Home>Travel inspiration

Why You Should Visit Stone Town, Zanzibar

By James Sturz

Jan 19, 2012

From the May/June 2011 issue

share this article
The cotton kanga is common throughout Zanzibar and Tanzania.

Photo courtesy of Alvaro Leiva/Age Fotostock

The cotton kanga is common throughout Zanzibar and Tanzania.

Discover what makes Zanzibar's capital a destination worth visiting.

share this article

Zanzibar, an archipelago off the Tanzania coast, has long attracted travelers to its capital city, Stone Town. Visitors come to cap off a safari, dance to taarab music, and snorkel among dragon moray eels—all in the historic birthplace of the Swahili language. Here are some must-do activities in Stone Town, Zanzibar:

Shop for kangas at the Darajani Bazaar

The cotton kanga (pictured above), worn as a wrap dress, skirt, or shawl, is the principal item of clothing for East African women. Named for the dappled feathers of the guinea fowl, the kanga is not complete without a Swahili maxim printed along its border. One favorite is Kupata na kukosa kwangu, wewe kunakuhusu nini, meaning Whether I succeed or fail, it’s not your business. Find them at the Darajani Bazzar.

Eat local foods at the night market

Each evening as the sun sets, Stone Town’s Forodhani Park transforms into an open-air food market. Skip the fish kebabs and head straight to the vendors selling urojo, a thick mango and tamarind soup served alongside chickpea fritters, boiled potatoes, cassava flakes, chutney, and as much hot sauce as you dare. Follow it up with hand-pressed sugar cane juice with ginger and lime.

A door found between Mizingani Street and the beach.

Admire the city's chiseled doors

In Stone Town’s labyrinthine alleyways, see the city’s carved wooden doors. These massive works of art are detailed with benedictions from the Koran and augmented with brass spikes. Only a few hundred of these entrance ways—some from the 17th century—remain. The best preserved examples are in the Bhagani and Shangani districts.

Learn a new instrument at Dhow Countries Music Academy


Enroll in an afternoon class at the Dhow Countries Music Academy and learn how to play taarab music—a blend of Swahili poetry and Egyptian, Indian, Indonesian, and Western sounds. The instruments played include the violin, cello, oud, qanun (similar to the zither), ney flute, and tabla drums. Or simply watch professional musicians perform. Old Customs House, Mizingani Road, 255/7774-16529 or 255/2422-34050, zanzibarmusic.org

>>Next: There’s More to Kenya Than Safaris

Sign up for the Daily Wander newsletter for expert travel inspiration and tips

Please enter a valid email address.

Read our privacy policy