Zanzibar. East Africa’s Spice Island. Tanzania.

The Zanzibar archipelago off the coast of East Africa’s United Republic of Tanzania is all about turquoise lagoons, soft sandy beaches, delectable cuisine, and strong cultural traditions.

Also known as the Spice Island, Zanzibar is home to spices like nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper. These spices and herbs were originally brought to the island by Portuguese traders who settled here in the 16th century. Nowadays, the plantations are a tribute to the island’s past and a walk through them to touch, smell, and taste the various spices and tropical fruits is a heady rush.

Zanzibar cuisine has been greatly influenced by a blend of Arab, African, Bantu, Portuguese, Persian, Indian, Chinese, and British cultures and traditions, and you will find everything from chapatis and curries, to pilaf rice, biryani, Boko Boko, cassava, and an abundance of seafood grilled with coconut milk and spices.

The capital and hub of political and social life on the island is Stone Town, with its tumbledown buildings, fascinating history, and working marina that all reflect the Middle Eastern, Swahili, Indian, and European influences the island has experienced. A slave-trading port in its day. Stone Town has Arab mansions with high, whitewashed walls sitting next to the lacy balconies and colourful stained glass windows of grand Indian residences.

Massive teak and mahogany Zanzibar doors grace the front of almost every building, and their style has been copied all over the world. They are said to be a visual statement of the wealth and social standing of the owner, the larger and more elaborately carved the front Zanzibar door, the more important the inhabitants, making it somewhat of a “carved business card” for the residents.

Surrounded by coral reefs and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the marine life in Zanzibar is a diver’s dream. Whether you opt to snorkel over shallow waters or dive to explore the depths, you will be rewarded with all sorts of sea creatures, including sea turtles and the bottlenose dolphin, as well as humpback whales in season.

Some Fun Facts

  • Freddy Mercury, the late lead singer of Queen, was born in Zanzibar in 1946.
  • Zanzibar was the first country in Africa to introduce colour television in 1973.
  • The island had the first steam locomotive in East Africa.
  • The Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 is considered the shortest war in history, lasting only 38 minutes.

Read my Ten Reasons to Love Zanzibar

Don’t set sail using somebody else’s star. ― Kiswahili Proverb

** This post forms part of my 100x Magical Places series that over an introduction to my favourite cities.

** Pics sourced.


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Dawn Bradnick Jorgensen
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