Didem Doğan

Walking in Stonetown, Zanzibar

Mosques, churches, Hindu temples, all at the same place within walking distance from one another. Where do you see such a place? The old town of Zanzibar, Stone town, a Unesco heritage site, is an extraordinary place. The labyrinth streets of the old town with temples, shops, hotels, spice and coffee houses, markets, is so lively, colourful and interesting that even if you may have walked it for a week you may still find a surprise at one corner of this fascinating city.

It is best to get lost in Stonetown, but here are some reference points; the oldest part of the city is close to the sea where the House of Wonders and the fort is located. The Old Fort, or the Arap fort was built by Arabs coming from Oman in the beginning of eighteenth century in order to protect themselves from the Portuguese. It was later used as a prison, today serves as a cultural center. Close to it you will find the big four storey building, the palace built by Sultan Barghash, Beit-el-Ajaib, the House of Wonders. He also built some Persian baths which can also be visited.

The Cathedral of St. Joseph and next to it right at the corner a shop which looks like an antique shop , Curio shop, even I do not buy anything it’s so charming that I go inside and have a look at the wooden carved objects. Passing the Cultural Arts Centre I reach Zanzibar Coffee House, a boutique hotel with a cafe at the entrance and I climb to its terrace; a pleasant café with sofas and view of the old town is really nice. The rooms of the hotel are named after coffee names, you find coffee machines at the corridors. Another charming hotel is the Emerson Spice house, close to Zanzibar Coffee House. Behind it is the local market selling vegetables, food, and most important spices. Smell them and take a package back home. I walk back and this time enter a Hindu temple on Gizenga road; then I head back to the house where Freddy Mercury was born on Kenyatta Street, tourists are taking in front of his pictures… Stone Town is also wonderful for shopping, baskets, mops, dresses, anything you look for and all are very colourful. I do fall in love with Stone town and leave Zanzibar hoping to come back.

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