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Stone Town - Serena Inn

About Zanzibar and Stone Town

The Zanzibar Archipelago, a collection of a just few exotic islands, is famous for it's mile upon mile of beautiful beaches, great climate and a laid back pace of life, not to mention the unique culture and remarkable swahili architecture.

Zanzibar consists of the main island, also known as Unguja, and other smaller islands such as Pemba and Mnemba.

The "capital" of Zanzibar Island is Stone Town, really the only town on the islands and a charming place to visit.

History of Zanzibar

Zanzibar was probably first inhabited roughly 2000 years ago, by the Bantu peoples who crossed over to the islands from the mainland [Tanzania]. The islands have a colourful history as it was a strategic trading location and visited over the centuries by the Persians, Arabs, Indians and the Europeans, specifically the Portuguese and the British. The first of these merchants, the Persians, are thought to have visited the islands around the 10th century. Between the 12 to 16th centuries, Zanzibar became a city state and it's rising importance led to a Portuguese presence by the 16th century. After a short duration of Portuguese control, the British assumed control followed by the Omani arabs, who maintained their authority over the islands well into the 19th century. Apart from being a trading hub,the islands were also a major slave trade market, with the trade finally being stopped around the year 1873. Omani rule gradually came to an end and in 1964 the islands became a part of the United Repoublic of Tanganyika [Tanzania].

Zanzibar Climate

Generally the climate is moderate tropical and warm all year round with a minimal temperature variation of 24 to aprox 30 degrees C year round- there are two distinct rainy seasons, between March - May and October - December. Rainfall is rarely long in duration and more often than not lasts a few hours to be followed by clearer weather.

Getting There and Visas

One must have a valid Tanzania entry visa to visit the Zanzibar Archipelago. A 30 day visa is the usual duration given for a tourist. As for getting to Zanzibar, regular international flights land in nearby Dar es Salaam, from where you can easily get a short connecting flight to Zanzibar. There are also regular flights from Arusha and Nairobi, Kenya. Nairobi is the regional flight hub with many international airlines flying there.

Beaches and Activities
There are many beautiful beaches in Zanzibar - the notable beach locations include Nungwi and Kendwa [ northen tip of Unguja], Matemwe [ mid south east], Kiwengwa [ eastern coast], Paje and Uroa.
As for activities, the islands are known for their pristeen marine parks so diving and snorkelling are rewarding, as is fishing, provided by specialist operators. One can also enjoy taking cultural / sight seeing tours of the island and stone town, known as "spice tours" because of visits to the island's many clove and spice plantations. Dolphin tours are also offered in Kizimkazi, allowing visitors to see and come close to these intelligent and graceful creatures.

Stone Town

Stone Town is the fascinating capital of Unguja Island, Zanzibar. With a historic past and strong swahili - influenced architecture, this small town is a must see for visitors. The town has an almost ancient feel about it, with it's narrow winding streets, completely laid back lifestyle and it's fusion of "sights and smells" that are unique to East African sea side towns. Below are details on some interesting sights in Stone Town.
Monument Zanzibar - Serena
Old Fort
Built around 1700 by Omani Arabs, this massive structure was a defence against the invading Portuguese seafarers. It is now used as a centre of cultural performances and as film studios.
Home Of Wonders ( Beit el - Ajaib )
Known as the Beit el-Ajaib, and built around 1883, this is one of the most prominent buildings in Zanzibar and East Africa, and one of the first to have electricity. At one time used as a palace for the local sultan, it has seen several different occupants.
Palace Museum ( Beit el-Sahal)
This was a palace, which was the residence of the Sultan until 1964, at which point the degarity was overthrown. It is currently a museum showing the era of the rule of Sultans in Zanzibar.
Anglican Cathedral and Old Stone Market
The Cathedral, constructed in the 1870's by a mission, was the first in East Africa. The Cathedral was built on the site of a stone market, although one cannot see any signs of this market.
Livingstone House
Built around 1860, north of the town, this was a base for many European missionaries and explorers as they attempted journeys into the mainland. David Livingstone, missionary and famous explorer, stayed here before till final expedition. Currently homes the Zanzibar Tourist Corporation.
Scattered all around the town, and all impressive and with a rich history, the oldest is the Msikiti wa Balnara ( Malindi Mosque), built in 1831. Entry is prohibited and exceptions made only if visitors are appropriately dressed
Hahamni Persian Baths
The first public bath in Zanzibar was built by Sultan Barghash in the late 1890's. No longer in use, but still open for public viewing at a small entry cost.
Spice Tours
Spices used to be one of the mainstays of the Zanzibar economy. Although less significant nowadays, Spice Tours are interesting and enjoyable as they visit several places on the island used as spice plantations.
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