Things to do in Zanzibar
Zanzibar is that small Island off Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s coastal city. It’s city, Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is more like a museum of well-preserved buildings whose architecture is a mix of Arabic-Indian and African influences. But while museums are usually full of dead exhibits, Zanzibar is full of life and colour. This makes it a perfect holiday getaway. Here are seven of the city’s legendary attractions that will awaken your sense of wonder.
Big body/Tangawizi Spice farm
When it comes to spices, Asia dwarfs many continents as it is home to people who do not settle for less when it comes to food spices. The Indians and Arabs are known for indulging in spices and Zanzibar has a rich historical connection with some of these cultures. In East Africa, Zanzibar has an unrivaled spice culture, and one of the tourist delights here is a visit to the Spice Garden. A 30-minute drive from the heart of Stone Town brings you to this jungle-like farm that features over 50 distinctive species of spices. And they are not only spices for the palate, but for a wide range of purposes, including spices for sexual prowess, beauty, perfumes, among others.
At this farm, you don’t just stop at seeing. You are free to eat and drink any spice of choice. Don’t be f fooled by the names; the spices with the most romantic names burn the tongue the most. Should you fall victim, do not worry, there is lots of fresh coconut juice to wash it down your throat quickly.
One of the most captivating moments here is when the guides climb to the top of coconut trees that are as high as sky scrapers to harvest ready fruits. No they don’t use ladders. They just clasp their hands and legs around the trees and start slithering up, even if the wind is blowing the tree from side to side.
At the end of the tour, you will be accessorised in beautiful handmade neckties and hats made of palm leaves. The ladies get simple but elegant wristbands and earrings, also made of palm leaves.
Beit al-Sahel/Palace Museum
The palace Museum is a rich heritage site. You’ll wish you had ample time to tour it slowly. It was the Palace of Sultan Seyyid and is said to have been the first building in East Africa to have a lift. In 1896, the three-story building was bombed by the British during the Anglo Zanzibar war of August 27, 1896. The war lasted less than 45 minutes and is thus rated as the shortest war in history
The palace which is open from 9am-6pm was rebuilt and currently serves as a museum, exhibiting the different items and royal regalia used by Sultan Khalifa bin Harub and Sayyida Salme. Located on Mizingani Road, History of the colonial age flows through its walls. Prime focus is on slave trade and its abolition, and colonialism.
Outside the museum, you will find tombs of various sultans. The ocean-side gardens in front of the palace are another gem that a visitor would love.
Entrance fee to the Museum is $3
Bird’s eye view of Zanzibar
Seeing the islands and other beautiful ocean features from the air is an enchanting experience. To share this beauty with all, Coastal Aviation organizes chartered aero tours around Zanzibar, with some flights costing less than $100. Scheduled daily flights between Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar offer the same experience, but at no extra cost than the ticket price. The beauty and nature of this part of the world is movie-like.
Try not to leave Zanzibar without taking a tour in a dhow boat if you want the complete experience. They look fragile, but be sure that they are tough to the core, thanks to the resilient hardwood they are made of. They can last up to thirty years if well maintained. A dhow cruise feels like you are living in the days of Vasco Da Garma the explorer, as they navigated from coast to coast to discover hidden gems. It costs roughly $20, as offered by most of the agencies stationed in front of the Palace Museum.
Local Market (Darajani market)
A visit to the Zanzibar market is a first class ticket to getting to know the locals better. It offers an opportunity to mix and mingle with them. They are very welcoming and always happy to teach guests a thing or two about their cultures and history. Like any market, it is split into different arenas. I highly recommend you drop by the fruits section if you have a thing for organically grown fruits. If you love fabric, you will find lots of authentic kitenge and Swahili leso materials on sale. The market also features art galleries and souvenir shops.
Tip: Like any market setting, the traders here will quote for you twice the price and expect you to negotiate it down.
Regardless of whether you are a novice or addict of sea food, Zanzibar has your back. You will find a variety of budget restaurants and star hotels specializing in fresh aquatic foods that taste like heaven. However, some meals are so beautiful that you will feel guilty swallowing them.
If you want to take back the local culinary skills with you when you return home, this is the right place. There are lots of beach front eateries which allow guests to catch up with their chefs behind the scenes. One such is Forodhani, a garden like setting where lots of restaurants exhibit their best.
Are you mad about immersing yourself in the ocean and lying on beaches with powder soft white sand? In Zanzibar “life is a beach”. There are over 20 beaches that provide a great place to rest, enjoy the water and relax under the sun. From a distance, the water looks green, but when you reach it, it is remarkably clear. If you want somewhere more private, Serena Beach will treat you to an unforgettable experience. It is beautiful and has a romantic ambiance with great views of the sunset. The fairly warm water makes for a fun swimming holiday.
Tip: Bring something to shelter you from the sun and do not forget sun cream. There are shops around most of the beaches where you can do last minute shopping for some basics.
The slave market deserves its reputation as an amazing bucket list attraction.
As you visit Zanzibar, please bear in mind that it is a Muslim society, so respect the culture to have a comfortable trip. There are some areas that are sensitive to skimpy women’s dress codes, so be mindful to wear something decent. If gay, minimize on public displays of affection.