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Stone Town Zanzibar is the old part of Zanzibar City, the island’s capital. Stone Town is a city of historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture, with a unique mixture of African, Moorish, Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. For this reason, the town has been declared a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 2000.

Due to its heritage, Stone Town is also a major visitor attraction in Tanzania, and a large part of its economy depends on tourism-related activities.

The heart of Stone Town mostly consists of a maze of narrow alleys sided by houses, shops, markets and mosques. The seafront has wider streets and larger, more regularly-placed buildings.

The first stone houses in Stone Town were probably built in the 1830s, gradually replacing an earlier fishermen village. Coral stone was used as the main construction material, giving the town a characteristic, reddish warm color.

In 1840, Sultan Said bin Sultan moved his seat from Muscat, Oman, to Stone Town, making it the new capital of the Sultanate of Oman and Zanzibar.

During that time, Stone Town flourished as a trading centre. It was especially renowned for the commerce of spices (mostly cloves) and slaves. Around mid century, the sultanate was in good relationship with the British; David Livingstone, for example, is known to have stayed in Stone Town in 1866 while he was preparing his final expedition into the interior of East Africa. In the same period, several immigrant communities from Oman, Persia and India formed as a consequence of the town’s intense commercial activity.

In the last decades of the century, the Sultans of Zanzibar gradually lost their possessions to the colonial powers. In 1890, Zanzibar became a British protectorate.

In 1964, Stone Town was the location of the Zanzibar Revolution that caused the removal of the sultan and the birth of a socialist government led by the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP). When Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined to form Tanzania, Stone Town kept its role as a capital and government seat for Zanzibar, which was declared to be a semi-autonomous part of the newborn nation.

Stone Town’s traditional buildings have unique architectural features showing the city’s cultural heritage. These include a baraza, a long stone bench along the outside walls which is used as an elevated sidewalk if heavy rains make the streets impracticable, or otherwise as benches to sit down, rest and socialize. Other key features are the large verandas protected by carved wooden balustrades, and of course the finely decorated wooden doors with rich carvings and bas-reliefs, often with big brass studs of Indian tradition. Carvings are often Islamic in content, but other symbologies are occasionally used, e.g. Indian lotus flowers as emblems of prosperity.

Besides having interesting architectural features in most of its houses, Stone Town is punctuated with major historical buildings, including the The House of Wonders (“Beit-Al-Ajaib”), The Palace Museum (also know as the Sultan’s Palace), the Old Fort (“Ngome Kongwe”, a heavy 17th century Omani fortress), Malindi Mosque and the Aga Khan Mosque, the colonial “Old Dispensary”, the Hamamni Persian Baths, the Anglican cathedral, the seafront park Forodhani Gardens, and the Darajani market.

Annual cultural events in Stone Town include the Sauti Za Busara Music Festival in February, the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) in July, and the religious celebrations of Eid al-Fitr after Ramadhan and Eid al-Adha on the 10th day of the last Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah.

Currency:

Tanzania Shillings (TSHS) 2,178 TSHS = US$ 1 approx (this can change)

Voltage :

UK style plugs 220V

Religion :

Christianity and Islam are the predominant religions of Tanzania. About 40 – 45% of the population practice Christianity,about 35 – 40 % practice Islam. The rest of the population adhere to traditional beliefs,most of which center around ancestor worship and nature-based animism. Most Christians live on the mainland, where missionary stations and schools reach deep into the continent. Islam is the major religion of the coastal areas but is also practiced further inland along the old caravan routes.

Clothing :

Please respect the Islamic culture of our country and dress decently.Bring light cotton clothing for the summer during winter carry some warm clothing as temperatures can drop quite a lot in the highlands.

Mosquito repellents,copious amounts of Sun Blocks (for the beach lovers),hat,torch and few other gizmos you can think of.

Visas

Visa are required for almost all countries and can be available at designated entry points such as at Dar-es-salaam International Airport,Kilimanjaro International Airport,Zanzibar International Airport,Namanga (Tanzania – Kenya Border Post to the North), Tunduma (Tanzania – Malawi Border post to the South), Taveta and Holili (Tanzania – Kenya Border post to the North East).

A handful of Countries require a referral visa. We recommend that you get further information from www.tanzaniatouristboard.com. We recommend that you take a visa prior to arrival to save time at immigration counters.

Best time to visit :

Frankly anytime, but the target season is JUNE – OCT and DEC – MARCH.