Stone Town

Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania

As easy as it would be to spend an entire trip to Zanzibar lazing around on soft-sand beaches, it’s well worth skipping an hour or two of sunbathing to see Stone Town, the ancient district of Zanzibar. With its narrow cobblestoned streets, intricately carved front doors, and an array of alley cats slinking past your ankles, Stone Town has a charm that you’ll find in few places on earth. Historically, Stone Town was a flourishing capital for the spice and slave trades, which attracted businessmen from across the globe. They introduced different architectural styles as they built their homes and businesses, creating a unique blend of Arabic, Persian, Indian, European, and African buildings in the city. Explore the market where locals still shop and haggle for goods, and then settle at a table at one of the many rooftop bars to enjoy the sunset.

More Recommendations

Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

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. 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: Kupata na kukosa kwangu, wewe kunakuhusu nini, or “Whether I succeed or fail, it’s not your business.” This appeared in the May/June 2011 issue.

Chiseled Doors, Zanzibar, Tanzania

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.

Picking up dinner

It’s great to walk around the spice market, where a dizzying cocktail of sweet, spicy, and earthy aromas fills your nostrils. But don’t forget to walk into the significantly less pleasant-smelling chicken market, where people barter and purchase live chickens for a freshly-prepared dinner.

Information on this page, including website, location, and opening hours, is subject to have changed since this page was last published. If you would like to report anything that’s inaccurate, let us know at

Nearby highlights
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR