This post first appeared on ANEW Traveller.
Africa has long been an inspiration for writers and other artists. Because of its amazing nature and fascinating culture many parts of the continent have become famous tourist destinations. But when people consider travelling to Africa, they often have one of two countries in mind: South Africa or Kenya. Sadly, many people remain unaware of the myriad charms of many other African countries, places that can be truly magical destinations if given a chance.
The semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar is one of them. It is a place of undeniable beauty where some consider all the magic of Africa is concentrated. Just in case you need some convincing, here are our top five reasons why you should follow the trade winds and make tracks to the spice island of Zanzibar.
Beaches straight from the brochures
The beaches in Zanzibar truly are some of the most beautiful in the world. Famous for their pearly white, warm and silky sand, pleasant ocean breezes and clear waters in that special shade of Zanzibar blue, they offer a genuine respite and perfect slice of serenity. You can find some of the best beaches of the archipelago in Bwejuu, Paje and Ras Nungwi. The village of Nungwi is especially interesting because it offers secluded beaches alongside a more intimate view of the local culture and everyday life. You can watch local children playing soccer by the shore or observe women casting their nets for fish along the sandbanks. For adventurous types there’s also snorkelling, diving, or an island-hopping dhow safari.
A little cultural fusion
Zanzibar is a place where several cultures meet, adapt and transform to join into one amazingly unique local culture. There is visible evidence of strong Indian, European, Persian and Arab influences in architecture, cuisine, clothing, traditions and almost every other aspect of life. After Kiswahili, English is the second official language and is spoken by most of the population, especially in urban areas, which makes it an easy place to navigate.
One of the most magical things you will experience is the music. Taraab, a traditional form of sung poetry, is quite unique. It comes from an Arab word meaning “having joy with music,” which sums up exactly how you’ll feel about it. In the company of ever-happy locals that always welcome you with a smile, you’ll want to join in and sing all day.
History that won’t put you to sleep
The history of Zanzibar is encapsulated in its unique old town trapped in time—Stone Town. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Stone Town is home to the oldest building in the archipelago, the Old Fort. It was also the last open slave market, controlled by Arabs, until the British shut it down in 1873. The Old Town is also filled with bustling markets where vendors sell handmade and locally sourced products. The former palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar, the House of Wonders, is a fascinating historic building that currently contains the Museum of History & Culture of Zanzibar & the Swahili Coast, which is well worth a visit.
All of the foods
Zanzibar is a true foodie heaven—it’s not called the “Spice Island” for nothing. If you have curious taste buds, this is the place for you. Just about any dish is enriched with the most delicious spices, it’s a delight for all your senses. The Night Market in Stone Town is the best place to taste all the local food at your fingertips, from crispy cassava chips to fresh-caught seafood. Of course, you simply must try the famous Zanzibar pizza, which is nothing like the pizza we know. It is actually a stuffed bread dish with a filling of mince meat, egg, chili, garlic, mayonnaise and hot sauce. No matter what you think it sounds like, you should taste it for yourself before you make up your mind.
Zanzibar is a really affordable destination. You can make it through a day with $20-30, not counting the costs of safaris and other bigger excursions. The average street food meal costs about $1, and the dishes in some better restaurants cost from $2 to $5. Accommodation will only set you back about $4-10 per night. You can even stay in a house for $15-30 per night. Public transport is calculated based on hours rather than distance; the only downside is that it isn’t very reliable. But that’s all part of the relaxed way of life here, something you’ll quickly learn to love.
If there is any place on earth even remotely similar to our collective visions of paradise it must be Zanzibar. It certainly deserves a place on your bucket list.
Want to explore the spice island for yourself? Check out our range of small group tours.
This post first appeared on ANEW Traveller. Feature image c/o Sakke Wiik, Flickr