Zanzibar, known as the Spice Island, is separated from the East African coast by a 22-mile (35-km) wide channel. The name itself evokes romantic associations - the aroma of spices, a maze of narrow streets, oriental architecture, carved doors and wooden Arab chests. A mystical island of legends, mere mention brings to mind the names of great seafarers and explorers, of riches, tragedies and famous people. A host of different nationalities have occupied Zanzibar, and all have contributed to the island's turbulent history. From its shores, Burton, Speke, Krapf and Livingstone set out on their quest to explore the interior of Africa and Vasco da Gama stopped here in 1502 en route to India. Zanzibar has been the hub for travellers from the lands of the Middle East, and at one time was the main trading centre for the whole of East Africa.
Stone Town, located on the island's west coast and Zanzibar's main town, has been declared a World Heritage Site. Over the centuries, varying occupying powers have left their distinct mark on the heritage, culture and architecture. Of special note are the brass-studded doors and ornate balconies in Stone Town. Walking through the narrow streets, the visitor catches a glimpse of the town's exotic life. A scent of cloves in the air serves as a reminder that this is indeed the Spice Island. Extensive plantations still cultivate a variety of spices, but the economy also benefits greatly from tourism. Stretches of pristine, white sand beaches and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are a major draw for vacationers, who come to Zanzibar to enjoy beach activities, sailing and exploring beneath the ocean in unspoiled underwater parks. The climate is equatorial; rainfall is common in the months of March to May and October to November. The national language is Swahili, but English and Arabic are widely spoken.
Stone Town features such attractions as the recently restored Portuguese Fort, the House of Wonders, the Sultan's Palace and a colourful market. Small shops along narrow alleys sell silver jewellery and the beautiful wooden chests.
Zanzibar, a mystical island steeped in history, welcomes the modern explorer for a unique visit.
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Port of Zanzibar. The town centre can be reached in approximately 15 minutes on foot, or via a short taxi ride. If you are considering walking, keep in mind that the climate is hot and humid. Taxis are generally available at the port gate.
Spices, leatherwork, silver jewellery, local crafts, colourful fabric and Arab wooden chests are popular items. Small shops can be found in the narrow streets of Stone Town. The local currency is the Tanzania shilling, but dollars, Euros and sterling are accepted.
Seafood (lobster, octopus, calamari, kingfish, barracuda and wahoo) is a good choice as are curried dishes and local fruit. Typical dishes include mishikaki, a delicious charcoal-broiled meat dish, and wali na nyama, or curried beef. While local restaurants offer tasty meals, you may want to stick to the restaurants in the hotels.
A stroll through the market truly reveals local colour. An incredible display of fruits, vegetables, spices, animals and various daily necessities are a sight to be remembered.
Caution: Be aware of pickpockets who tend to target tourists wandering around the market area.
Walk through the maze of narrow streets and take in the exotic ambiance. Small workshops and stores invite to explore. Jozani Forest Reserve
About a 25-mile (40-km) drive from Stone Town, this nature preserve is home to the rare Colobus monkey. The best time to see the animals is during the morning. There is an entrance fee to the monkeys' favourite gathering place.
Private arrangements are not available in this port.
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