Stone Town is the old city within Zanzibar City. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its “being a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa”.
We found Stone Town to be interesting. The streets are narrow and don’t run straight. The architecture is a mix but the buildings are basically mortared together pieces of dead coral, stucco over the coral, and whitewashed. I thought most the buildings had the British colonial feel to them but understand the overall architecture is a mixture of Arab, Indian, African, and European.
Our hotel, Zanzibar Palace Hotel, is located about four blocks into Stone Town from the ocean front road. Although I can understand how you can get lost we had no trouble finding our way back to our hotel.
The first night we decided to take a walk along the ocean beach. No — we didn’t walk on the beach where I would get sand all over me and possibly trip on sea weed but on the road and what little sidewalk is available.
It was maybe a ten minute slow walk to the park like open space with multiple food vendors are set up for tourist and locals alike to buy and eat from. I don’t think we succumbed to the first salesman. Had to be the second. After all we are professional travelers and know you never let the first salesman, tout, want-a-be guide, or whatever take your money.
I don’t remember exactly what we had to eat and drink. Maybe some fresh squid or octopus which didn’t taste all that fresh or good and who knows what else. I opted for the fresh squeezed juice and Nancy not wishing to tempt faith more than we were settled for bottled water. Fun place to eat but the food was at best only average.
We toured Stone Town the next day. It was an easy tour and our guide was very knowledgeable. What I found unusual about our guide was he was Christian rather than Muslim. Zanzibar is approximately 99% Muslin and we had a Christian guide.
Nancy was well into her book, The Sultan’s Shadow, and our guide answered any and all questions she came up with from her readings. He also was able to answer any question from someone who hadn’t or wasn’t reading the book — like me.
(I swear this is my last travel without an electronic book. You just can’t carry enough paper back books for a five week trip.)
(Nancy recommends this book. New York Time’s review: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/books/review/Wheatcroft-t.html?_r=0 )
There was a certain amount of construction in progress as we walked the streets. I stopped to watch and compare construction in Zanzibar with other places. Most of the new work for a third world country is reasonably safe — both in the installation and the safety of the worker. I definitely didn’t think I would be electrocuted should I plug an electronic device into an outlet.
It always fascinates me how clean and well dress the children are where ever we travel. And Zanzibar was no different.
The boys all wore lime green short sleeve shirts and the girls were covered with a white headscarves. Each of them looked as if they were ready to learn.
We looked but as with all the other shops we didn’t buy at the Obama Shop. I will add I didn’t get my haircut at the Obama (men’s) haircut shop we walked by. I also saw one photograph of President Clinton in the shop we had stepped into. Is there a shop anywhere in the world where President Clinton didn’t have his photograph taken?
We enjoyed the tour. Each corner opened up to a new view and no one street seemed to be more than a couple blocks long.