Exploring Stone Town on Zanzibar was an absolute highlight of my recent travels in East Africa. I fell hard for its fascinating maze of alleyways, its grand old buildings crumbling into decay, it’s majestic doors, it’s lively markets and its cheeky children.
After tracking gorillas in Rwanda and my safari in the Serengeti I travelled to Zanzibar. For me the name oozes exotic and for years I’d longed to travel to this island known for it’s stunning beaches, spices, history and melting pot culture. This rich history and culture is a result of Stone Town once being a trading hub which sadly included the brutal slave trade. The resulting mix of Arab, European, Indian and African cultures and influences remain today.
One of the best places to see the combination of all those influences is along Stone Town’s waterfront. It is lined with so many beautiful old buildings.
Stone Town’s waterfront
Stone Town’s waterfront
From old palaces, and forts to the stunning Old Dispensary and Beit el-Ajaib (House of Wonders). This was the perfect place to stroll before wandering into the tangle of alleyways that Stone Town is famous for.
Stone Town’s Old Fort
Beit el-Ajaib (House of Wonders)
Getting lost amongst the alleyways is one of the great pleasures of exploring Stone Town. Here charming old balconies overhang and little details of an old light and door handles enchant.
Stone Town Alley
Old light, Stone Town
Old door in Stone Town’s alleys
Zanzibar’s doors are truly special. Old, heavy and intricately decorated. They’re also all throughout these magical alleyways.
Door Details, Stone Town
Stone Town Doorway
Exploring Stone Town I often came across local children running and playing, and occasionally posing for a photo or two.
I loved the exuberance of the children and their cheeky manner.
Stone Town School Children
Cheeky Stone Town child
Love girls, Stone Town
And I loved the moments when I would spot a local calmly going about their business amongst the beautiful old buildings.
Stone Town Local
While exploring Stone Town I don’t think you can miss Darajani Market. Colourful and lively like most local markets. It’s also another place where Zanzibar and Stone Town’s history as a trading hub and spice island are apparent. I especially liked how the orderly packets of spices contrasted with the fish market.
Vibrant Darajani Market
Local markets are always so interesting
Packets of spices at Darajani Market, Stone Town
In the evenings my favourite place to head was Forodhani Gardens. Here stalls set up selling mountains of fresh seafood to be barbecued or you could try a Zanzibar pizza. Not like the pizza you know from home but still absolutely delicious!!
Evenings at Forodhani Gardens
Seafood at Forodhani Gardens
Zanzibar Pizza Stand, Forodhani Gardens
Nearby locals boys take turns running, attempting all kinds of twists and turns as they jump into the water.
Stone Town local kids
The sunsets from Forodhani Gardens are pretty amazing too!
Stone Town Sunset
Before you finish exploring Stone Town don’t miss the wonderful view out over the rooftops.
Stone Town’s rooftops
Zanzibar Coffee House
Rooftops of Stone Town
I think the best view over Stone Town was from Zanzibar Coffee House and Africa House Hotel.
While exploring Stone Town I stayed at Dhow Palace Hotel. Once the home of a rich merchant it is a beautiful and charming building, especially around the pool with the balconies and coloured glass windows above. The views from the rooftop are fantastic. It is also just located off one of the main streets. As a result it was relatively easy to find and as a solo female traveller I felt safe walking down the Main Street at night which had plenty of restaurants and from the hotel it was easy to reach Forodhani Gardens.
Dhow Palace Hotel, Stone Town
View from the rooftop of Dhow Palace Hotel
Remember to keep in mind Stone Town (and all of Zanzibar) is conservative and I highly recommend you dress with that in mind. Not only is it respectful but I certainly felt as though I didn’t attract as much attention by wearing long skirts and trousers with tops that covered my shoulders.
As a result I felt pretty comfortable exploring Stone Town as a solo female traveller and had no issues.
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