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Stone Town is the main city on Zanzibar. It is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture, with a unique mixture of Moorish, Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. For this reason, the town has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2000
The heart of Zanzibar Town, Stone Town, was constructed during the 19th century and remains largely unchanged. Labyrinths of narrow alleys lead to palaces, mosques and old Arab houses; tiny shops sell dotted tinga-tinga paintings, Zanzibari clocks and heavily adorned chests. The early-morning market on Creek Road is fabulous, as determined Zanzibaris haggle over fragrant spices, exotic fruit and enormous fish.
Zanzibar and Pemba are the ideal antidotes to our rushed modern life. You could be forgiven for wanting to spend most of your time on the beach at your lodge, but you should certainly take a day trip out to bustling Stone Town. Although also on the coast, the sea air here is heavy with the scent of spices, and the buzzing harbour sounds are punctuated with the call to prayer from the minarets. The best tactic is simply to wander at will, looking out for the famous carved wooden doors and glimpses of everyday Swahili life that combine mystery with history.
Rooftop views reveal a city that hasn’t changed in centuries (with the exception of the satellite dishes) and that is ripe for exploration. If anything, the smaller island of Pemba moves to an even more leisurely rhythm. Both islands give you the chance to soak up the sun and relax – or you can make the most of the activities on offer, such as scuba diving on pristine coral reefs at Mnemba, or swimming with dolphin. A sunset cruise on a traditional dhow followed by fresh seafood kebabs from the harbour market rounds out a chilled island day.