In the 19th century, Zanzibar was an important center for trade in spices and in this manner, Stone Town emerged as an extremely important central city within the region. Through its lengthy and turbulent period of history, Stone Town managed to keep its importance despite numerous assaults from various foreign powers, including the Portuguese and Omani Arabs, the Portuguese Omani Arabs, and, particularly the British Empire.
In the current day, Stone Town continues to maintain its status as a culturally and historically significant city in the region. Stone Town is distinguished by its well-preserved colonial architecture dating from the 19th century, and its distinct cultural blend that has roots in Swahili traditions but is enriched by influence from Arab, Persian, and Indian along with European sources.
Stone Town stands alone in Zanzibar and offers an experience unlike any other that can't be found anywhere else on the entire island. If you're thinking of exploring this island paradise and plan to spend a few hours there, in Stone Town, you've come to the right spot.
following is the list of 8 best things you can do on a trip to stone town in Zanzibar:
Take a stroll through the old Streets of Stone Town
Visit the Old Fort
Visit St Joseph's Cathedral
Wooden Doors In Stone Town
Find out History Of the Slave Market In Zanzibar
Spend night at Colonial-style Hotel
Taste the Street Food At Forodhani Gardens Market
Visit Prison Island
A journey through the intricate streets of Stone Town, surrounded by buildings built during the colonial era, is an extremely fascinating aspect of a trip to Zanzibar. Stone Town served as a vital capital during the times of slave and spice trade as well as the reign of various kingdoms, ranging across the Portuguese Empire through Oman, the Sultanate of Oman, and eventually, gaining independence. When you walk through its maze of streets there is a blend of influences from different cultures, including Arab, Persian, Portuguese, British, and Indian elements that are seamlessly interspersed through the town, awaiting your exploration.
The sloping, narrow streets could make it difficult to follow your directions; you're sure to get lost at certain points. But don't worry because getting lost within the charming labyrinth that is Stone Town is all but inevitable and a vital element of the town's charm when walked through. At one point you may be at the heart of a bustling marketplace, or in another you'll be in front of the gorgeous 19th Century Old Dispensary, a building with architectural styles that evoke Europe as well as India. Within this labyrinth, numerous hidden treasures await your enthralling encounters, calling you to join in the fun of exploration and follow the flow.
Stone Town's Old Fort should top your tourist destination list for Zanzibar. Constructed of stone dating back to the 17th century by Omani Arabs who took control of the island after defeating the Portuguese, it stands out as the longest-standing structure located here.
Old Fort was initially constructed by the Sultanate as part of their castle-fortification plan for Zanzibar. Over its long history, Old Fort underwent many changes; from being used as a prison to becoming the Zanzibar railway terminal and club. An amphitheatre was added and later used for the Zanzibar International Film Festival's foundation event; its central courtyard features an immense stone amphitheatre surrounded by lanes selling souvenirs along its walls.
Stone Town is known for being predominantly Muslim; yet one of its more striking structures, not a mosque but instead a Roman Catholic church built during the second half of the 19th century is St Joseph's Cathedral - not unlike many mosques but constructed instead by French missionaries in 1893 between 1893-1898 - is an elegant Roman Catholic structure which takes its inspiration from cathedrals like Marseille Cathedral in France which feature twin spires similar to its two striking twin spires.
One of the most captivating aspects of a visit to Stone Town is its doors, making the experience truly remarkable and intriguing. Most wooden doors that remain from previous centuries still stand, creating unique features from other places around the globe that you won't find elsewhere. These iconic "Zanzibari doors" were once known throughout Stone Town; today many can be found crafted using strong mango or jackfruit wood which both grow abundantly here on Zanzibari wood; locally produced pieces occupy this historical area.
What sets these doors apart and makes them truly remarkable are the intricate patterns and designs on them, often heavily influenced by Swahili classic designs but also heavily influenced by Arab, Indian and European designs resulting in doors with distinct designs that distinguish themselves from others made of wood. You'll be delighted by all of the stunning wooden doors on offer throughout Stone Town when exploring. Don't miss these amazing masterpieces when visiting!
In Stone Town, a must-visit attraction is the East Africa Slave Trade Exhibition Museum which is focused on reliving the horrific stories of the slave trade and the difficult journey to freedom. As we said earlier, Stone Town was once the centre of the slave and spice trading in this region. It was a location in which many tragic events took place and, to fully understand the underlying nature of Zanzibar and the roots of its inhabitants, and the factors that led to its thriving culture, a deeper dive into the dark past of Zanzibar is crucial.
This exhibit is meticulously arranged in chronological order every exhibit panel recounting a sequence of narratives that describe the beginning and progress of slavery up to its eventual abrogation. The descriptions are with both English and Swahili as well as providing detailed and thorough insight into this bleak chapter of the past. Sometimes, it can cause a feeling of dread to read about the horrific treatment of fellow human beings at that time.
If you plan to stay at Stone Town, I strongly recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity to book accommodation in a hotel that is located within a historic colonial structure. This option will allow you to be immersed in the ambience of Zanzibar's sultanate time in the past.
There are a variety of Hotels located in Stone Town housed within old colonial structures however, I would suggest looking into Mizingani Seafront Hotel or Dhow Palace If your budget allows. Both hotels have exquisite interiors, with wooden furniture, and oversized wooden doors, and provide the tranquillity and peace away from the hustle and bustle that is Stone Town. The stay in these establishments gives guests a glimpse of the past and also gives them a chance to enjoy the rich history that is the charm of this island.
A must-do activity in Zanzibar is to savour food from the Swahili street food in Forodhani Market. This delicious cuisine is a fusion of Bantu, Arab, and Indian flavours, providing an experience that is unlike anything else you've had.
Each evening in Forodhani Park, as the sun sets locals gather along the promenade that runs along the coast to create their food stands. The stalls are open late until late at night serving various culinary delights to tourists as well as locals. Forodhani Market stands as an ideal and affordable spot to indulge in the distinctive street food selections of Zanzibar.
Prison Island offers a delightful half-day cruise starting at Stone Town, which transports visitors to an island that is renowned for its tortoise population. It also is a place with a long past that gives a touch of mystery to its frightening name. It is located from the coast to the West of Zanzibar, Prison Island is interestingly not an island that has an institution for the penalized despite the numerous attempts to do so in the past.
In the vicinity of Prison Island Hotel. Prison Island Hotel, you'll be able to see a diverse and abundant collection of giant tortoises, some of them more than 2 centuries old. Visitors can be close and interact with the magnificent animals offering a memorable experience for people who have never had the opportunity to observe these amazing creatures in this proximity. The tour that guides visitors around the island generally takes two hours. Although a nice beach is open to anyone who wants to splash around, it can be quite crowded with people waiting for boats, which can reduce the attraction to the area as a main attraction.
Zanzibar's Stone Town, steeped in the past and culture and served as a key local capital in the 19th century amid the spice trade and enduring battles against foreign powerhouses like Portugal, the Portuguese, Omani Arabs, and the British Empire while also preserving its cultural and historical importance.
Walking through its streets gives you an experience through the ages and cultures and hidden treasures within labyrinthine alleyways reveal the city's rich history. Architectural wonders such as Old Fort and St. Joseph's Cathedral are a must. Old Fort and St. Joseph's Cathedral are a reflection of the distinctive blend of influences.