Stone Town – An expert guide to Zanzibar’s capital and Where to Stay
Zanzibar’s Stone Town is a fascinating a living monument to the culture and histories of its curious mix of East African, Arab, Indian, Persian and European conquerors, traders and seafarers. This is the heart of Zanzibar, alive with all the secrets of this charismatic Indian Ocean island.
A stay in Stone Town allows a glimpse of the essence of Zanzibar, the sights, sounds and smells of the market, restaurants, harbour and mosques, a very real and unsanitised view! The Stone Town street markets rely on tourism to thrive, although it is possible to find genuine artworks and antiques amongst the more mass-produced creations.
Exploring the maze of Stone Town
Stone Town is an extraordinary place to explore; the ancient maze of narrow streets is a romantic hotchpotch of historic old stone buildings built close for cool respite from the tropical island sun, and shaded by elegantly carved balconies, loggias and verandas that cling precipitously overhead.
A short stay in Stone Town allows time to see the Sultan’s Palaces, and experience the sights and sounds of this idiosyncratic centre. There are a number of fine buildings to see, some, such as the House of Wonders and the Arab Fort, have been restored to create areas for coffee and relaxation within. Generally the best way to explore Stone Town is simply to meander the streets, window shopping and absorbing the atmosphere.
Key to Zanzibari Doors
A walk here reveals a range of elaborately carved doors with delicately executed patterns of lotus flowers, fish and vines or dates, and sometimes inscribed with passages from the Koran to tell of the household within. These are a statement of wealth of the original inhabitant, as the door was usually the only outward expression of the house concealed within the courtyard beyond, and was often even created first.
A Sense of Stone Town
As the sun sets, muezzins in their different mosque towers call the faithful to prayers again, dogs bark and children shout as they play football in open corners or dive into the harbour waters and demonstrate feats of bravery with their friends. A crowd gathers along the harbour front and in Forodhani Gardens, where smoke rises from barbecues at the assorted food stalls and the curio markets assembling by gaslight amid a hubbub of banter and chat…This is a world apart, and it is worth a visit.