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  • house of wonders
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  • old slave market
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Zanzibar Stonetown

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... is a hugely important historic town is situated on the west coast of Zanzibar Island off the coast of Tanzania.

This wonderfully atmospheric old town is registered as a World Heritage Site and is certainly one of the most culturally fascinating places in the region.

For many centuries Stonetown was the home of the Sultan of Zanzibar, who ruled over a huge portion of sub-Saharan Africa. Caravan routes ran from Bagamoyo on the mainland coast opposite, deep into the heart of the continent, over 1000km to Lake Tanganyika and with influence deep into the Congo beyond, trading for slaves, ivory and various exotic produce. The sultan even controlled the trade routes via Sofala into Mozambique and the silver mines of Great Zimbabwe.

They used to say that "when the flute plays in Zanzibar, the whole of Africa dances". In the late nineteenth century Zanzibar came under the control of the British and was used as a base by explorers including Speke, Burton, Stanley and Livingstone.

Modern day Stonetown is a confusing tumbledown place, a crazy maze of narrow streets, jam-packed with historic buildings, most in various stages of acute dilapidation. Real people live here, going about their daily lives and the place is full of local colour, from the vibrant markets to the groups of naked children that play on the waterfront each evening.

Stonetown is the birthplace of "Zanzibar style", the classic Swahili blend of Arab, Indian and African cultures which characterise this coast. There is a wide range of characterful hotels, most of which demonstrate this unique local style, some of which actually contributed significantly to defining it.

The town offers visitors an unusually wide range of interesting activities.

The main downside is that there is a significant potential for crime in Stonetown, from mildly aggravating street hustle, to pick-pockets and, usually confined to the small hours of the night, violent muggings. If you are less than confident, then we recommend taking a guide during the day. No matter who you are, we recommend taking a guide or 'askari' with you after dark, so that you are picked up from your restaurant for the walk home. That will also save you from getting lost amongst the maze of alleyways.


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