Blessed with a sultry tropical climate, Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous state within Tanzania, consisting of two large islands, Ungunja – Zanzibar Island – and Pemba. Clove and coconut plantations cover the interior of these Spice Islands. Pemba is laced with winding creeks and lush mangroves, while Zanzibar’s coast is fringed by sun-baked beaches and sleepy fishing villages.
For many, the highlight of a stay on Zanzibar is the old Stone Town quarter – a maze of cobbled alleyways leading to ancient homesteads and mosques, ornate palaces and bustling bazaars. Each twist and turn brings something new – brass-studded doors with elaborately carved frames, overhung by ornate balconies and detailed minarets. Black-veiled Muslim women fry balls of dough on street corners, and the intoxicating sound of the muezzin call to prayer floods the air.
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I would be lying if I told you it was as though time had stood still. The ancient trading hub of East Africa is now a relic of its former glory, and it’s a crying shame that not more has been done to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. But, there is charm in the cultural melting pot that remains – recessed Persian-style houses jostle with modern Afro clothing boutiques, a waterfront dotted with old Arabic dhows, rusting 1970s-style ferries, and an Italian-owned gelato shop.