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Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a derivative of the Persian sentiment ‘black coast’. Made up of small, beautiful isles, it also consists of two well known, larger land masses: Pemba Island and Unguja. If you are interested in pretty coasts, African culture, and fresh-catch dinners, this might be a perfect escape for you.

Also known for its trade routes along the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar was pivotal in the modern importation and exportation development for the times. The city has served the Persian, Indian, Arab, and Swahili trade communities since the mid-8th century. In this part of Tanzania, clove plantations climb all over tropical grassy hills, spicing up the air.

Much of the country and continent’s clove, nutmeg, and pepper comes from the region that is sometimes endearingly referred to as ‘Spice Islands’. Zanzibar is laced with historically-birthed culture and gorgeous views, making it one of the most highlighted regions in East Africa.

Zanzibar

Tanzania

Swahili (Arabic and French)

Tanzanian Shilling

Celebrations, Festivals, and Dates in Zanzibar

  • Eid-al-Fitr Festival (held at the end of Ramadan) : This festival celebrates the conclusion of Ramadan, which is held for one month each year. While the Islamic calendar does differ from that of the Christian calendar, Ramadan shifts each year, with the lunar cycles. By the observation of fasting, Ramadan signifies the remembrance of brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. At the end of this month, ‘Stone Town’ gives light and love with a colorful festival with food and music, as it is prohibited to eat, drink, or commune in public during the entirety of the month before. It is a renewal, a new chapter.
  • Zanzibar Music Festival (In July) : If you are a music junkie, who loves to travel, see new things, meet new people, and enjoy new beats, you might want to plan for this festival during your travels. It runs for a week in July, as Zanzibar brings in Asian and European artist to compliment the African line up. Here, you will listen to tunes of all varieties, with an emphasis on cultural tempos that reflective the coastal vibes and the deep roots of ‘Motherland’ culture. It is an incredible space for meeting new people, enjoying new life, and falling into new experiences.

To find more fun in Zanzibar, explore here.

Good to know

You must first touch down in Tanzania before entering into Zanzibar, so make sure you are educated about the travel documents and visas that you will need to acquire before your big adventure. Discover more.

History, Culture, and Etiquette in Zanzibar

Since this region is a 23-mile excursion from mainland Tanzania, the culture, customs, politics, religion, and traditions are manifested rather differently. The instinct to lump the country in with this inconspicuous haven is understandable, but there are a few tidbits you will want to keep in mind before traveling as you would in the rest of Tanzania.

The country, the parent is a mingling of Christian, Muslim, and indigenous culture, with more acceptance of variety, while Zanzibar has been a hub for trade with many Arabian groups. This makes for a Muslim-infused culture, which is a beautiful experience. With that, to be respectful, it is nice to dress more modestly, even in its beachy environment. Sure, wear a bikini on the beach if you are comfortable, but slip on more clothes when going into the local eateries and cafes. It is not Miami Beach!

Although it is overwhelming to speak in a different language, it is encouraged that travelers try to dive into the Swahili language like they are going to dive into the beautiful, turquoise ocean. Zanzibar locals will not judge you if you get it wrong, as it is looked upon as polite and respectful to at least give it a try.

It is a rather fluid, detectable language, that allows for a little wiggle room, so play around with it. One of the most important phrases to remember: “Shikamoo”. This is a way of greeting elders and/or people of importance. It is not necessarily tied into class but simply utilized to signify vast respect. This is a trip to a land you most likely have never visited, so have fun and try on newness.

Time might be confusing to you at first, because most locals will keep it in Swahili, which is determined by sunset and sunrise. As Zanzibar exists so close to the equator, this looks like 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. consistently nearly the entire year. When the sunrises, it is 1 o’clock in the morning; after the sunsets, it is 1 o’clock at night. It is best to talk with locals about what phase of the day you plan to meet up, i.e. mid-morning, late-afternoon, after the night falls. I know, it is different, but what is time anyway?

If you are wondering, how will I get from mainland to Zanzibar? No worries! The ferries run at least 4 times a day; they are a far better option than the shaky plane ride you could take in place. Half of the cost, much smoother ride, AND serenely scenic! The boats travel at fairly high speeds to get you there in a timely fashion to enjoy the experiences that await you on the islands.

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Zanzibar cuisine is a mixture of varied cultures on a plate; with a history of trade, the multi-ethnic nature of this Tanzanian region can be tasted through its most traditional dishes. Bantu, Arab, British, Indian, Chinese, and Portuguese flavors mix together harmoniously to make some of the most unique foods in Africa.

When traveling to Zanzibar, try some of the local food, even if you are a semi-picky eater. Do not let that deter you from breathing in the entire adventure.Biryani and Pilau Rice are two of the Zanzibar faves. Sure, some of us have dietary restrictions, and that is totally understandable.

Eating local is most often the best way to go when traveling anywhere in the world, so we have formulated a small list of bites you might be interested in. It takes a little energy and time out of your decision making for a couple of meals!

Lukmaan

You roll off the sandy beach and you are looking for a casual place, with good, authentic East African food–so where do you go? Lukmaan is a local spot frequented by both travelers and natives, alike. Be ready to possibly wait in a long line, as the word has gotten out. All the same, the value and taste is well worth a visit. Serving everything from fresh fruit juices to fish curry and beef stews, Lukmaan will have something to satisfy every type of traveler.

To get there: Mkunazini, Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania

To get in contact: +255 777 482 131

Ma Saa Allah Cafe

Another place that keeps prices reasonable for the travelers and locals, is Ma Saa Allah Cafe. This is a true fusion of African cuisine and Indian cuisine; as these two cultures have gracefully danced with one another through centuries of political and economical change with this region, so too have their varied tastes. Now, you can go to this cafe and take a bite out of this extraordinary hybrid of two rather different ethnicities. As most all restaurants on the coast, you can get fresh catches here. You can expect to smell curry and tandoori chicken, like you might at an Indian restaurant anywhere else on earth. This is also a perfect place to satisfy vegetarians and vegans.

Discover more about Ma Shaa Allah Cafe.

6 Degree South Grill & Wine Bar

If you are cleaned up and looking for a versatile space for a ‘date night’ or ‘ladies night out’, 6 Degree very well could be the perfect space. Functioning as a semi-swanky night club, it also has great food tastings. With fresh catch, seafood pasta, and sushi, the sea lover will absolute delight in this chic space. Wind down with a happy hour cocktail, well-liked by many, and eat up delicious views of sunset and oceanic scenery. Life feels chill here, but just know, you will pay for the neat cocktails, delectable nibbles, gorgeous views, and good vibes. Although this should not deter you, if you can splurge for a night of pampering; just come prepared to spend more than you might at another local, lunch spot.

Explore the cocktails and bites at 6 Degree South.

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