Walking the streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar is like stepping into a Delorean Time Machine.
But with less puffy vests and crazy physicists and a lot more doors, beautiful beaches and cats.
The narrow cobblestone streets of Stone Town are lined with laundry, cats, markets, mosques and the most colourful doors ever seen! Each corner you turn there are more things to look it. You could get lost in this city for hours just meandering your way through – looking and admiring.
The city is reminiscent of an old Disney classic.
Aladdin. At any point we were expecting Abu and Aladdin to whisk us away on a magic carpet ride.
Although wonderfully eclectic the history of this Stone Town, Zanzibar has been all but romantic. In the 19th century, the island was used as a trading post for slaves brought from central Africa to be shipped to areas of the Middle East. You are still able to see the places where these men, women and children were held against their will in the appalling conditions.
Give yourself at least 3 days to wonder through these city streets and take the time to engage in the other activities this capital city has to offer.
Six MUST-DO’s in Stone Town, Zanzibar:
1) Spice Market-
Zanzibar was the base for many of the great explorers of Africa, namely David Livingstone. During this time it was once a major trading port for spices. The trade with the Arabian peninsula has left a distinguished mark on architecture, religion, culture and language.
You are able to go to the old plantations where spices are still grown to this day. The spice tour was amazingly informative and fun with an opportunity to buy some of the most exotic spices in the world. We learned about the different uses for the roots, fruits, nuts, and herbs.
One of the biggest hits during the spice tour was getting to create lipstick out of the Bixa Orellana plant. This plant is more commonly known around the island as ‘the lipstick fruit’. These tiny red seeds stain everything bright red and are completely absent of flavour making them the perfect additive for enhancing food presentations.
2) Slave Market Tour –
The stains of slavery are still clearly visible throughout the harbour town of Stone Town, Zanzibar. During the 1600’s many Africans were robbed from their homes in the interior of Africa and forced to carry heavy loads of ivory and then sent by ship to Zanzibar. Once in Stone Town, these slaves were auctioned off and then sent to various parts of the Middle East, Europe and North America. Great effort has been made to preserve this history as a warning for the future. The end of the slave trade on the island in the 1822, is said to be the catalyst to end slave trade in other parts of the world.
**Note: There is a combined package for both the spice market and slave market tours. We booked this through our hotel for 25 USD**
3) Street Markets –
Fancy yourself a treasure hunter and want to try your hand at bargaining- this is the place. There are hundreds of vendors all set up in old buildings along cobblestone streets. You can buy almost anything you can think of in these markets. Save at least one full day for this, even if you don’t purchase anything in Stone Town, the experience alone is worth it.
Take another day to walk around the city to find your favourite door. We wish we had the time to do this as the doors were our favourite part of Stone Town. Not to mention you will get to meet a lot of interesting people along the way.
5) Hang out at Freddy Murcury’s –
Dedicated to the home-town hero, Freddy Mercury’s, is a nice bar/restaurant with a great mix of Westernised pub food (if you’re feeling slightly homesick). Freddy Mercury, born in Zanzibar has left his stamp all over the island. We were puzzled by the obsession with him while we were there. We did’t understand the reason behind Freddy Mercury’s popularity on this seemingly conservative island- maybe he used to come here a lot? Maybe he used to own a home on the island? Or maybe they just love the music of Queen (for good reason). Nope, born and bred. Zanzibar is awesome. Queen is awesome. Freddy Mercury is even more awesome. So that leads us to the age old question. Which came first? The
chicken Zanzibar or the egg Freddy Mercury?
It may be a tourist TRAP. But everybody raves about it on Trip Advisor, plus it has a sweet view.
We have a penchant for hanging out with animals of all kinds. I just can’t help myself, especially when it comes to making friends with cats. In another life, I think I was a crazy cat lady. Oh wait. I am crazy cat lady and the cats in Stone Town were crazy beautiful. Match made in heaven.
While many of these items listed are considered TOURIST TRAPS, there are many more local activities to involve yourself in while visiting the Island. Please read our post here for a more authentic Stone Town visit.
Make your way to the white sandy beaches in the north where you be held captive by pirates!