After relaxing on the beach for the majority of the week, my travel partner and I went to go immerse ourselves into the culture of Zanzibar. Stone Town is an UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once a flourishing trading hub that combined cultures from the East into Africa. Adventuring through the bustling stone building alleys of Stone Town were filled with vibrant colors from merchants and enchanting smells from street vendors.
I was able to find an Airbnb with an awesome host that was relatively close to our age. He was a local that was very friendly and even came out with us one night. He was quick to give his favorite local recommendations from food to hang out spots. Our accommodation was also located on the outskirts of Stone Town which made it very easy to find.
Stone Town was meant to be explored on foot. Getting lost in the maze of alleyways is a great way to see the historic architecture and admire unique Zanzibari doors. A stunning blend Arabic, Persian, and African culture. Everyone in this town was really friendly, too friendly at times, with a unique culture.
We spent every day going to local shops where you’d spend more time haggling than actually looking at items. This was part of the fun though! At night we would use our Airbnb host for a reference of places to go try. We really enjoyed Stone Town beside the extreme hassling part. Learning to say “hapana asante” – no thank you – really went a long way.
Our first day, we met with our Airbnb host who took us to where we would be staying. Our place was a traditional Zanzibari home that was the top floors and could see the sea from the window. Our Airbnb host actually stayed on the first floor below us which was really convenient.
The house itself was very basic and was mostly created from heavy wood. Everything in Zanzibar was made of stone on the outside and wood on the inside. It was a very open floor plan as no one here has air condition units so wind flow is very important. The bathroom was a traditional Muslim bathroom I’ve seen. The toilet and shower were in one room with no separation. This took me some time getting used to when I first visited a Muslim country. Our bedroom was the top floor with a large bed covered in mosquito netting. Up here, we would see the sea from our room, which really added to the positive experience.
Things We Did in Stone Town
Stone Town is packed with all kinds of things to do. Some beautiful architecture, to lounging on beaches, eating unique food, history lessons, markets, and more. We tried to do as much as we could!
Forodhani Gardens Night Market
Every night in Stone Town, Forodhani Gardens becomes alive with street food vendors. The food here is much cheaper than you’ll find at any restaurant and the locals are very excited for you to try their food. We quickly learned how to be firm so people would stop following us and push us to try their stand. We just went to where we saw the locals were standing in line to try that stands food. Here you could find Zanzibari dishes the locals eat such as urojo, sugar cane juice, chapatti, and Zanzibari pizza.
Street food in a sit-down environment! Here you’ll find locals and tourists dining alike. One of the workers was very friendly and gave us a tour of the food they have and how to order. We ordered as much food as we could and ate every drop.
One night our Airbnb host took us to one of his favorite bars. The place has three stories and our host informed us that each one had a different vide. It was more of quiet night when we went, so we were able to sit down with our host and enjoy some chatting with a couple beers.
Zanzibar Coffee House
This coffee house was recommended by our Airbnb host. A great Zanzibar style coffee house that reflected Western culture. Here you’ll find people on their computer or chowing down a light breakfast. They have wifi here which can be hard to come by. Zanzibar Coffee is extremely delicious and they sell bags to take home. Go to the spice market though, it’s way cheaper.
Darajani Market (Spice Market)
Zanzibar is known for being a cultural hub of trade for Eastern countries into Africa. One of the major trade besides slaves was spices. Stone Town has the Darajani Market also known as the spice market. Here you will find mostly food stalls with occasional local crafts. Entering here, we were bombarded by people trying to haggle with us on everything they sold. We were able to get a bunch of coffee for about $5USD.
Cultural Arts Centre Zanzibar
This center was a place where locals, mostly kids, make art and sell it here. You will find handmade jewerly, soaps, and art work here. They also hold workshops geared towards tourists who want to learn how to make handmade soaps or other crafts.
David Livingstone was a famous Scottish explorer who led the anti-slavery campaign in Zanzibar. His residence is now a very popular hangout spot in Stone Town located right on the water. We were able to enjoy a delicious meal with cold beverages right on the sand. It’s a beautiful spot to eat and have local entertainment here often during peak season.