Swahili coastal trading town
Stone Town is Zanzibar’s old quarter, a fascinating maze of narrow streets and alleyways which lead the visitor past numerous old houses and mosques, ornate palaces, shops and bazaars. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, Stone Town is a hotchpotch of cultures, architecture and languages. Over the centuries, Stone Town has grown from a small fishing village on the peninsula of Unguja’s west coast to a thriving town, with an extraordinary history. From as early as 150AD Arab, Asian and Persian traders sailed across the Indian Ocean to trade with the Bantu people, naming the Africa’s east coast as Zinj el Barr, meaning land of the black people, which later became Zanzibar.
A number of buildings date from the 19th century slave trade and houses reflect the wealth of their original builders. It’s the massive ornate front doors in Zanzibar that capture the attention of many, brass-studded doors and beautifully carved. The size of a door and intricacy of its design was an indication of the owner’s wealth and status. Stone Town also plays host to some outstanding, colourful art and cultural festivals such as Sauti za Busara (Music festival in February) and ZIFF (Zanzibar International Film Festival in July). Stone Town is best explored on foot and you can hire bikes and motor scooters. It’s worth spending at least one to two nights here to witness sunset from a rooftop, explore the markets and spice plantations, watch dhows sailing in and out of the harbor, savour fresh seafoods and soak up the cultural melting pot that is Stone Town.