Stone Town’s Charm Zanzibar
Zanzibar and Lamu tend to be mentioned in the same breath. Traditional Swahili islands, off the East African coast, that have managed to retain their strong heritage and culture while the rest of the region grapples with its identity and place in the world. While many of the historical sites in Lamu and along the Kenyan cost have been allowed to degrade and rot, Zanzibar has managed to maintain many of its historical sites, and continues to regenerate and invest in those sites. This is thanks in large part to the Government of Zanzibar, Sheiks from the Middle-East (for whom Zanzibar was once their playground and capital city for Oman) who inject money into the maintenance and restoration of the sites, and pressure from tourism stakeholders to ensure Zanzibar remains a tourist attraction.
Zanzibar is an island of two tales that complement each other incredibly well. There is the cultural heritage that Zanzibar displays to world proudly – Stone Town, at the centre of this heritage, lives on and thrives to this day. On the other hand there is the traditional island culture, with vast white sandy beaches, beautiful beach hotels and lodges, local fisheries and the laid back Zanzibar lifestyle. Visiting Zanzibar means immersing yourself fully into everything the island has to offer.
The Zanzibar coastline is an assortment of white sandy beaches framed by outcrops of jagged coral rocks and ledges. Your visit to the island usually starts or ends at one of the stunning beach hotels. Given the hustle and bustle of Stone Town, I would recommend ending with a relaxing stay on the beach, though the island is small enough to alternate between the beach and Stone Town. There are all of the standard beach activities on offer at the various hotels, however, it is the marine life indigenous to Zanzibar that is a unique attraction in itself. Mnemba Island, bustling with marine life, is often referred to as a tropical marine aquarium. Changuu Island is a haven for divers (as is most of the Zanzibar coastline with its marine life and dive features such as sunken ship wrecks). Nungwi, in the north of the island, is equally alive and beautiful.
Stone Town is situated towards the South of Zanzibar and is home to many of the cultural attractions that Zanzibar is famous for: The House of Wonders; The Slave Museum; The Old Fort; The Sultan’s Palace…to name a few. Stone Town’s history also means that there is no shortage of unique, rustic but incredibly luxurious accommodation, housed in beautifully restored and well maintained traditional Swahili styled houses.
Jafferji House is one of the better-known boutique hotels in Stone Town. It is a traditional Swahili styled house that was home to the Jafferji family until the late 1990s, when the family decided to convert the house into the hotel that it is today. Like many of the Swahili houses in Stone Town, Jafferji House is 5 storys high and has the traditional layout of an open-air courtyard at the centre of the house, with the rooms facing outwards towards Stone Town and the Ocean.
The Jafferji Suite is towards the top of the house and has been stunningly fitted and furnished. The finishing of the suite, with a rooftop open-air shower, traditional in-suite lounge areas, and spectacular views across the ocean and over Stone Town will mean you never want to leave. It is a very relaxing, big, homey, comfortable space that lures you in and you won’t want it to let it go. The Jafferji House restaurant on the rooftop prepares some of the best Swahili and seafood dishes in Stone Town and is highly recommended. Its views are breath-taking, especially if you get the chance to be up there to watch the sunset, and see Stone Town’s night market come to life below you.
I had never been to Zanzibar before this visit. I had heard a lot of great things about the Swahili Island and everything on my visit exceeded my expectations and blew them out of the water. Just a short flight from Nairobi, I cannot recommend visiting Zanzibar highly enough to anyone.
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