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Zanzibar the Spice Island

If you’re a frequent visitor to Zanzibar, then you’re familiar with a subtle aroma that hits you the moment you land at the airport or port. Arab traders in the nineteenth century were already familiar with the precious spices and before them the Portuguese, English, and Turks. The most sought-after was clove and pepper. Not only for the way they tasted but also the properties and intense aroma which made them natural preservatives for meat long before refrigerators were invented.

And if you think cloves and pepper are the only spices available in the island, then you’re not alone. You’ve probably heard about the Myristica. This is a mind-blowing tree whose fruit provides not one but two spices, Nutmeg and Mace. Both grant you an unmistakable and fabulous flavour that leaves your taste buds craving for more. And while you think you’ve heard the last of them, wait a minute! You may want to throw into the cart the queen of spices: Cinnamon! This is a fantastic digestive which has been credited with providing good health with anti-inflammatory properties. All these form the commercial allure of Zanzibar and more than anything else are known to have helped to place the island on the world map.

Food and culture tour

While on a casual stroll on the streets of Stone Town, you get a chance to breathe in the smells and scents of the various spices as you experience the Swahili food and culture tour.

If you venture deep into the hinterlands, you may encounter a spice farm deep in the countryside and have a chance to learn about the islands’ unique role in the historic spice trade. You can also sample fresh spices and seasoned fruits while you learn how cassavas are cultivated on the island. You can also grab the chance to join in a short cooking class on the farm’s outdoor kitchens. If you love richly spiced rice, here is an opportunity to sample the most authentic Swahili recipes. This spice tour will guarantee you the following:

  • A chance to experience how cloves and other spices are farmed locally
  • Learn about the islands’ relationship with spices
  • Learn about African farming methods and practice it yourself
  • Learn to make a Zanzibar traditional sauce using available spices.

While in Zanzibar, take time to do a bit of research on spice tours and even grab the opportunities granted by the tour guides. This is the only chance you get to interact with local farmers, experience how they live and also sample some of the traditional dishes. The spice farm itself can be very educational and give you a great walk through nature. All tours will end with a conventional Swahili luncheon which is considered a special treat.

Here are the eight spices that are grown in Zanzibar and their health benefits:

Black pepper

Black pepper is so popular because of its digestive properties. It has also been shown to have antibiotic and antioxidant effects not to mention its great flavour.


Cinnamon is known to lower blood pressure. Taking ¼ or a ½ teaspoonful of cinnamon provides the body with antioxidant properties.


The active ingredient in turmeric, Curcumin, contains antioxidants, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.


Paprika’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects have been known to prevent cancer.


Saffron is the most expensive spice gown in Zanzibar. It comes with a long list of health benefits ranging from a cure to depression to beautifying your skin.


Cumin has a strong smell and flavour. It adds flavour to food and speeds absorption of digested food. It also has antibacterial qualities


Cardamom is known in some Indian cultures as a natural remedy for ulcers, depression and digestive disorders. Eating cardamom helps detoxify your kidneys, cure hiccups and fight cold and flu.


Ever favourite ginger adds a spicy but sweet kick to many drinks and dishes. It works wonders on an upset stomach and aids in indigestion.

For more details read our article Best Of Zanzibar – Flightlink’s Special.

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