Stone Town is the old quarter of Zanzibar, located on the West Coast. Many of its buildings have been left to crumble, however the narrow alleys and disordered lanes filled with houses, mosques and bazaars create an atmosphere enough to captivate the most world-weary of traveller. There is a sense of history here and architecture with a mix of Islamic simplicity as well as intricate Indian influence. Exploring Stone Town by foot is recommended; however it is best to arrange a guide who knows the area instead of wondering off on your own.
Known officially as the People's Palace, this building is in need of renovations. The Palace is now a Museum and it stands on the site of Sultan Said's original 'House on the Coast'. It houses furniture and household possessions left behind by the last Sultan when he fled for his life.
Known to be the most imposing structure on the sea front, it was once the highest building in Zanzibar and still is the highest in Stone Town. It was the first building to have running water, electricity, and even an electrical lift. It is said that funds are currently being collected to possibly restore it to its original presence. Its doors were a wonderful work of art, the work of an Indian master craftsman and were copied by local craftsmen at the time. It is now a well laid out and informative museum and explains things such as various aspects of the Zanzibari as well as Swahili culture.
The Anglican Cathedral in Stone Town, built in 1887 to commemorate the end of the slave trade, is located on the site of the islands largest slave market, which closed down in 1873. The altar is situated directly above the old whipping post. The stained-glass windows in the Anglican Cathedral are dedicated to David Livingstone who played a major role in the abolition of the slave trade. The wooden crucifix was carved from the tree under which Livingstone was buried in Chitambo.
The Old Fort is also known as Arab Fort or Ngome Kongwe and is located near Beit el-Ajaib. It comprises of 4 coral ragstone walls with cylindrical towers at the corners and a fifth in the centre of the southernmost. Omani Arabs constructed the Old Fort to defend against attacks by the Portugese. The remains of an old Portugese church can be seen within the internal walls. During the 19th C, it was used as a prison and later as a depot for the railway. Today a partially renovated portion houses the Zanzibar Cultural Center with an open-air theatre and art gallery. Traditional dance and music are performed here several times each week.
The Forodhani Gardens lie between the Fort and the sea. Forodhani means 'unloading place' and is where many slave dhows discharged their unfortunate cargoes. This seems to be the perfect place for an evening stroll, as young men entertain onlookers with their diving skills and the excellent street food market is set up till well into the evening. Old Dispensary The building, originally built as a hospital, is one of Stone Town's finest; in it's over the top Indian manner. It has double level balconies which are supported by intricately carved brackets and columns. It was the inspiration of a successful Ismaili merchant who laid the foundation himself with a golden trowel to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. After his death, his widow funded the completion of the building and it was then bought as a charitable dispensary.
The Darajani Market opened in1904 and still maintains the bustling and colourful atmosphere. The market is close to the Anglican Cathedral and is a perfect spot to watch life in Zanzibar as it has been for so many years. It deals in fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. Other goods such as jewellery, fabric and spices are sold in shops on surrounding streets. Although the vegetarian section is a fascinating and interesting experience, the other section is not recommended for the faint hearted.
Its name commemorates the end of World War 1 and was inspired by the Aya Sofya Mosque in Istanbul. It has 6 hexagonal domes which support a much larger dome in the centre. Home to a wealth of Zanzibar's memorabilia, the National Museum is a great place to discover the intriguing history and culture of the islands.
The Hamamni Persian Baths is another notable building in the centre of town. It was commissioned in the early 1870's for the citizens of Stone Town and all the proceeds would go to a charitable trust. Although the baths are no longer is use, they still give some cool shelter from the sun's heat and the admission fees go to the Zanzibar Orphanage.