"Stone Town" Top 5 Page for this destination Zanzibar Island Things to Do Tip by toonsarah
Zanzibar Island Things to Do: 150 reviews and 207 photos
At the heart of Zanzibar’s main town (called, somewhat confusingly, Zanzibar Town) is Stone Town – a rabbit warren of winding streets and crumbling buildings, where locals gather to pass the time of day and tourists flock to absorb the atmosphere, take in the sights and shop in the many crafts bazaars.
Stone Town takes its name from the many coral stone buildings that were built there largely during the 19th century, and it is these old buildings that give the town its character but also pose its greatest challenge. The coral is a soft stone and many structures are suffering badly from the ravages of time. While this creates a quaint appearance for visitors, it makes for poor living conditions for the locals (more than 16,000 people live here) and also means that the very thing that attracts people to the town is under threat. However, there is hope for Stone Town. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000 and the Stone Town Heritage Authority was established. This body is now working towards restoring the ancient town before these buildings are lost for ever.
Much of local life is lived out on these streets, which are too narrow for cars. Locals sit in doorways or pause on street corners to gossip, goods are sold from small stands, children play underfoot. Tourists are accepted and even encouraged, and we certainly experienced no problems when asking to take photos of local people. On one occasion a group of men sitting on a step with a newspaper called us over; they had heard our English voices and wanted to show us the English football results in their paper, knowing from experience that we would be glad of this piece of news from home.
The architecture of the buildings here is traditional Arabic in style, with thick and fairly plain walls surrounding a central courtyard. Usually the only ornamentation is on the thick wooden doors (see my separate Local Customs tip). Scattered between the houses are mosques (51 in total), six Hindu temples and two Christian Cathedrals (Roman Catholic and Anglican). There are schools, bazaars (many now focusing on the sale of crafts to tourists) and workshops. A wander through the streets of Stone Town is definitely a “must see” activity, and life there will keep you engrossed for hours, as well as providing many great photo opportunities.
Directions: Follow the crowds to the centre of town
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