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Zanzibar is an island partner within the United Republic of Tanzania, located in the Indian Ocean about 38 km off the coast of mainland and about 6 degrees south of the Equator. The name Zanzibar means, "Land of the Blacks" and originates from the Arabic words "Zinj" meaning black and "barr" meaning land. The Island of Zanzibar consists of two main exotic islands, Pemba and Unguja with some 50 smaller islands surrounding the archipelago. Unguja is the main and most developed island and many people refer to it as Zanziba. The population of Zanzibar is about 800,000 people, of which 150,000 are found on Pemba. The majority of people inhabit Stone Town (which is the "capital" of Zanzibar). Many of the rural people prefer the fertile Northern section of the island, whilst the East Coast has coral rag, and provides the most spectacular beaches and holiday destinations.

Zanzibar is generally flat with the highest point being about 120m above sea level. It has a total of 1500 square kilometres, which includes many surrounding islands; 85km long and 30km wide. The Islands of Zanzibar are surrounded by coasts of rocky inlets or sandy beaches, with lagoons and mangrove swamps, and coral reefs beyond the shoreline. The climate is characterized by wet and dry seasons. The rains fall from mid-March to the end of May, and there is a short rainy season in November. The dry seasons are from December to February and June to October. Humidity is generally quite high, although this can be relieved by sea breezes. The average daytime temperatures are around 26 degrees form June to October, and around 28 degrees from December to February.

The islands were originally forested, but with human habitation have resulted in widespread clearing, although a few isolated pockets of indigenous forests remain. The main crops of Zanzibar are coconuts and cloves. Bananas, citrus fruits and other spices are also grown commercially. Maize, cassava and other vegetables and cereals are grown for local consumption. There are no large wild animals in Zanzibar. Monkeys and small antelopes inhabit forested areas. Civets and various species of mongoose are found all over the islands. Bird life is varied and interesting with over 100 species recorded.

The monsoon winds that blow across the Indian Ocean allowed contact between Persia, Arabia, India and the coast of East Africa for over 2000 years. The first European arrivals were Portuguese 'navigators' looking for a trade route with India. They reached Zanzibar at the end of the 15th Century and established a trading station here and other points on the East African coast. At the end of the 17th century Omani Arabs ousted the Portuguese. During this period, Zanzibar became a major slaving centre. In 1840, the Omani Sultan Said moved his court from Muscat to Zanzibar, and the Island became an Arab state and an important centre of trade and politics in the region. Many European explorers, including Livingston and Stanley, began their expeditions into the interior of Africa from Zanzibar during the second half of the 19thcentury.

Zanzibar was a British protectorate from 1890 until 1963, when the state gained independence. In 1964, the sultan and government were overthrown in a revolution. In the same year, Zanzibar and the newly independent country of Tanganyika combined to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar is a separate state within the United Republic of Tanzania, governed by a revolutionary Council and House of Representatives, whose members are elected or appointed. The president of Zanzibar is also the vice-president of Tanzania.

The Language of Zanzibar is Swahili. Visitors with a basic grasp of this language will be understood anywhere, although there are many forms and dialects found in different areas. Arabic is also spoken. English is widely used in towns and tourist areas. Islam is the dominant religion, and practiced by most Zanzibaris. All towns and villages have village's mosques. In Zanzibar Town there are also churches and temples for the small populations of Christians and Hindus.

For the people of Zanzibar, fishing and farming are the main economic activities. From the beginning of the 19th Century to the mid 1970s Zanzibar exported a large proportion of the worlds cloves, and the islands' economy was based largely on this commodity. Some diversification has occurred since then, but cloves are still a major export, along with coconut product and other spices. In recent years, seaweed has also become an important export commodity. The potential for tourism to be a major earner of foreign currency has been recognized and is being developed. The number of tourist visiting Zanzibar is still relatively small but increasing every year.

Attractions inside Stone Town

Forodhani gardens; If you are not scared of local food, then this place is definitely worth a visit. It is possibly the cheapest food you will find on the island, and value for money too. Ranging from crab claws, calamari steaks to plain old chips done in big woks. You are well advised to try the local sugar cane juice. The curio market can be found next to the food market. Here you will find all the gifts you may want to take back to friends and loved ones. DO NOT buy the first thing you see. First take a walk through the market, and you will see prices get progressively less. You must ALWAYS haggle and bargain with the vendors or try to set the prices off against each other. This is their way of doing business and it also ensures that you get the best price.

Each of 2 pax US$

Peace Memorial Museum; This was also designed by J.H. Sinclair and has much of Zanzibar's memorabilia, including Livingston's medical chest. If you are a real historian, then this is worth the visit.

Each of 2 pax US$
Kelele Square; This is a site of an old slave market. Kelele in Swahili means noise, and the name is presumed to have come from all the noise due to the slave trading. It is now a beauty salon.

Each of 2 pax US$
Malindi Mosque; This is one of the oldest Mosques in Zanzibar. It is unusual because it is conical in shape (there are only 3 conical mosques in East Africa). Have a look for the minaret. You may need a guide to see this. Across from the front door of the mosque is a mausoleum, one of the few left in Stone Town.

Each of 2 pax US$
Shakti Temple; This temple had a huge congregation of Hindus before the revolution in 1964, whereafter many of them fled in fear of their lives. It is very difficult to find without a guide, so ask around and someone will show you where it is.

Each of 2 pax US$
Palace Museum; This fascinating look back into the lives of the Sultans, includes a room dedicated to the Princess Salme of Zanzibar, daughter of Sultan Said the Great. It contains various items of furniture and paintings. Although very run down and dusty it is well worth look. You will have to pay an entrance fee.

Each of 2 pax US$
Arab Fort; Built in 1780 by the Omanis, it was used to protect people from attacks expected from the mainland. The fort was later used as a prison and barracks. During the period of Portuguese rule, it was later used as a church, and remnants can still be seen. Currently you will find a small restaurant and some shops inside the fort. Be careful when buying Tanzanite, as it is quite expensive here, and if you are planning a safari, it is a lot cheaper in Arusha.

Each of 2 pax US$
Durajani Bazaar; You will find almost everything you may want in this market. Visitors get hustled though, so if you do not have patience, the perhaps give it a skip. Most goods are imported from China. If you are looking for locally manufactured woodcraft, best to take a walk through the labyrinth of streets in Stone Town. Outside the Bazaar, you will find the Zanzibar version of transport called Dala-dala's. These are pickup-type vehicles with a roof, and will take you to certain points along a certain route. Make sure you have a variety of coins if you plan on taking one, as no change is given.

Each of 2 pax US$
House of Wonders; Built in 1883 on the site of Zanzibar Queen Fatuma's residence. This was the first building in Zanzibar to have electric lights and the first in East Africa to have an elevator. It was damaged in 1896 during the Shortest War in History (only lasting 40 minutes). It was later used by the British as their local offices until the revolution in 1964. It contains some of Pres. Karume's old cars, but not much has been done with it since 1977. Recent attempts have been made to have it renovated, and a craft market is housed on the veranda during the day.

Each of 2 pax US$
Hamamni Persian Baths; The baths were for public use used by both men and women. Separate entrance times ensured that there was no peeping or funny stuff. Built by the son of Said the Great, Burgash bin Said. The old tubs can still be seen, although there is no water. The front rooms were used for changing and socializing. Look out for the warm room, which had underground hot water aqueducts. It was then frequented by the wealthy. The place is best to see without a guide, if you want.

Each of 2 pax US$
St. Joseph’s Cathedral; The Cathedral was built around about 1895. The architect who designed the cathedral is the same as that of the cathedral in Marseilles, France.

Each of 2 pax US$
The Old Dispensary
Laid in 1887, the building was only completed in 1894. Built by Tharia Thopen, one of Zanzibar's richest men to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It is now known as Stone Town Cultural Centre and has been renovated by the Aga Khan Foundation.

Each of 2 pax US$
Anglican Cathedral; This fascinating cathedral was built in 1873. The altar is presumed to be built on the exact spot where slave whipping and auctions took place. Locals will show you the underground slave holding cells, which are an eerie sight. Visitors pay an entrance fee, and if a guide is available, he will take you around and explain all the history.

Each of 2 pax US$
High Court; Still used as the High Court, it was designed by J.H. Sinclair, a British citizen and Zanzibar resident.

Each of 2 pax US$

 

Attractions outside Stone Town

Spice Tour; The name speaks for itself. This tour takes you to various areas where spices are harvested. Also recommended by us, you will have the pleasure of seeing cinnamon trees, nutmeg trees, vanilla trees (believe it or not) and the likes. You will be asked to smell and taste various spices and guess what they are, as well as witness harvesters climbing huge trees with no harnesses or protection, to bring down coconuts for your delight. The rest we will leave you to discover, as it is not good to spoil the fun.

Each of 2 pax US$
Mruhubi Ruins; This was built in 1880 by Sultan Burghush as a retreat for himself and to house some of his many concubines. As the name says, they are ruins with the Persian Baths being the only part left with a roof.

Each of 2 pax US$
Mbweni Ruins; Originally the St Mary's School for Freed Slave Girls, it was built in 1871 by the UMCA. Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) was established by David Livingston and members from four other universities in England, in an attempt to educate freed slaves. Mbweni Ruins Hotel now runs the place.

Each of 2 pax US$
Jozani Forest; This is a protected forest housing the endangered Red Colobus monkey. This is definitely worth a visit, if only to see the monkeys. Nature walks are offered through the forest and is a great way to see the wildlife on the island. Be sure to dress comfortably, as there is very little shade on the walk.

Each of 2 pax US$
Mtoni Ruins; These are the only remains of Sultan Said the Great's main residence. It is in a state of disrepair, so expect ruins. This was one of his favourite places and spent most of his time here. His daughter Salme described it as Eden. In the back there are many hallways and rooms with built in alcoves.

Each of 2 pax US$
Mangapwani; This is where you will find the Mangapwani Coral Caves and the Slave Chambers. The coral caves are not of particular interest, so seeing them is optional. The slave chambers are a little further along the road. They were used to house slaves after trading was banished in 1872. Traders used to hide the slaves in this underground structure, waiting for their ships to transport the slaves out of Zanzibar. This could be a bit claustrophobic for the sensitive visitor.

Each of 2 pax US$
Kitichi Bath Ruins; These baths were built in 1850 by Sultan Said, for his wife Sherehezade. It is in conflict with Muslim faith with portrayals of birds and flowers on the walls. Muslims consider it sacrilege to create any images of any living thing. Persian craftsmen brought specially to Zanzibar built it. The baths were used by Sherehezade to refresh herself after a long journey, or day of hunting. A guide is present and a fee must be paid to gain entrance.

Each of 2 pax US$

 
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