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An intoxicating blend of influences from ancient Persia, Ottoman Turkey and India, book a flight to Zanzibar with Qatar Airways and be transported back into a spice-laden world of Arabic-style houses, brass doors and winding alleyways.
This exotic archipelago is full of allure and retains much of its magic despite recent tourist-focused development. Fly to Zanzibar and discover a real gem in the Indian Ocean that hasn’t changed much in centuries.
The oldest building in Zanzibar City is the 17th century Stone Fort, built as a defence against the Portuguese. It can be found in Stone Town opposite the lush Forodhani Gardens. Traders and merchants hawk their wares in the vast courtyard and regular festivals are held in its small amphitheatre, and on your trip to Zanzibar this will be a real entertainment hub for you.
One of Stone Town’s most prominent structures is the Palace Museum, otherwise known as the Beit-el-Sahel or Sultan’s Palace. It’s now a museum on the waterfront but was originally built for the Sultan and his immediate family in the 19th century.
Stone Town in Zanzibar City is itself a stunning cornucopia of whitewashed buildings and winding alleyways at the heart of the city. It’s East Africa’s oldest still-functioning settlement and home to a myriad of traditional markets and historic sites. It’s buzzing 24/7 and is packed with restaurants and entertainment venues. Singer Freddie Mercury (real surname Bulsara) was born here in 1946, and the restaurant named after him pays homage to Queen’s colourful front man.
The beaches that ring the Zanzibar islands on all sides are amongst the finest in the world, and during your trip to Zanzibar you’ll inevitably find yourself stretched out on at least one of them, soaking up the sun. The beaches in the east of the archipelago are the best, and the acknowledged top five are Kendwa, Nungwi, Pongwe, Paje and Matamwe.
Take a boat trip out from Zanzibar City to Prison Island, about 30 minutes away. Slaves were originally detained here before it became a quarantine camp, so its history is pretty grim. However, nowadays the island is given over to giant tortoises and has been turned into a fabulous and internationally important nature reserve.
The most famous, and certainly the most lively and colourful, market in Zanzibar is Darajani Market in Stone Town. This is where you get a real taste for local life, obtain great photo opportunities and get a chance to practice your haggling skills.
Zanzibar is the perfect place for snorkelling and diving, and there are numerous spots around the islands for doing this. Pemba Island is especially popular, and you should board a traditional dhow boat to get there and enjoy the journey for its own sake.
Zanzibar’s long multicultural and multiethnic history is reflected in its fabulous cuisine. The mix includes strong elements of Arab, Bantu, Portuguese, British, Chinese and Indian traditions, such as sorpotel which is boiled meat cooked in a Portuguese-Goan style.
The most typical Zanzibari dessert is Spice Cake, made from pastry with clove, cinnamon, chocolate and nutmeg mixed in. These are a true taste of Zanzibar’s history as the heart of the original Spice Islands.
The best places to pick up all sorts of fabulous items when you’re travelling to Zanzibar for shopping are located in Stone Town. Many of the shops here sell items made in India, Africa and the Far East. Spices, essential oils and jewellery can all be found here too, with gold shops clustered next to the Anglican Cathedral.
Cathedral Street is the best place for antiques, including the old Chinese bowls that used to be used for ballast in the dhows.
Qatar Airways flights to Zanzibar will take you to Zanzibar International Airport.
Flights to Zanzibar with Qatar Airways flights land at Zanzibar International Airport on Unguja Island, 5km to the south of Zanzibar City, the archipelago’s capital. Take an airport taxi from there to your destination.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Zanzibar please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Tanzanian Shilling (TZS)
Voltage: 230 V 50 Hz
Plugs: Type D / G
Language: Swahili / English
International dialing code: +255