Elpis Chrysovergis

Elpis Chrysovergis

Aug 11 2014

Arabian Nights in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is an archipelago consisting of two main islands of Unguja (commonly referred to as Zanzibar Island for tourist simplicity), Pemba and about 51 other surrounding small islets.The name Zanzibar is derived from a combination of two Arabic words, ‘Zenj’, meaning black, and ‘bar’, being the Arabic word for land, resulting in the ancient title ‘Land of the Blacks’.

As Zanzibar absorbed people from as far as the Orient and Iberia, Assyria and India, European, Asian and African cultures were mixed together for centuries to create the unique Swahili architecture we see in the narrow streets of its historic centre, Stone Town.

The first stone houses made out of the delicate coral reef stones were built around 1830s a time when Omani sultans were under control of the island making it famous for its slave and spice trade. A separate post we made describes the sad history of this small island from which around 60.000 slaves were being sold each year.

A ferry from the port of Dar Es Salaam can get you there in just 2 1/2 hours. Make sure you get to the official ticket desk of Azam ferries and book for the Kilimanjaro as it is the best with the price being still higher for non residents (TSH 60,000/$35 for economy per person).

View of the Port from the Old Dispensary

In general while in Zanzibar don’t be prepared for good deals regarding accommodation as tourism packages and the type of tourism here are more targeted to the luxury vacations, comparing to the other African countries we have been so far! Therefore even the cheapest room (not in a resort) can be minimum $25 per room during high season (camping is strictly prohibited on the island!).

So we stayed in the cheapest one we found, Annex of Abdalla which also had central location and was inside a lively neighborhood as we later discovered to our joy! Walking in the narrow streets takes you back in time with laundry hanging between the Arabian style windows and the half open Indian doors! The  mosques are filling the air with prayers and the neighbors are spending their time chatting outside their houses on the benches alongside the road .Children were playing and  people on bicycles and vespas are managing to pass through without crushing.


During Ramadan no food or drinks are allowed in public before 6.30 pm .However at night everybody is out in the streets.For the best street food, Forodhani Gardens is the place to be. Stalls are set up by 5.00 pm full of seafood, fish, meat, vegetables, chapattis, etc!

At Forodhani Gardens street food stalls

Our personal highlight was the endless strolls in the hectic streets of Darajani Market! In this market tourists are crammed with the locals doing their daily shopping. The dates, red bananas, ripe avocados, juicy mangos and deep red lychee were among the exotic fruits in abundance while we couldn’t resist buying some of the  spices the island is so famous for.

Darajani Market’s exotic fruit and spices

Colorful shawls and cloths could not be missing from this craziness as well .The visit to the meat market gave me some shocking pictures with all parts of the cow (inside and out) being sold in between flocks of flies.

Kitenge, the local colourful cloths and indian pants!

After 3 amazing days we passed in Stone Town we couldn’t miss going to the much awaited beaches to the north of the island and especially to the beaches of Nungwi and Kendwa. Both of them are highly touristic destinations however the beauty of the crystal water in front of the sandy beach is still incredible!

Early in the morning, when the tide is low, is the perfect time to take a long walk from Nungwi to Kendwa under the coral reefs on top of which there are several luxurious resorts. Here and there Masai people (in the sake of tourism) are walking around selling handicrafts and chatting in fluent Italian to the Italians that come by hundreds there with all inclusive packages. Locals are always curious to meet mzungus and are always ready for a picture!

A “beach” Masai!

In the East stretch of the beach things are more quiet. The locals there are busy fishing and making the traditional wooden dhows (small sailing boats) and the scenery is more original with palm trees being the perfect background. If you are lucky you will also see cows relaxing on the beach and having a nap!

Although we stayed in Zanzibar only for a week, it was enough for us to fall in love with this unique island!

Check out more photos from Tanzania

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