THE MYSTIQUE OF ZANZIBAR
A history of adventurers, slave traders, princesses, pirates, missionaries, sailors, smugglers, spice merchants & sultans.
A holiday destination of EXPLORATION, RELAXATION, REVITALISATION & FASCINATION.
Zanzibar conjures up exotic and romantic images for good reason. Imagine crystal-clear water, pristine beaches, cultural treasures and lush plantations. Its rich history is centred around the main Stone Town - once the capital of an empire spanning continents and from where famous explorers such as David Livingstone and Henry Stanley began their journeys of discovery.
Zanzibar, an archipelago of many small islands, is a semi-autonomous area of Tanzania lying some 25 miles of the coast of the Indian Ocean. The two main islands are PEMBA Island, to the north, and the larger southerly UNGUJA Island, or Zanzibar as it’s widely known. Around two thirds of the 1.3m population live here, with most settled in the densely populated west. Outside of a handful of main towns, most people live in small villages - trading, subsistence farming, or living off the sea.
The reefs are rich in marine biodiversity, making them ideal for snorkelling and diving and with miles of beaches of the softest white sands, fringed with coconut palms, it is a classic tropical paradise.
It’s these stunning scenes and the laid back lifestyle that attracts visitors from all over the world.
The Zanzibar archipelago is 96km long and 32km wide – occupying a total area of just over 1000 square km.
The people of Zanzibar are of diverse ethnic origins, including descendants of Africans, Omani Arabs, Yemeni and Iranian Arabs, and Indians who sailed here on dhows, carried by the trade winds, in the first millennium. The official language is Kiswahili and the population is predominantly Muslim.
Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, has an atmosphere of its own - bustling narrow streets and busy bazaars, carpenters making the famous ornate doors and Zanzibar chests, souvenir shops selling cloth, carvings and voodoo masks from the interior of Africa, and an architecture that reflects its British and Arabic colonial history.
Catch one of Stone Town's diverse music, cultural and food festivals if you can.
Slip effortlessly into African Flexible Time – also known as “Swahili time”. In Swahili culture, people start counting time at sunrise rather than at midnight, which means that 7am Western time is one o’clock in the morning Swahili time – this can be confusing.
In Stone Town, the crumbling colonial buildings serve as a reminder of the island’s long and colourful history as a traditional Swahili trading post, influenced by layers of cultures.
One can easily get lost here in the maze of narrow streets winding through the busy town of souvenir shops, bazaars, jewellery souks, churches, temples and mosques.
A few other things to know when visiting Zanzibar
1.GREETINGS and MANNERS are important so it helps if you can learn a few words in Swahili.
2.Island life is SLOW – but that is, quite possibly, one of the best reasons to visit. Things in Zanzibar don’t always work or make sense but that’s part of the beauty of the place. Enjoy the mix of calm and chaos.
3.It can really RAIN – there’s a short wet season (November) and a long Monsoon period (March – May).
4.EXPLORE – although it may be tempting to find a spot on the beach or by the bar and stay there, don’t miss out on Zanzibar’s many delights.
5.TASTE - the food is a blend of some of the world’s most interesting cuisines – including Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and traditional African foods. Zanzibar is, of course, known as THE SPICE ISLANDS.