An afternoon in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Posted by Matt Sterne on 13 August 2019

After an afternoon of drifting through the slender alleys of Stone Town, following my whims instead of a map, I finally found myself at the water’s edge. I’d spent the past few hours taking in the nuances of daily life in the labyrinth of the historical town: old men sharing small cups of coffee on store steps, bicycles laden with coconuts pushing past me, boys chasing each other while their souvenir-selling mothers called after them, and marvelling at the intricacy of the famous carved doors.

Now on the promenade, I joined a crowd watching teenage boys leap into the water, taking turns to twist themselves into an array of distorted shapes while making faces – the acrobatic clowns of the islands. I got sucked into the buzz of the Forodhani open-air night market, vendors shouting offers of grilled fish, octopus, prawns and squid while passers-by weighed their options. Evenings like this draw people to Stone Town, a beguiling photographer’s dream that straddles the world between Africa and Arabia. There are also spice tours, the slave museum and the house in which Freddie Mercury was born.

The Old Fort is the oldest building in Stone Town. It’s a cultural centre and HQ of the annual film and music festivals.

Beyond Stone Town the attractions are as numerous as the variety of delicious juices on the island. (I highly recommend the mango and passion fruit.) The reefs offer world-class snorkelling, the northern tip of the island has beaches that rate among the finest in the world, and Paje in the southeast has excellent kitesurfing conditions. There’s also Jozani Forest in the centre, home to the endemic Zanzibar red colobus monkey.

All this adds up to an island destination that can be both relaxing and stimulating. Either way, the juices are a good idea.

Plan Your Trip

Getting There
Mango flies to Zanzibar from Joburg three times a week, from around R3,600 per person return.

Need To Know
Book a few nights in Stone Town initially, before heading to a beach resort, as travelling back and forth across the island can take a while. This will also give you more time to explore Stone Town at your own pace. Keep in mind that most of Zanzibar’s coastline, except for the north, is very tidal, so swimming in the sea is only possible for half the day.

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