Narrow Street of Stone Town and House of Wonder
Duration: Half Day
Located just over 20 miles off the East African Coast, Zanzibar is one of Tanzania’s most popular tourist destinations. Zanzibar is the collective name for the two main islands Unguja and Pemba, as well as numerous offshore islands, which lie scattered like tropical gems in the Indian Ocean. Its very name conjures up exotic images of white sandy beaches, warm tropical waters and diverse landscapes, in addition to exotic spices, old narrow streets and bustling bazaars. This tour will give you a taste of the island’s highlights as you explore the cultural heart of Zanzibar City – the historic Stone Town.
Stone Town’s ancient history and rich cultural diversity attracts many an avid traveller to its shores. The town was once the main trading centre for East Africa, the main export being spices, which is why Zanzibar is famously known as the ‘Spice Island’. Due of to its historical importance and value, this old part of Zanzibar City (Unguja’s capital) was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000. Step back in time as you wander down narrow winding alleyways and across old market squares; past grand Arab houses, palaces, churches and mosques, tracing the multicultural steps of slaves and Sultans.
One of the main attractions of Stone Town is its historic and diverse Swahili architecture, which incorporates elements of African, Arab, Indian, Persian and European styles. From the 19th century coral stone buildings that gave Stone Town its nickname to grand Omani palaces, Indian temples and Christian churches, the architectural diversity reflects the acceptance of different cultural origins within the local communities. Some of the most striking architecture originally belonged to wealthy Arabs in the 19th century, who competed against each other for the best-designed dwellings. This is reflected in the elaborate, brass-studded wooden doors, which are beautifully adorned with carvings depicting lotus flowers, dates, birds and animals.
For many years Stone Town was a major trading centre for slaves, who were brought over from mainland Africa and traded with the Middle East. This tour will take you to the site of a former slave market, where the oldest Anglican Church in East Africa now stands. Other tour highlights include the Sultan’s Palace, which is more commonly known as Beit-al-Ajaib or the House of Wonders. Built in 1883 by Sultan Sayyid Barghash, this was the first building to have electricity in Zanzibar. You will also visit the 19th century Palace Museum, the most recent of the Sultans’ Palaces, which gives visitors a fascinating insight into the Sultan legacy in Zanzibar.
As you stroll along the seafront, you will get the chance to visit Forodhani Gardens (also known as Jamituri Gardens), which were designed in 1936 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Khalifa. This is a popular meeting place for local residents and a must-see for travellers, who can sample delicious local delicacies from the evening market stalls. Watch vendors fire up their grills as the sun goes down, and enjoy the taste of freshly cooked seafood caught that day.
Your tour will come to an end at the Old Fort, also known as Arab Fort and by its local name Ngome Kongwe. The fort was built by Omani Arabs in the 17th century to defend the town against the Portuguese and other invaders, but it was used as a prison in the late 18th century and 19th century. This is the oldest structure in Zanzibar. Part of the fort was converted into an open-air theatre in 1994, which now hosts a variety of contemporary musical and cultural performances. Not to be missed during your holiday in Zanzibar, this tour offers a fascinating insight into the island’s rich cultural heritage.
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