Zanzibar is a unique coral island lying in the Indian Ocean a short distance from Tanzania. With Pemba, and about 50 other islands. Zanzibar originally was an independent country until 1964 when it was united with Tanganyika to form Tanzania under President Julius Nyerere. Presently it has its own President and a degree of autonomy.
The island's history goes back many centuries. Its heyday came in the early 19th century when the Sultan of Muscat moved his court to Zanzibar. Spice cultivation was developed (particularly the clove tree), and the slave trade was at its height - Zanzibar became the most important town in East Africa.
Zanzibar town is located midway along the West Coast of the Island. The old part of the town, know as Stone Town, is composed of a network of shady, winding narrow alleys between old stone buildings with ornately decorated entrances and balconies. Numerous, tine shops here sell everything under the sun. Along the seafront are located several luxury/middle class hotels, the old Sultan Palace ( house of wonder), the old fort, restaurants and the docks.
You can spend many idle hours and days just wandering through the fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways.
Stone Town was recently and deservedly declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. More information can be found at the UNESCO website.
Places to Visit in Stone Town
The Old Dispensary (now known as the Stone Town Cultural Centre) is a grand four story building with a set of decorative balconies. It served as a dispensary during colonial times but fell into disrepair in the 1970's and 1980's. It is one of the Stone Town buildings that has been successfully restored, in this case with funding from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. It can be found on Zanzibar's seafront on Mizingani road.
The market is a great place to visit even if you don't want to buy anything. It is a vibrant place where everything under the sun is bought and sold. People bring their produce here from all over the island, and other people come to buy things they can't get in their own villages. Of special interest is the huge selection of brightly coloured khangas (worn by the local women) and the auctions that are held regularly.
Livingstone's House was built around 1860 for Sultan Majid, and was used by many of the missionaries and explorers as a starting point. Most notably, Dr David Livingstone lived here before commencing his last journey to the mainland interior.
The Peace Memorial Museum is an interesting look at Zanzibar's history. It has sections on archaeology, early trade, slavery, palaces, mosques, sultans, explorers (includes Dr Livingstone's medical chest), missionaries, colonial administrators, traditional crafts and household items, stamps, coins, fishing, and clove cultivation.
The Palace Museum is a large white building with castellated battlements, and was built in the late 1890's for members of the Sultan's family. Originally called the Sultan's Palace, in 1911 it became the official residence of the Sultan of Zanzibar, but following the revolution in 1964, it was renamed the Peoples' Palace. In 1994, the palace was turned into a museum dedicated to the history of Zanzibar's Sultans which necessitated a third change of name to the Palace Museum. For the first time, visitors can see much of the Sultans' furniture and other possessions that survived the revolution.
The House of Wonders is a very large square-shaped building, with several stories, surrounded by tiers of pillars and balconies, and topped by a large clock tower. It was built in 1883 as a ceremonial palace for Sultan Barghash and was the first in Zanzibar to have electric light and an electric lift. Not surprisingly, when it was built, the local people called it Beit el Ajaib, meaning the House of Wonders. Today, it is still one of the largest buildings in Zanzibar, and there are plans to open it as the National Museum.
The Arab Fort is situated next to the House of Wonders and was built between 1698 and 1701 by the Busaidi group of Omani Arabs. It is a large building with high, dark brown walls. topped by castellated battlements. The fort is open to visitors and now contains various shops and an open air theatre.
There are lots of other interesting places to visit in Stone Town, so exploration is the order of the day!
Music & Culture that Bellevue attends every year;
Sauti Za Busara Swahili Music & Cultural Festival
WHEN; EVERY YEAR AROUND 10 FEBRUARY
The main venue for this year’s festival is again in historic Stone Town: the grassy side of Zanzibar’s Old Fort (“Mambo Club”) facing Forodhani Garden s and overlooking the Indian Ocean. Fittingly described by Ian Anderson in fROOTS magazine as “the big club venue most world music festival organisers would die for”. Freshly grilled prawns, octopus, squid, fish kebabs are all prepared on site, with a bar and stalls selling local crafts.
Religious Festivals - Eid ul Fitr
Eid-ul-Fitr is the festival at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Also known as Eid or Sikukuu (days of celebration, festival or holiday), this festival is a time of giving charity. The fasting of Ramadan is meant to remind people what life is like for their less fortunate brethren and the alms giving at Eid (known as zakat-el-Fitr) is a continuation along the same idea. Both fasting and the giving of alms are two of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. Because the Islamic calendar is different from that of Christians, the dates for Ramadan and Eid change every year by about 10 days so check a local Islamic calendar if you're looking to visit Zanzibar during Eid. Ramadan is a holy month in which drinking, smoking, and eating during daylight hours for Muslims is prohibited. Dress codes should be strictly adhered to. Some restaurants are closed during this month and outside of town it can be difficult to get any food at all during daytime hours during Ramadan. All discos are closed during Ramadan.
Eid is a joyful experience and everybody is out and about celebrating. In Zanzibar the partying continues for four solid days and many open areas around town and in the villages turn into festival venues. It is a great time to see all the little girls in their new dresses and the boys in their new sneakers/trainers. The girls wear kohl around the eyes regardless of age, and the boys run around firing cap guns. There is a general feeling of celebration as people go from house to house visiting friends and relatives and attend taarab concerts and discos at night. Ramadan lasts for one full cycle of the moon (29-30 days) and is followed directly by Eid, which lasts for four days. In town, the festivities can be seen at the Mnazi Moja grounds across from the National Museum or at the Kariakoo fair grounds out by the Main Post Office.
A four-day-long celebration, Mwaka Kogwa is best observed at Makunduchi, a village in the south part of Zanzibar. The origins of this holiday are Zoroastrian (a Persian religion older than Islam). It is a celebration of the Shirazi New Year and some of the events include the burning of the hut and mock fights. These fights are between men who defend themselves with banana stems (in place of the sticks that were formerly used), and this fighting, in which everyone gets a chance, is said to let everyone air their grievances and so clear the air as the new year rolls in. As the men fight, the women stroll through the fields singing songs about life and love. They are dressed in their best clothes and taunt the men after the fight is over. The festivities vary from village to village but Makunduchi is where the biggest events take place. All are welcome for the festival because it is a local belief that anyone without a guest for this holiday is unhappy. The holiday is held every year around the third week of July, but check with a local tour operator to get the official dates.
For European countries counts that your can buy your Visa on arrival in Tanzania. At the moment the cost are 50 dollar or 50 Euro, so we advice you to bring 50 dollar per person. The other option is that you buy a Visa at the embassy in your own country upfront. If you will require a multiple entry visa you will need to arrange this through a Tanzanian Diplomatic mission before your arrival in Tanzania. Otherwise you will have to buy a single entry visa each time you enter the country.
For other countries and special Visa's we recommend, you to visit http://tanzaniatouristboard.com/pages/ttb_visa.php.
You need to get advice from your general practice. They may recommend a whole cocktail of things which will cost quite a lot; ask what is absolutely essential.
The Tanzania health authorities are advising people that they should have a Yellow Fever vaccination for their own protection-however, please seek advice from your general practice. People having a Yellow Fever vaccination need to have it at least 10 day prior to travel
Our understanding is that it is advisable to have protection for Hepatitis A, Typhoid & Polio. It is also advisable to take protection against Malaria, please consult your General Practice about this.