Zanzibar is essentially recognized among travellers as an exotic paradise island enriched with charming fishing villages, stretches of beautiful white sands, and surrounded by lush plantation. Despite only becoming a popular tourist destination in recent years, Zanzibar has an identity all of its own, based on its own turbulent and tumultuous historic past.
Settled by the Arabs, and later joined by Persians as early as the 9th Century lead to an increase of Islamic teachings throughout Zanzibar which is still the dominant religion today. The Arabian influence by permanent settlers allowed the creation of Stone Town, now considered a World Heritage Site.
Colourful events occur throughout the year, such as the Sauti za Busara Swahili Music Festival. I was lucky enough to have the chance to experience such a wonderful and vibrant festival. The one disappointment to most travellers from outside Africa was the price they charged for non-residents. The biggest disappointment to African residents was the lack of talent compared to previous years, however, the overall experience was still incredible.
The Sauti za Busara Festival takes place in the oldest building in Zanzibar, known as the “Old fort” or “Ngome Kongwe” in Swahili. The building was built in the late 17th century by the Omani Arabs to defend against the Portuguese who invaded in 1500 – it is known to have only fend off at least one attack. The Omani Arabs eventually reclaimed the island by 1700. Since then the fort has been used as barracks, a prison, and later open air amphitheatre and culture centre.
The House of Wonders – Arabic: Beit-al-Ajaib is a stunning landmark and is the largest and tallest building of Stone Town facing the Forodhani Gardens on the old town’s seafront. It is next to the oldest building in Stone Town and is currently the museum of History & Culture of Zanzibar.
The Forodhani gardens, the main seawalk of Stone Town. Every evening after the sun goes down, a popular food market emerges selling local Zanzibar food, grilled sea food, and a selection of various other interesting cuisine. There were no seats so you would be either standing and chatting or sitting on the wall where you would be able to look out across the gardens. We would all eat or snack there at least every day while we were visiting, the food was delicious, completely fresh and while wandering around you would view the gorgeous waterfront.
Zanzibar takes you on a historical journey, with a variety of stunning and tranquil (or lively based on preference) venues to sit back and unwind with a few cocktails in the sun. A truly exquisite island with lots to offer..
Peace, A. xo