 1925 and contains relics from the time of the Sultans and the early explorers, as well as traditional carvings and exhibits of local wildlife, including a good collection of birds and reptiles. Visitors can also see Livingstone House, where the Scottish explorer lived for three months in 1866 gathering supplies for the expedition which was to turn out as his last.
Another must is the House of Wonders, with its pillars, fretted balconies and intricately carved doors. It was built by Sultan Barghash in 1883. And was occupied by the British in 1911 pretentious palace, now called the People’s Palace on the other side of the streets.
Next to the House of Wonders is the Old Fort, built on the site of a Portuguese church when the Arabs took over the island. Another impressive, ornate building is the Itnaasheri Dispensary which has recently undergone much needed restoration work.
At the centre of Stone Town are the Persian-style Hamamni Baths, built at the command of Sultan Barghash at the end of the 19 th Century. Nearby is the Cathedral Church of Christ, completed in 1879 on the site of an open slave market; it contains much of historical interest. Echoes of Zanzibar’s more sinister past are to be found in Tippu Tip House , built for a notorious slave and ivory trader, Hamad bin Muhammad el-Marjab. The site of a former slave pit is to be found nearby in Kelele Square.
Tours of Zanzibar Island are a rewarding experience. Visitors will travel past fragrant plantations of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices on their way to a number of places of historical interest. To the south of the island is the walled city of Kizimkazi, where the ruins of Shirazi Mosque, part of which dates back nearly 900 years, are found. A coral stone inscription provides evidence of its age, making this one of the earliest Islamic buildings in this part of Africa. Head north from Zanzibar Town and visitors will encounter the palace ruins of Maruhubi and Mtoni. The ruins of Maruhubi, offer a tantalizing glimpse of the former grandeur of this palace, built by Sultan Barghash in 1880 to house his harem, but burned down in 1889. The palace of Mtoni suffered a similar fate, dating back to the early part of the 19 th century, it once housed 1,000 people.
These are a few examples of historical ruins that are dotted throughout the island. Others are to be found at Chuini, Kizimbani and Bungi. Thirty-five kilometers south-east from the city is the Jozani Forest Reserve, an area of 10 sq km whose thick forests, with trees over 100 years old, are one of the last remaining sanctuaries of the red colobus monkey.
Another popular option is a trip to Changuu, or Prison, Island. The island was used to contain awkward slaves and jail was built in 1893 but never used. Today the island’s most famous inhabitants are giant tortoises and it is popular place for a swim, a stroll or a picnic.
Brilliant white beaches lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean provide the perfect place to relax, soak up the sun and take a break from some busy sightseeing. Modern resorts nestle in the shade of coconut palms, providing cool and comfortable retreats.
The beaches are a paradise. Here are picturesque fishing villages where the people live a simple way of life, unchanged through the way of lie, unchanged through the years. Just south of Zanzibar Town are Fuji Beach and Chuini Beach, which both offer facilities for a range of water sports, while to the north there is Mangapwani where the only noise is likely to be to the sound of the ocean. On the Northern tip of the island is Nungwi, where visitors can watch fishermen’s boats being built here or swim in the coral lagoons.
On Zanzibar’s north-east coast are the beaches of Matemwe, Mapenzi, Kiwenga and Uroa, with their wide stretchers of uncrowded sands and opportunities to explore the underwater world. Other well-developed resorts Pingwe, Bwejuu and Jambiani are to be found on the south-eastern coast. As well as water sports there are also opportunities for fishing or for observing the activities of the local fishermen.
Fifty kilometers north of Zanzibar Main Island is the highly fertile Pemba Island which, although smaller than Zanzibar, grows three times as many cloves. The Pemba Channel, which runs between the island and the mainland, offers some of the best game-fishing in the world. The island also boasts some excellent beaches. Pemba has its own distinct character with more historical monuments, particularly ruined mosques and tombs, than on the main island. In the centre of the island is Chaka Chaka, the main town, where there are remains of a 200 year old Arab fort. Nearby, at Ras Mkumbuuare, are the ruins of a 14 th century mosque, some elaborate tombs and the foundations of several houses.
Also in this area are the remains of a 15 th century fortress. Interesting ancient sites can also be seen around Wete to the north. In this region is the Ngezi Equatorial forest, containing rare trees, some not found anywhere else in the world. The wildlife includes indigenous flying foxes, blue duikers and several varieties of owl. Mnemba Island, off the north-east coast of Zanzibar, is known for its glorious coral reefs and splendid beaches while another island, Chumbe, is Tanzania’s first marine park with a hundred-year old lighthouse and the only ancient mosque with India architecture.
Zanzibar Beach Holiday