Stone Town

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Stone Town is effectively the capital of Zanzibar Island, and, unlike Dar es Salaam, is a place that definitely does repay a visit. When visiting Zanzibar, you may of course have little other than relaxation on a tropical beach in mind, but if you do get bored with this you will find that Stone Town, with its labyrinth of narrow alleys complete with palaces, mosques, and tiny shops, is an extraordinary place to explore. Most of the houses are more than 150 years old and were constructed from the island's coral stone by Arab and Indian merchants in the 19th century.

It is usually possible to take a day trip from any of the beach resorts that you may be staying at in order to explore Stonetown, but a much better way is to spend a night or two here in a charmingly converted old merchant's house, or small hotel. The truth is that guided tours can vary hugely in quality, and you will get a much richer experience from doing a little bit of research first, followed by just wandering around on your own. [cont.]                    

The city's Swahili architecture, in particular, incorporates elements of Arab, Persian, Indian, European and African styles. The Arab houses are particularly notable because they have large and ornately carved wooden doors and other unusual features such as enclosed wooden verandas.

For very many years Stonetown was the centre of the slave trade, between mainland Africa and the Middle East, and a number of interesting reminders of this dark past can still be explored. Zanzibar is of course also the home of the spice trade, and you can join special ‘Spice Tours' here.

Stonetown contains many fine buildings, some of which, such as the House of Wonders and the Arab Fort, have been restored to create areas for coffee and relaxation. However its real interest comes simply from soaking up its atmospheric mixture of Arabic and African culture, set in a somewhat crumbling maze of alleys and cobbled streets.

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