We usually opt for a beach vacation after a Safari which consists of relaxing and doing absolutely nothing for a couple days. After several 5 am wake up calls and really long days you need a little time to recharge your batteries before returning home. But due to my serious case of *FOMO and restlessness I had to organize a day tour in Zanzibar’s famous Stone Town. I mean, we aren’t going to travel all the way to Zanzibar and lock ourselves in a resort when there is so much to see and do! Of course, my wonderful husband obliged and endured the extreme heat so that I could satisfy my need to see as much as possible in very little time. If you only have one day to explore Zanzibar’s Stone Town this is what you need to see and do.
Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its uniqueness stems from the fact that it brought together such differing elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region, India and Europe for more than a thousand years. More than 95% of the people living in Zanzibar are Muslim with other religious minorities like Hindus and Christians making up the rest of the population. There is something very soothing about hearing the call to prayer (adhan) throughout the day while walking the city streets. It is something I enjoy very much when visiting Muslin countries/regions.
As we made our way around the town I couldn’t help but notice how many local guides spoke fluently in many other languages including French and Italian. Our Guide Mohamed mentioned that he was learning German and planned to start giving tours to German tourists next year. I think its time I add a fourth language to my repertoire!
Where To Stay When Visiting Stone Town
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Our travel fairy godmother recommended that we stay at the Park Hyatt Zanzibar, a perfectly located five star hotel in the heart of Stone Town. We spent one night in the Park Suite, an ocean front room big enough to host a small cocktail party for a dozen people. Comfort is always key when travelling and a little luxury doesn’t hurt either. If you plan on spending several nights in Stone Town, you can’t go wrong with this hotel.
Hang With Hundred Year Old Tortoises On Prison Island
This was the highlight of our Stone Town Tour! You can get to Changuu Island, also known as Prison Island, by boat on the beachfront located only a few steps away from The Park Hyatt. The island was once used by a slave trader to isolate troublesome slaves and prevent them from escaping before shipping them to Arabian purchasers. It was also used as a quarantine center to house people infected with yellow fever. Despite its name, prison island was never used as a prison. And finally, the best part of visiting Changuu is the Aldabra Giant Tortoise sanctuary. Most of these tortoises are older than anyone you know! We were told that the oldest Tortoise is 192 years old! These slow moving, funny looking creatures are incredibly entertaining. Once you're done feeding and taking selfies with the tortoises you can go snorkeling or grab a bite at the restaurant on the island.
Rooftop Lunch Overlooking Stone Town
Our next stop was Maru Maru for lunch on a rooftop overlooking Stone Town. My dear fellow foodies, please don’t expect a gourmet meal. What you will get is a nice view, cool breeze and a cold drink along with a mediocre meal. If you don’t have high standards when it comes to restaurants, you’ll probably like the food.
Shop For Skincare & Aphrodisiacs At The Famous Spice Market
Turns out the locals have a few secrets to share! On our return from Prison Island our guide Mohamed explained how they use spices for more than seasoning food. You may want to take notes for this one ladies and gentlemen! Turns out ginger mixed with honey is the Zanzibar equivalent to Viagra. But don’t worry ladies, there’s something for us too! Three parts fresh nutmeg plus one-part flour in warm milk is supposed to get you all hot and bothered. Except if you’re lactose intolerant, of course. For those more interested in staying forever young there’s egg white and turmeric. Mix a little turmeric and egg white, apply it all over your face, let it dry and wash it off. As Mohamed would say: “Skin like baby”.
Off to the spice market we went! If you are bothered by unsanitary practices or can’t stand to see animal cruelty, please avoid the market or at least the part where they sell chickens. Traumatizing. Let’s just say that following our market visit I understood why the fish was always overcooked everywhere we ate. Mohamed also mentioned that there are some vendors that don't sell fresh spices, so be sure to shop around.
Slave Trade Exhibit
Our final stop was the Slave Trade Exhibit, this is where you’ll learn all about the darkest period in the region’s history. The Christ Church Cathedral opened a slave-trade heritage center to commemorate the abolition of slavery and educate people about slavery. This initiative was put forth in the hopes to bridge divides and help people to become more inclusive and tolerant. When you enter the cell where the slaves were held captive you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. To think that close to one hundred human beings were locked up in such a small space for days with little air and no food or toilets is heart wrenching.
I hope Zanzibar’s Stone Town: This Is What You Need To See And Do inspires you to visit this wonderful place. Stone Town is culturally rich with lots of soul. Be ready to experience sensory overload but also take a moment to see past the chaos and enjoy its uniqueness. If you plan on visiting east Africa I highly recommend spending some time in Zanzibar's Stone Town; it is truly an enriching experience.
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*FOMO - Fear of missing out.