Ten places to visit in Zanzibar
Zanzibar has a very rich history with records that dates back to around 1000AD. The people, the culture, the buildings, the streets all scream authenticity and a cultural preservation that has been maintained for centuries. It is believed that Zanzibar has been a human settlement for more than 20,000 years.
If I’m going to talk about the history of Zanzibar I would probably need a full article just for that. But you can get a lot of information about its history through online sources.
People describe Zanzibar as a ”tropical paradise”. This is definitely true, from its beautiful white sandy beaches, to the clear as day sky blue waters, and the rich culture and history which you can still touch and feel within the streets, Zanzibar is anything less than a dream.
Just to be clear, all the locations and attractions that I will mention in this article are located in Unguja, one out of the two islands in Zanzibar (the other is known as Pemba) and all the facts in this article are based on my own personal experience and perceptions and is not arranged in any ranking order.
FOOOD!!! Literally the only reason why this location came first to mind. Forodhani is the most popular open food market in Zanzibar. It is definitely a must visit place. The market opens from 12:00 am and closes at 11:59 pm. The market serves variety of foods from local dishes to exotic sea foods at very reasonable prices. I suggest you get a little experimental and try new dishes. Take it slow though we don’t want you getting a tummy ache.
2. House of wonders
If you still have some energy left in you after eating your soul out at Forodhani you can make an after meal stretch and take a stroll to the ”House of Wonders”. The building is located just near the old fort and the Palace museum. The house of wonders is one of the six palaces that were built by Barghash Bin Said the second sultan of Zanzibar. The magnificent building is also believed to be located in the site of the 17th century palace of Queen Fatuma of Zanzibar. It currently houses the museum of history and culture of Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast.
3. Freddie Mercury’s house
Now can I really call myself a Freddie fan if I don’t mention the building that housed one of the best rock ‘n’ roll vocalists of all time? There is really not much to see there, just a door and a stand post showing details about the brief history of Freddie. But if you really are a fan of ”The Bohemian Rhapsody” hit maker, you cant miss it.
4. Tippu Tip’s house
Since were talking about famous people’s houses that we cant get in, why not mention the famous Tippu Tips’s house? Tippu tip was a slave trader, whose real name was Hamed bin Mohammed el Marjebi. He was born in the 1840s and joined the slave trade business when he was 18. His nickname is thought to come either from a local word meaning ‘to blink’, It is believed he had a nervous blinking problem that affected his eyes, or it was probably because his eyes resembled those of a type of bird called Tippu Tib (Talk about body shaming). One writer called the house ”The most magnificent squat in Africa”. But yeah, you still cant get in cause of the poor maintenance of the building. But at least you can see the door.
5. Old fort and cultural center
The Old fort was built by Arabs after expelling the Portuguese back in 1699. It was used as a prison in the 19th century and even a railway station. The building had numerous re-incarnations during the years such as a ladies night club and an amphitheater which was added in the early nineties. Currently the building is the head quarters of the Zanzibar International film festivals. You can also get groovy and have fun with the wide selection of evening entertainments hosted there.
6. Hamamni Persian Baths
The baths were built between 1870 and 1888 by sultan Bargash Bin Said for use as public baths, and they were in use until 1920. You can’t shower there anymore (put that soap back in the bag), but it is still a pretty cool tourist attraction that you shouldn’t miss seeing while you are in Zanzibar.
7. The Christ Church
The Christ Church is an Anglican cathedral built from 1873 to 1879. The Church is no Notre Dame but it holds its own significance of portraying the perpendicular gothic and Islamic details which were a clear representation of early Christian societies in East Africa. The cathedral itself has a very rich history and is a sight of its own magnificence.
8. Slave chambers.
You really cant talk about Zanzibar without mentioning its slave trade history.
Zanzibar has a very dark past of human humiliation and oppression. Although those times are way behind us now, the blood stains of the innocent victims still scream in the walls of the still standing torture rooms and prisons. These clusterphobic chambers gives you a glimpse of what thousands of slaves had to endure for hundreds of years. Slave trade was abolished in Zanzibar only in 1897.
9. Nungwi beaches
This history talk is getting a little depressing. Lets go to the beach. Zanzibar hosts one of the most beautiful clear beaches in the world. You saw the picture at the beginning of the article? It’s not edited. One of my favorite oceanic locations is the Nungwi beach in the northern part of the island. The turquoise waters, the white sands and the Maasai people selling souveniers really gives off that African aesthetic tropical vibe. Most of my trips to Zanzibar were direct to Nungwi. Thats how obsessed I am. But who wouldn’t be with a view like this?
10. Prison Island
So we still have one more history lesson before class is dismissed. Don’t worry,it wont take long. The prison island also known as Changuu island (meaning ‘fish’ in Swahili) was used as a prison for rebellious slaves in 1860s and also functioned as a coral mine. It was temporarily used as a station for yellow fever cases but now it is currently owned by the government as a public tourist attraction. The island also hosts endangered Aladabra giant tortoise which were a gift from the British governor of Seychelles.
There are so many more attractions to visit in Zanzibar that all depend on your own interests. I believe in research before travelling so you are not completely oblivious when you visit a new destination.
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Your Rafiki blogger here,