Stone Town

Overview

Introduction

Stone Town, the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Most of the fine Arabic buildings clustered along narrow alleyways were built by the Omani sultans in the 19th century when Zanzibar was an important trading center on the Indian Ocean coast. But you can also see European features such as balconies, which were added during the British colonial period.

Many of Stone Town's 1,900 historical houses have been beautifully renovated as hotels decorated with genuine antiques including "Zanzibari beds"—elaborately carved four-posters with lovely inlaid hand-painted ceramic tiles.

At least two nights are warranted in Stone Town as it is a delightful and atmospheric place to not only spend the night, but also to explore the intriguing warren of back streets and bazaars. Museums to visit include Beit-el-Ajaib (House of Wonders), the tallest building in Stone Town and the former palace of Sultan Barghash.

There is also the opportunity to go on a half-day guided Spice Tour to the plantations in the interior of the island, to sample the famous spices (as well as fruit) after which Zanzibar gets its other colloquial name—the Spice Island. The nightly food market at Forodhani Park on the seafront is a great place to eat at the numerous stalls piled high with fish kebabs, giant prawns and crab claws. But we think the nicest places to dine are the hotels' romantic rooftop restaurants, where a drop-dead gorgeous sunset is an added bonus.

Stone Town is 45 mi/72 km northeast of Dar es Salaam.

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