Stone Town Tour
Duration: Half Day
Explore the historical treasures and cultural delights of Stone Town during your holiday in Zanzibar as you embark on a tour of the old part of Zanzibar City, the capital of the island of Unguja. Ancient architecture, bustling bazaars and grand Arabian houses are just some of the tour highlights.
Steeped in history, Stone Town was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. This three and a half-hour tour will take you back in time as you trace the steps of slaves and Sultans; through a maze of narrow winding alleyways and past mosques, palaces and old market sites. The town is renowned for its beautiful historical architecture, in particular the coral stone buildings that gave Stone Town its name.
Your local guide will point out buildings influenced by many different cultural styles, including Arab, Persian, Indian, African and European. In the 19th century, Stone Town was one of the most important trading centres in the Indian Ocean and the grand Arab houses reflect the town’s great wealth at this time. Note the beautifully decorated heavy wooden doorways, which are studded with brass, influenced by traditional Indian architectural designs. Many of the intricate wooden carvings depict flowers, fruits, birds and animals.
A high number of mosques, temples and churches can be found scattered throughout Stone Town, reflecting the many different cultures and religions of its people. The Anglican Church, built on the site of the public slave market in 1873, is just one of the churches you will see on this tour. It is reputedly the oldest Christian church in East Africa.
Our first stop on the tour is the 19th century House of Wonders (Beit el Ajaib in Arabic), the former Palace of Sultan Barghash and the first building to have electricity in Zanzibar. We then proceed to the 19th century Palace Museum, the most recent of the Sultans’ Palaces. This beautiful building hosts a range of elaborate furniture, clothes, artefacts and family photos, which gives visitors a fascinating insight into the life and history of Zanzibar’s Sultans.
Other tour highlights include the Old Dispensary and the 18th century Livingstone House and Market, and we will also drive past Zanzibar State House, Zanzibar Museum, the High Court of Zanzibar and the first British High Commission on the way. Strolling along the seafront, you will get the chance to sample the local delicacies in the market stalls at Forodhani Gardens. Also known as Jamituri Gardens, these formal gardens were designed in 1936 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Khalifa. This is a popular meeting place for local residents and travellers, where you can buy inexpensive, freshly cooked food from vendors selling everything from octopus and goat’s meat to chips and pizzas.
Your tour will come to an end at the Old Fort, also known as the Arab Fort. Built in the late 1600s by Omani Arabs to defend the town against the Portuguese and other invaders, this is the oldest structure in Zanzibar. In the late 18th century and 19th century the fort was used as a prison, mainly for slaves. This tour offers a wonderful insight into Zanzibar’s diverse culture and fascinating living history.
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