Zanzibar at a glance
The word ‘Zanzibar' probably derives from the Persian Zangi-bar (coast of the blacks). Once a separate state with a long trading history within the Arab world; Zanzibar united with Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964, and still enjoys a high degree of autonomy within the union.
Zanzibar is an autonomous region of The United Republic of Tanzania (Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania).
An island off the coast of Tanzania in Eastern Africa.
The island's leading port and largest town is Zanzibar; located on the western coast, it has a fine landlocked harbour. The old town is known as ‘Stone Town'.
The heart of Zanzibar, Stone Town is the only functioning historical city in East Africa and is much the same today as it was 200 years ago. A city within a city, Stone Town is the oldest section of Zanzibar Town, and is made up of winding lanes and unique stone houses, many of which feature magnificent carved doors and overhanging fretwork balconies. Sights include: The Hamami Baths, built in 1870, The Africa House Hotel, once the British Club, the house of notorious slave-trader Tippu-Tip, the slave pit, the National Museum, the old Slave Market, the Church of Christ Cathedral (which stands over the central whipping block of the slave market), the Livingstone House, the Dhow Harbour, the House of Wonders (the former palace of Sultan Barghash built in 1883), the Jamituru Gardens and night food market, the People's Palace and the Arab Fort. Other sights just outside the city include the Persian Baths of Kidichi, the Maruhubi Palace Ruins, the Bububu railway and the Mangapwani Slave Caves.
A low-lying island of coral formation, it has an area of about 1,650 sq km.
Zanzibar enjoys a typical equatorial climate. From December to March the weather is hot and relatively dry. The cooler, dry period from June to October is also pleasant, with temperatures averaging 25 degrees centigrade. Expect heavy rains from March to the end of May and short rains during the month of November. Humidity averages 78 per cent.
The population is predominantly Shirazi, a mixture of Arab and the local population.
Strongly Islamic with small numbers of Christian and indigenous beliefs.
Kiswahili or Swahili (official), English (official, primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), many local languages.
Zanzibar is a conservative, Sunni Muslim society. Its history was influenced by the Arabs, Persians, Indians, Portuguese, British and the African mainland.
Zanzibar, mainly Pemba Island, was once the world's leading clove producer, but during the 1970s clove sales dropped by as much as 80% and now the island produces only 7% of the world's cloves. Zanzibar also exports other spices, seaweed and fine raffia. It also has a large fishing and dugout canoe production. Tourism is a major foreign currency earner.
The islands of Zanzibar are an archipelago. The largest, Zanzibar, is a low lying stretch of land, crab claw shaped and lying 37 kilometres off the coast of Tanzania. Pemba Island is fifty kms north of Zanzibar Island and is the main source of cloves. Mafia Island is 160 kms south of Zanzibar and is the most southerly and smallest of the main Tanzanian islands. There are also a number tiny islands just off the shores of the main island, such as Chunguu Island (Prison Island), Grave Island, Bat Island and Snake Island.
World Heritage Sites
Most of Stone Town is a World Heritage Site; namely, The National Museum of Zanzibar, the Kidichi Persian Baths, the House of Wonders, the Arab Fort, Livingstone's House, Mangapwani Slaves Caves, the Maruhubi Palace, the Old Slave Market and the People's Palace.
The Spice Tour
A visit to the ‘Spice Isle' would be incomplete without taking in the famous ‘Spice Tour. Cloves are the most widely-grown spice as well as nutmeg, lemon grass, black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, all of which can be seen growing in the spice plantations alongside numerous exotic tropical fruits. The organized tour stops to see and smell and taste the tropical fruits and spices, plus offers information on what they may be used for. It usually ends with ginger tea in the afternoon. Visitors can also purchase spices and spice oils at very economic prices.
The Jozani Forest Reserve is the last sanctuary in the world for the rare red colobus monkey, which is endemic to Zanzibar. 35 kms from Stone Town, the 484 acre reserve is located in the central eastern region of Zanzibar island and is also home to other species including Syke's monkey's, bush pigs and nocturnal Zanzibar leopards. Jozani has an excellent nature trail and the guides are well trained and informative.
International Direct Dial is available. The country code for Tanzania is +255. The outgoing international code is 00 for the United States, or 000 for all other countries. Public call boxes in post offices and main towns operate on a card system, available from most small shops. Several cellular phone companies operate in Tanzania and roaming lines work near most major cities and towns. Internet cafes are plentiful in major city centres.
The Tanzania shilling (Tsh or TZS), divided into 100 cents. There is no limit to the importation of foreign currency.
Most hotels offer forex facilities, though sometimes at disadvantageous rates. Forex facilities remain open at the main airports.
Banks and bureau de change are available at airports and in all major towns. Banking hours are from Monday - Friday 8.30 am - 3.00 pm, Saturdays 8.30 am - 1.30 pm. A few branches in the major towns are open until 4.00 pm. Please note that banks are closed on Sundays.
Credit cards and traveller's cheques
Credit cards (Access, MasterCard, Visa, American -Express, and Eurocard) are accepted only at major lodges, hotels, and travel agents. A surcharge may be added for this service. ATM and 24-hour cash machines are available in branches of major banks. Travellers' cheques in pounds sterling or US dollars are recommended, though it may be difficult to exchange them outside the main cities.
Tipping is appreciated. Most hotels and restaurants include a 10% service charge.
GMT +3 all year-round. Zanzibar maintains an almost constant 12 hours of daylight. Sunrise is typically 06.30 and sunset at 18.45.
220-240 volts AC.
Zanzibar's tap water is not safe to drink. Bottled water is readily available.
A valid passport and a visa. For further information contact: www.tanzaniatouristboard.com
A yellow-fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Zanzibar - though not for the rest of Tanzania.
A number of vaccinations are recommended for visitors to Zanzibar (check with your doctor in advance).
Malaria is endemic in tropical Africa and protection against it is necessary.
HIV/AIDS is a serious problem throughout Africa.
Travellers to Zanzibar are recommended to obtain medical insurance prior to arrival.
Although Zanzibar's security is good, reasonable precautions should still be taken, such as locking valuables in the hotel safe and not walking alone at night.
Travelling to Zanzibar
By air: there are regular flights from Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Mombasa into Zanzibar International Airport, which is located approximately 7 km from the centre of Stone Town.
Driving (international driving licence required) in Zanzibar is on the left-hand side and traffic signs are international.
Buses and taxis operate in most towns. Price is open to negotiation and should be decided in advance.
Zanzibar has no winter and lightweight clothing is worn all year-round. It is considered insulting by local tradition to dress scantily or improperly.
Do's and don'ts
It is an offence to: deface a Tanzanian banknote; urinate in public; sunbath topless; hire a prostitute; buy or take drugs; remove wildlife products from Tanzania, export products made from elephant, rhino or sea turtle derivatives, or to remove coral. Swearing and blasphemy are inadvisable. Visitors are requested to stand when the Tanzanian anthem is played, or the national flag raised or lowered. They are also advised that photographing the president without prior permission or any military installation is not permitted.