Zanzibar is an island about 37 kilometers off the East African Coasts. Its very name evokes romatic associations- the smell of spices, images of narrow streets. Arab chests, carved doors, coral reefs. A small island in size (Zanzibar 1658 km and its twin sisterPemba 985 sq. km). Zanzibar has been visited by Asyrians, Asians, Egyptians, Chinese, Malaysians and Arabs. On these shores also passed explorers like Burton, Speke and Livingstone. Vasco Da Gama visited Zanzibar in 1502 enroute to India.In the 19th Century, the Sultan of Oman introduced cloves, which today is its main export product. Due to the generally slower pace of life, its tranquility has survived.
Different races and their peaceful co-existence have left an impression on varied architecture Persians baths. Arab-studded doors and impressive mosques. The Stone town, recently declared a world heritage site by the United Nations, is a maze of narrow streets and oriental architecture.The architecture of Zanzibar and its historical significance is a vast topic. You may wish to refer to the following texts for further information.
Zanzibar Stone Town
Stone Town or Mji Mkongwe, in Swahili meaning "ancient town", is the old part of Zanzibar City (or Unguja Mjini) - the capital of the island of Unguja, informally known as Zanzibar, a part of Tanzania.The old town is built on a triangular peninsula of land on the western coast of the island. The oldest part of the town consists of a warren of narrow alleys to houses, shops, bazaars, and mosques. Cars are often too wide to drive down many of the maze of winding streets.
Its Swahili architecture incorporates elements of Arab, Persian, Indian, European and African styles. The Arab houses are particularly notable because they have large and ornately carved wooden doors and other unusual features such as enclosed wooden verandas.The site has probably been occupied for around three centuries with buildings only being constructed with stone since the 1830s.Two large buildings dominate the main front of Stone Town. One is Beit-El-Ajaib or the House of Wonders, which was built by Sultan Seyyid Barghash as a grand palace for ceremonial purposes. The other is the Arab Fort which stands on the site of a former Portuguese settlement and was converted to a fort during the 18th Century.
The town was the centre of trade on the East African coast between Asia and Africa before the colonization of the mainland in the late 1800s after which the focus moved to Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. From 1840 to 1856, Said bin Sultan had the capital of the Omani Empire in Stone Town. The main export was spices and particularly cloves. For many years Stone Town was a major centre for the slave trade; Slaves were obtained from mainland Africa and traded with the Middle East. The Anglican Cathedral is built on the site of a former slave market. Some of the holding cells still exist.
Beit-Al-Ajaib (House of Wonders):
Admired for its high ceilings and towering pillars, this used to be the Sultans Palace until 1911.The House of Wonders, the most imposing structure on the sea front, was built in the 1880s as a ceremonial palace. During the colonial period it was used as the headquarters of the colonial administration. It was converted into a school and a museum for the ruling party after the Revolution, designed by the North Koreans in their typical ‘Great Leader’ tradition.In the House of Wonders Museum of History & Culture of Zanzibar & the Swahili Coast, the approach is deliberately historical, and it is intended to cover not only Zanzibar but also the whole Swahili coast from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique, because that is the cultural region. Over the past decade a considerable amount of archaeological and historical research has been undertaken to reveal a very long and rich history that can now be systematically exhibited. The East African coast is also the western rim of the Indian Ocean, and the museum will therefore highlight the historical and cultural consequences of the convergence along the East African coast between the continental world of Africa and the maritime world of the Indian Ocean.
Here can be found a collection of portraits of past Sultans and their documents, and relics of early explorers - including Dr. Livingstone's medicine chest and local arts and crafts.
This house was once placed by the Sultan Seyyid Majid for use by the European explorer David Livingstone, while in preparation for his expedition to the mainland in 1866.Livingstone's House was built in 1860 for Sultan Majid. It became a base for missionaries and explorers before they headed to the mainland. It is remembered as the place where David Livingstone stayed in 1866 before his last expedition. Since this time, the Livingstone House has served as a laboratory researching clove production, a resting place for invalids and was used for religious meetings by the Ithnaasheri Khoja Community. Currently it is the home of the Zanzibar Tourist Board.
Zanzibar was the hub of the slave trade in East Africa, until 1873 when it was abolished. On this site now stands a church.
This small island used to be known as prison island, where slaves used to be kept pending transportation to other markets. Remains of underground slave chambers can still be seen. One of the main attractions today are the giant tortoise. Zanzibar can be reached from Dar es Salaam either by a 10 minute flight or 90 minute catamaran boat ride.
HOTELS IN ZANZIBAR:
- Emersons & Green
In the heart of the Stone Town is a beautiful restored house that once was the home of one of the richest men in the Swahili empire. The hotel aims to recreate the wondrous atmosphere and grandeur of the past by providing traditional, elegant accommodation. Spaciious airy rooms, antiques furnishing and stone baths are feature throughout the hotel.
- Tembo Hotel
This 19th century structure is ornamented with Zanzibar treaditional furniture and antiques. One side of the hotel faces the historical buildings of the Stone Town while the other faces the sea fron from where visits can enjoy the sunset.
- Dhow Palace
The 19th Century restored Dhow Palace Hotel is located in the heart of Zanzibar Stone Town. The hotel has ten self contained rooms. Oriental and Zanzibari furnitures add to the ambiance.
Located on the seafront of Zanzibar's historic Stone Town, the Zanzibar Serena Inn has been created by renovating two romantic and historic buildings. This is the only 5-star hotel in Zanzibar Stone Town.
COAST BEACH HOTELS
- Mtoni Marine Centre
Located only a few kilometers from the stone town. Set amidst Emerald towns, canopied with palms, this hotel is targeted towards the budget holiday maker who is not willing to compromise on basic necessities.
- Mbweni Ruins Hotel
Located a mere ten minutes drive from both the airport and the stone town, it is promoted as a homely hotel consisting of twelve suites with verandas overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Zanzibar Beach Resort
The hotel is located between the Stone Town and the airport, in a secluded cove. The village layout, set in sculptured and landscaped gardens, has been designed to offer elegant accommodation using traditional materials.
EAST COAST BEACH HOTELS
- Blue Beach Resort
The resort is situated on part of the finest wide, white, sandy beaches on the island of Zanzibar. The hotel features as well as decorated and spacious rooms, all with split unit air-conditioning. A comfortable breezy lounge leads to the restaurant, with a views of both the pool and the sea beyond.
- Breezes Beach Club
Located on the beautiful pristime east coast beach, stretching as afar as the eye can see. Rooms are specious, air-conditioned with ensuite bathroom, all tastefully furnished in authentic Zanzibari style.
- Zanzibar Safari Resort
Close to the Uroa Bay village, this intimate hotel consists of 48 rooms each with private terraces amongst lush garden surroundings.
NORTH COAST BEACH HOTELS
- Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel
Located on an expanse of beach wilderness on the northern tip of Zanzibar. An expensive coral reef protects the frontage of the hotel making it an ideal location for all kinds of water sports or merely relaxing in the temperature water while soacking up the equatorial sun.
- Nungwi Village
Located on a beautiful expense of beach, this moderate standard hotel features ensuite and fully air-conditioned rooms facing the sea.