Zanzibar is a mystical island with long stretches of pristine, white sand beaches, numerous water sports activities that give you an adrenaline rush, and some of the most interesting historic and cultural sites! The Stone Town of Zanzibar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains some of the most important historic and cultural sites in Zanzibar.
Here are the best 5 historic and cultural places to visit on your Zanzibar Trip:
The House of Wonders was built toward the end of the 19th century by the second Sultan of Zanzibar. It was built to accommodate receptions and events. It is so-called because it was the first building in East Africa to ever have an elevator! Moreover, it was also the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity! The House of Wonders is in the heart of Stone Town, facing the famous Forodhani Gardens where there’s a food market every day from evening onward.
The building itself is pretty huge and impressive. The shortest recorded war in history that took place (38-45 mins) involved the House of Wonders!
The courtyard of the house contains a huge 56-foot ship that was used in the past. It also contains cannons, old cultural garments, wooden doors with carved inscriptions and other artifacts.
The Museum of History and Culture is also inside the building!
The Anglican Cathedral is built on the location of the Old Slave Market. Some of the original rooms where slaves were kept are still preserved. Make sure you go with a guide who will tell you all about the history of the slave trade! Sculptures have also been made as a tribute to the slaves who suffered immense torture.
A memorial museum that shows the history of the slave trade has also been set up just near the Cathedral.
The history of the slave trade is indeed sad. Zanzibar island was a hub for slave trading because of its important position in the Indian Ocean. Many slaves were forced onto tiny boats and a lot of them didn’t even make it to the island.
The Anglican Church was built on the site by a British bishop of Zanzibar after the slave trade was abolished.
The former Slave Trade market and the Anglican Cathedral are definitely worth visiting.
The Old Fort of Zanzibar is the oldest building in Stone Town. It was built in the 17th century by the Omani Arabs and has served many different purposes over the years. It was initially built as a garrison and prison. Later on, it was converted to a railway terminal and then a ladies’ club. Toward the end of the 20th century, an amphitheater was constructed in the Fort.
Today, the Old Fort is a major tourist attraction and it has a great location, just close to the House of Wonders, facing the Forodhani Gardens.
The courtyard of the Fort is now filled with stalls that sell traditional East African arts and crafts, including the Tinga-Tinga paintings. The amphitheater also hosts traditional shows and events. The Sauti za Busara festival takes place at the Old Fort every year. It’s a festival that consists of carnival parades, African music performances, art exhibitions, fashion shows, and many other interesting activities.
Prison Island, also called Changuu Island, is an island that was used as a prison for defiant slaves in the 19th century. Later, it was transformed into a quarantine center for sick patients. The island retains its name from its use as a prison!
Today, the island is home to giant sea tortoises, some of which are even older than 100 years old! It’s just a 30-minutes’ ferry ride away from Stone Town. The average weight of the tortoises is around 440 years.
There are also excellent snorkeling spots around the island! You can go snorkeling alone or with a group. If you’re traveling alone, you don’t need to worry because Tanzania is the perfect safari destination for solo travelers. Here’s why!
Zanzibar is also known as “Spice Island” owing to its historical significance in the trade of spices. An important part of the culture of Zanzibar lies in the spice trade of Zanzibar.
The island was a trading hotspot owing to its prime location on the Indian Ocean. Over the centuries, many different cultures ruled the island, and each brought its own share of spices to the island. Trade flourished between the 12th to 15th centuries and then again in the 17th century, bringing in spices from all around the world that were eventually grown in Zanzibar too!
A spice tour on a local farm will not only take you through the historical aspect of the spice trade, but also the cultural aspect where you get to interact with the locals and learn more about their culture and traditions!
You can also purchase the spices to take back home!
So, what are you waiting for? Head over to Zanzibar and have a great time at the best 5 historic and cultural places!