Colorful culture, amazing nature and and most of all a peaceful and harmonic atmosphere makes Zanzibar a must visit place in Africa.
Visitors clamber to countries in Africa each year to go on safari on the African Savannah or to appreciate the wildlife in the rain forests. Africa is not just home to the largest animals of the world and its abundant wildlife; it contains some of the best pristine islands located very close to its shores. Zanzibar is one of them. It is part of the East African republic of Tanzania. Tanzania consists of the Zanzibar archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25-50km off the coast off the mainland.
There are numerous small islands, and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, informally referred to as “Zanzibar Island”), and Pemba Island. Zanzibar was once a separate state with a long trading history within the Arab world; it united with Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964, and still enjoys a high degree of autonomy within the union.
Zanzibar today is dependent on the export of herbs and spices, in particular cloves. It offers the visitors opportunity to explore a remarkable history or to walk along its sandy beaches, drinking coconut milk and relaxing. However you want to spend your time on the islands they will reward you with a very special experience.
I traveled to Zanzibar just before leaving Tanzania for good. Flight on Precision airlines from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar showed me one of the best views out of my window. The worlds highest free standing mountain, Kilimanjaro, was looking up with its mouth wide open and inviting to rest on its snowy white bed. The pilot gave a full circle around the mountain before it headed to Zanzibar. I was awed. Not sure if it is done on every flight or the Pilot made use of the clear day as an incentive to the travelers.
I had planned to visit the pristine white sand beaches of Zanzibar’s islands that offer the warm Indian Ocean’s turquoise waters – ideal for relaxing in the sunshine and getting away from it all. Before heading for the beach paradise Bluebay resort on Kiwengwa beach, North east of the Ugunja island, I stay put one night at the Stone town of Zanzibar. Stone town is the artistic and historic glimpse of Swahili culture, with a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements.
The fascinating history and rich cultural heritage of this unique African island with strong Arabic and Indian influences is a major draw card. Exploring the winding lanes of Stone Town’s old quarter, a World Heritage Site, I encountered a captivating mix of architectural styles reflecting the cultural diversity of Zanzibar. Many Indian and Arabic buildings, old mansions and palaces such as the House of Wonders with its tall clock tower, as well as well as lively market stalls and shops.
Narrow alleys of Stone townMasai Shop
I have never missed Indian food no matter how long I have stayed away from India however I leave no opportunity to try a good restaurant if I come across one. I came across Silk Route Restaurant very close to House of Wonders and I must admit it was a great choice. However a fellow traveller recommended me to visit another great Zanzibar restaurant called Lukmaan. Built in 1950’s Known for its Biryanis, fried fish and freshly made nan, the restaurant has no fixed menu. Be ready to discover once you enter the restaurant however have patience to get a seat as it is quite crowded and usually the Biryani’s finish early.
Silk Route Restaurant
The Stone Town offers a chance for history lovers to know and understand the history of Zanzibar through time. Narrow alleys like maze will ensure you often get lost. Lots of key buildings are still in place, some being turned into great museums like the infamous House of Wonders and the neighboring Old Fort. Often best is discovered in the world when you get lost, While I got lost in the lanes, I found myself at Darajani Market and since I was there, took a little stroll around, because as I always say, the market is the heart and soul of any place. Bustling and awash with colour, selling everything you would expect from an East African market including food (bread, meat, fish, spices, fruit and vegetables), clothing (kofia hats, shoes, materials – kitenge/kanga) and a whole host of other things. This is the place to buy your spices! Not the touristy ones, the real spices!
The best part of all was exploring the multi-cultural and multi-religion communities living together in harmony. The Stone Town Tour (Zanzibar) will make sure you’re not missing a thing
On the second day I headed to Bluebay resort on the Northeastern coast that has some of the best Zanzibar beaches. A few of the fanciest hotels on the island have claimed spots near Kiwengwa, where pure stretches of sand seem to go on forever. Surrounded by beautiful coral reefs the beach resort offers many water sports. The water goes in about 1 km early morning and walk on the sea bed is equivalent to walking meditation.
The pictures below shall give you a glimpse of this paradise where I spent next 4 days. Water sports, sunset cruises, boating into the sea on a Dhow and catching star fish were some of the rejuvenating activities that made me douse into this utopia.
Nowadays Zanzibar, is a place where the modern world meets the old world as traditional dhows (sailing boats) line the harbour alongside modern yachts and catamarans. A place of beauty and decay. With dark winding alleys and beautiful open beaches. A place to pray and place to party. Zanzibar might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is one of the places that fascinated me more than any other.
Which is your favorite African city?