Whether you are arriving for the first time or fiftieth, Zanzibar never seems to lose its touch of the exotic yet serene atmosphere. Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, is a Swahili coastal trading town which brings together elements of African, Arab, Indian, and European cultures. The amazing amalgamation of cultures, foods and histories creates a rainbow full of activities and attractions. Stone Town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the one of the most famed tourist spot in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is visited each year by millions of tourists and travelers. There are a bucket full of airlines offering routes and cheap flights to Zanzibar from all four corners of the world. However, the charm and charisma of Zanzibar, remains un-spoilt.
The origin and early history of Stone Town dates back to as early as 8th century, as a port city for Indian Ocean trade. The most buildings here, were being constructed with stones since the 1830s, it is where the town got its name from.
Stone Town is a great place to explore. Former palaces and Arab mansions along the twisting streets of the town hint at a grander age for this city. It is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose original owners vied with each other over the extravagance of their dwellings. Each twist and turn of the narrow streets brings something new. The magical jumble of cobbled alleyways make it easy to spend days wondering around, marveling at the art and beauty of this town.
Two large buildings dominates the main front of stone town. One is Beit-EL-Ajaib or “the house of wonders” and the second called “Old Fort”.Beit-El-Ajaib was built in the 1870’s for Sultan Burghash. It is grand, ornate and imposing mega structure that demands an extra battery for your photo cameras for there is so much to picture here.
The Old Fort, is said to have built in the 1700’s to fend off Portuguese. It is the house of entertainment that now hosts local performances, a café’ and an art gallery.
Other important attractions of Stone Town are Anglican Cathedral built in 1873, the beautifully restored old Dispensary with a restaurant and boutiques now serving as the Stone Town Cultural Centre, and the Palace Museum, which served as the official residence of the Sultan of Zanzibar until 1964. It serves as a museum devoted to the era of the Zanzibar sultanate.
Today, Stone Town is a living monument to East Africa’s Swahili history.