The Old Stone Town (the old city of Zanzibar) has several monuments and churches, but its main attractive are the hundreds of narrow streets where you always get lost to enjoy local life and admire the wonderful wooden doors. These are a real treasure of Zanzibar, everywhere you look, you can find them. You can see old and new doors, little and huge. Take your time and meet the people. They are friendly and helpful. Even by night, it’s not dangerous to wander around. Indian and Arabic influence can both be seen in these wooden doors. Each door is unique and is a reflection of the socio-economic status and religious beliefs of the house or store owner.
Local kids will try to sell you beautifully polished corals and seashells. Please don’t buy these. The reefs around Zanzibar are endangered because of reef overuse (diving, fishing). And it’s illegal to carry these out of Zanzibar. The Tinga Tinga paintings are very colourful and interesting and widely available.
In 1883 they built the House of Wonders, as a ceremonial palace for Sultan Barghash. It was the first in Zanzibar to have electric light and the first in East Africa to have an elevator. That’s why when it was built, local people called it Beit el Ajaib, meaning the House of Wonders. You can recognize it as it is surrounded by pillars and balconies and topped by a large clock tower.
The Arab Fort at the right of the House of Wonders, was built in 1780 by the Omanis to protect people from attacks expected from the mainland. It was first used as a prison and during the Portuguese period, as a church. Nowadays there is a small restaurant and some shops inside as well as some exhibitions.
The Great Slave Market, finally closed down in 1873, 60 years after slavery had been abolished in most of the world. Today, you can visit the market to see where the slaves were held captive before being sold in the open market. Hundreds of slaves were crammed in low ceiling-ed spaces and most died here due to disease or starvation. The basement area of the market has been well preserved. Outside at the exact spot where slaves were chained and then sold to the highest bidder, now stands the Anglican Cathedral. A memorial to the slaves was later constructed in the countryard of the slave market.
In the early evening, everybody is gathering at the big terrace of Africa House to enjoy the wonderful sunset of Africa. It’s a good place for a drink, meeting friends and making plans. There are a lot of bars and restaurants nearby.
As soon as the sun dives under the horizon, the daytime market place of Forodhani Gardens turns into a local food festival. You can go from stall to stall and sample many varieties of food, from grilled-on-the-spot lobster to kebabs and everything in between. It is a market mainly for locals, so please follow the dress code. Don’t wear anything that draws too much attention.