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Resting just off the coast of Tanzania, the archipelago of Zanzibar is a vibrant locale blessed with a heady mix of Arabian, African and Indian influences upon its culture, architecture and dining. Surrounded by a stunning coastline, filled with pure white beaches, the teal tranquility of its seas and towering palm trees, these unique islands and atolls are also home to quaint townships unlike any other, making it an essential spot for an island getaway.
Zanzibar has a rich blend of architecture in its exciting townships. Strolling amongst the sun-drenched streets you can discover classical stone buildings modeled on the grandiose cities of Europe, bazaars and narrow streets that mirror those on the African and Asian continents and Arabian houses with cavernous courtyards. Married with the Archipelago's inherent natural beauty and legacy as a verdant center for agriculture, there is plenty to explore:
Zanzibar's first and only national park offers an excellent nature trail amongst truly magnificent surroundings. The forest lies in a shallow valley within the fossil coral bed between the bays of Chwaka and Uzi. A haven for rare and endangered species, experienced guides will give you a grand tour of this idyllic wooded paradise. It's an unmissable opportunity to observe fantastic animals such as the Red Colobus Monkey, which is native only to the main island of Zanzibar, and over 200 species of multi-hued butterflies.
Beit el-Ajaib (House of Wonders)
Built in 1883 and then rebuilt after a naval bombardment in 1886, the Beit el-Ajaib has been home to Sultans and ruling parties for centuries. Not only one of the largest structures on the islands, the palace has been home to the Zanzibar Museum of History and Culture since the early century. Towering over the other buildings in Stone Town, the palaces exterior is a breathtaking marvel - creamy white pillars connect a grid of balconies and parapets which overlook Stone Town. Inside the intriguing museum are exhibits presenting relics of early, primitive Swahili settlements, the history of 19th century Zanzibar and as a rare centerpiece, a full-sized preserved Swahili fishing boat, or Mtepe.
Just south of the House of Wonders lies the Old Fort, the oldest building within Stone Town. Formerly used as a fortress, a prison and a rail construction yard, at present, it doubles as both an historical marvel and a modern amphitheatre. As such, not only is it an incredible well preserved staple of Zanzibar’s storied history, but hosts open air concerts throughout the year. The interior has been renovated to include the Zanzibar Culture Centre, as well as being home to the Zanzibar International Film Festival, making it an invaluable visit for history-lovers and cultural delvers alike.
Although there are markets and bazaars all over the island, Stone Town has a wealth of shopping experiences that will satisfy the most discerning travellers. Tharia Street, situated just behind an old cathedral, has a fine selection of specialist gold and silver jewelers, not to mention beadwork and silks from across the island. Luxury boutiques along Gizenga and Kenyatta Street sell artifacts and clothing designed by Tanzanian and Kenyan companies that you will have no chance of finding anywhere else.
A relaxed atmosphere and the sumptuous landscape of the island make fine dining a must. Amongst the fantastic range of eateries on the island, there are some stand-out spots to enjoy a lavish dinner. Rain tree restaurant offers an elegant dining experience, complete with fresh seafood grills, exotic wines, and a view of the neighbouring plush gardens to die for. Other highlights include the impeccably decorated Monsoon restaurant, where diners can enjoy the island’s finest food on traditional floor cushions and the Forodhani Night Market, where the scintillating smell of local foodstuffs fill the air as sellers grill in the their hundreds.
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