Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar Town, the island’s capital city. For anyone wishing to gain an insight into Zanzibar’s history and culture, it is worth a visit. Explore the medieval tangle of narrow streets, towering minarets, sultan palaces and artisanal crafts, while soaking up the exotic vibe and the sweet aroma of tropical spices.
A visit to Stone Town invites you to delve into Zanzibar’s history and the island’s central role in both the spice and slave trades. As a trading nation, there are African, Arabian, Persian, Indian, as well as European influences found in the architecture and cultural heritage here. Stroll through the warren of narrow medieval alleyways, with their overhanging balconies; enjoy the bustling bazaars bursting with artisanal crafts and marvel at the intricately-carved wooden doors, the sultan palaces and the minarets with their frequent calls to prayer.
Stone Town is a lively and noisy place to stay and you’ll soon feel immersed in the hustle and bustle of urban African life. This was also the birthplace of the late Freddie Mercury, the lead vocalist in Queen. Born here in 1946, as Farrokh Bulsara, there is no formal agreement on the exact location of his home, but you’ll have fun looking for it. We think one of the best ways to experience Stone Town is with a walking tour, taking in historic sites such as the Old Fort and the House of Wonders, with its museum of Swahili and Zanzibari culture. Livingstone’s House is also an interesting place to visit, as is the Anglican Cathedral, which was built on the site of the old slave market and still has some holding chambers and cells intact, serving as a sobering reminder of Stone Town’s past.
Prison Island lies just off the coast. This was once where rebellious slaves were exiled, or quarantined. Today it is home to the Aldabra giant tortoise colony, which was imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century. Now an endangered species, some of the creatures are over 100 years old. We’d recommend a half day visit, where you can feed the tortoise and explore the beautiful coral reef with a spot of snorkelling, before soaking up the sun on the white sandy beach. Then at the end of the day, we suggest heading to Forodhani Gardens, to watch the sun sink into the Indian Ocean, while sampling a selection of local delicacies which fuse African, Arabian and Indian cuisine.