Out of all the places we visited in Africa, Zanzibar was one of the most intriguing. It tested me, surprised me, kept me on my toes, and threw me out of my comfort zone in many ways. After a week, Zanzibar had completely stolen my heart. Yep, I’d fallen madly in love with this island.
This island, otherwise known as Unguja, is stunningly beautiful, brimming with culture and has some of the most amazing sunsets. I dare anyone who visits not to feel intrigued by this place. Here are 6 reasons why you might even fall in love with it.
Stone Town boasts some of the most captivating architecture
When we first arrived in Stone Town – the most historical part of Zanzibar Town – I didn’t quite know what to make of it. It was raining and this crumbling town looked pretty sad and dingy in the grey light. But when the rain dried up and we were able to explore, we discovered narrow labyrinthine streets filled with bazaars, faded old merchant houses and former mansions wrapped in intricately carved verandahs. The more we explored, the more magical it became.
It’s home to the most incredible doors
Some of the most talked about features of Zanzibari archirtecture are the doors. Oh those doors! They are big, grand and ever so opulent. It actually became a pastime of mine to photograph them all.
Zanzibar is a cultural melting pot of Swahili, Arab and Indian traditionas. And these grand mahogany doorways have been here since the days of the Omani Arab and Indian rule. The Indian, or ‘Gujarati’ doors often comprise of square-shaped carvings and the Omani or Arab doors are often far more opulent, with intricately carved shapes and arched tops. Either way, they are all a feast for the eyes and it was good to see that they have begun to work on restoring some of these fading treasures.
It takes you on an intriguing journey through its history and culture
In many ways, the history of Zanzibar is sadly, a very tumultuous and dark one as it was a key trading port during East Africa’s slave trade era. I will tell you about my visit to the slave museum in a later post, but the history of the spice trade and the culturally diverse population that has evolved from this is an intriguing one.
Find churches intermingled with towering mosques, old merchant houses that have been turned into chic hotels and groups of men playing ‘Bao’, a traditional Swahili board game. In many places you go, you almost feel like you’ve gone back in time.
It oozes romance
If you’re looking for the perfect honeymoon destination or an idyllic place to pop the question, Zanzibar is your answer. Its impossibly beauitful coastline has to be seen to be believed and couples can find plenty of private coves and opportunities for romance. If you read my piece on The Most Romantic Destinations in the world, you’ll have seen that Zanzibar is in there.
In historic Stone Town, the candle-lit Secret Garden restaurant housed in open-air ruins at the Emerson Spice hotel feels like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Join the romantics for sundowners at Africa House.
And pair this with a romantic dhow boat cruise and you’ll fall head over heels for this island.
The coast is absolutely stunning
If you read my review of Zawadi Hotel, you will have seen just how beautiful the coast at Bwejuu is. This southeastern stretch of coast is where I spent the second half of my travels in Zanzibar and let me tell you, it’s incredible.
The water is a sparkling aquamarine, the sands are milky white and the pace is slower than slow. Sun-faded dhow boats perch at the shoreline and groups of locals wade through the water to their seaweed farms. Meanwhile, sleepy cafes and bars sit on the seafront where you can lie in a hammock and feel the seabreeze pass over you. Sound dreamy? It is.
I can’t go many posts without mentioning amazing food and the food in Zanzibar is – mostly – worth shouting about. In Stone Town, you’ll find loads of opportunities to taste local seafood and of course, all sorts of spices.
The Forodhani gardens are the place to try Zanzibar pizza (a sort of crepe with cheese and meat) and you’ll find loads of seafood restaurants too.
On the coast we had the freshest fish and the food at Zawadi was incredible. But one of my favourite things was the masala tea you’ll find here. I had it every day. Pop into the Stone Town Cafe and have it with avocado on toast for breakfast. My mouth waters just thinking about it!
I definitely have a lot of love for this place.
Have you been to Zanzibar? Did you fall in love with it? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below…