Information about Zanzibar, culture, climate, getting there, what to do, attractions in Zanzibar

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Unguja Island and Pemba Island are the two sister islands comprising Zanzibar are located in the Indian Ocean about 35 kilometers off the coast of mainland Tanzania (at longitude 39 degrees East and Latitude 6 degree South of the Equator). The Old Arab Stone Town - is located on the main island of Unguja (1,464 square kilometers); the smaller northern island of Pemba is renowned for its scuba diving and deep sea fishing.


Karibuni - you are invited to Zanzibar, where Swahili culture and architecture meet tropical seas. The famous explorations of the African interior - Dr. Livingstone, Burton, Sprke - were launched from this hub of East African history.


Today, the romance, splendor and legends of Zanzibar vibrantly live. Traditional - old sailing dhows, carved wooden doors and the scent of clove and the smile of hospitable Zanzibaris welcome you to the Island.

Getting to Zanzibar

Access to Zanzibar is by air or sea. Kenya Airways and GulfAir have regular direct service from Europe to Zanzibar.The national carrier Air Tanzania offers flights to South Africa through Dar Es Salaam, as well as schedule domestic and regional routes. You can fly Air France, Alliance Airline, British Airways, KLM, Swiss Air, or Egypt Air to Dar Es Salaam, arriving in Zanzibar by sea or local airlines. Zanzibar connections can also be made through Kilimanjaro, Nairobi, or Mombasa. Air chatter services are available regionally - Air Zanzibar, Coastal Travel, Eagle Aviation, Precision Air, Sky Tours, and ZAN Air. Contact their local agents for current schedules and information.
If you prefer access by sea, a number of modern hydrofoils and catamarans (average sailing time from Dar Es Salaam: 75 minutes) and boats operate on a regular basis. Contact the following companies at their reservation offices at waterfront in Zanzibar and Dar Es Salam: African Shipping Ltd. (Flying Horse), Azam Marine (Condor, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti to Pemba), Sea Express, and Zanzibar Sea Ferries (Sepideh to Pemba and Mombasa).

What to See & Do

The Old Stone Town: Provides living evidence of a rich cultural heritage, where Arab, Indian, Persian, and European influences blended with local African tradition. Historic building with elaborately carved wooden doors, shaded by balconies, loggias and verandahs line the narrow winding streets.
The unspoiled marine environment offers world class scuba diving and deep-sea fishing in famous Pemba and Mnemba channels. Snorkeling, sailboat chart's, visits to historic Prison Island with its giant land tortoises, and dhow races are also popular.

The sandy, palm-fringed beaches of the East Coast, Nungwi, and Vumawimbi (Pemba) are tranquil and picturesque.

Spice Tours are a Zanzibar specialty, offering a look at small farms in the rural areas that grow cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, and other spices, medicinal and ornamental plants, and fruits unique to the islands.


The 19th of July is the start of Zanzibar's Annual Cultural Festival. Started in 1994, the festival originated as an accompaniment to the July - August tourist high season. Drawing cultural troupes from different countries including Germany, India, Comoro, Burundi, Kenya, Mozambique, China and Tanzania mainland. The festival is marked with very strong traditional customs and rich heritage materials of culture. It is decorated with "taarab" music, traditional dances, arts and crafts. It is held in history steeped canter's such as the Old Portuguese Fort and Jamhuri Garden front, as well as incorporating street carnivals, fairs, canoe races and the bull fight from Pemba.


Running parallel to the Cultural Festival is another traditional festival, Mwaka Kogwa or Nairuzi. Held at Makunduchi (Southeast) this is a New Year Celebration held according to an old solar year originating from Persian. Here the ancient rites are enthusiastically and elaborately observed with many symbolic rituals.


Sport tourism is off with a bang in Zanzibar with the 3rd Annual International Triathlon and Marathon events scheduled to take place in early November 1998. Over the past two years, both events have been successful in drawing participants from East Africa, Asia and Europe. Both the Triathlon and the Marathon are Olympic distances and take place in some of Zanzibar's finest locations. Information concerning participation in either of these events can be had from the secretary, Zanzibar International Marathon Committee, P.O Box 1410, Zanzibar, or through Fax: 255 54 233448/230966.


The first Zanzibar International Film Festival comes to the island on the 11- 18th July 1998. Planned as an annual event, the festival is drawing artist from all over African and the Indian Ocean basin and includes competitive and noncompetitive categories. Full and short features from African, India and Arabia-some of them world premieres-will compete for the Golden Dhow and Golden Dafu Awards, while films from all over the world the explore the themes of illusion and reality will compete for the Sheherezade Award. The main festival screenings will be held invarious venues, including the Old Portuguese Fort and the Victoria Gardens, while the festival's panoramas will take films and videos out to the villages. Special women's, children's and environment films, along with workshop will make this event a cultural and educational feast.

Where to Stay

International standard beach resorts can now be added to the choice of historic Stone town hotels, seaside bungalows, island resorts, budget guesthouses and villas available.

Facilities and prices vary from luxurious, self-contained, air conditioned rooms costing over $100 US per night, to simple, local-style guesthouses with shares bath ($10 US per person). A brochure available from the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism lists the accommodations options. Note that tourists must pay their hotel bills in foreign currency. A 15% hotel levy is charged; be sure to ask if it is included in the price quoted.

Where to Eat

The cultural mix is reflected in Zanzibar's restaurants. Sea food is of course a local specialty, or you can sample traditional foods such as pilau and biryani (spiced rice dishes), curries, and sambusaa (meat or vegetable pastries). Ethnic offerings on the menu include Italian, Indian, Goan, French, and continental cuisine.


Many locally produced arts and crafts are good value:
Woodcarvers are famous for doors and Zanzibar chests Embroidered kofia, the traditional Muslim head covering. Colorful printed kanga cloth and kikoi worn as a skirt. Coconut shell hand carved into pots, jewelry and mobiles. Zanzibar spice baskets will remind you of this spice island back home in your kitchen. Women's henna painting on hands/feet is wearable art.

Currency & Exchange Rates

Since Visitors have to pay hotel bills, air and boat transport, and harbor/airport taxes in foreign currency, it is advisable to bring a combination of cash (which has a better rate of exchange)and traveler's cheques. Credit cards are not widely accepted, and at this time it is not possible to get cash advances from credit cards. Money can be exchanged at the numerous bureau de change or banks. The Tanzanian shilling is the unit of currency. Rates fluctuate on the open market

Entry Requirements

All visitors require a valid passport. Visas are required for most passport and can be obtained at your nearest Tanzania Embassy/Diplomatic Mission. Under new procedure visas may now be acquired upon entry into Tanzania and Zanzibar, but confirm this, before your departure to avoid inconveniences.


All personal effects are permitted into the country without duty. Drugs are prohibited. Firearms must be declared.

Language & Religion

Kiswahili (Swahili) is the national language. English and Arabic are widely spoken. While over 90 percent of the population practice Islam, there are Christian, Hindu and other religious minorities. You are welcome to attend Anglican and Catholic services in Stone Town on Sunday.


Casual, light, non-transparent clothing reaching to the knees and covering the upper arms is recommended.


The International Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required from visitors coming from infected areas, or who broke their journeys in those areas for at least a day. Anti-malaria tablets and preventive measures are strongly recommended

Business Hour

Retail shops open around 8.30am, and generally close by 1 or 2 pm in the afternoon, with many reopening around 4pm in the evening. Office hours are 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday-Friday. On Friday there is a short break (12.00 to 2pm) for prayers.