All About Stone Town
Zanzibar's Stone Town is an excellent example of Swahili coastal merchant towns in East Africa. With a well-preserved townscape, as well as outstanding architecture that reflects its unique civilization, Stone Town is a must-visit when in Zanzibar as it blends aspects of African, Arab, Indian, and European cultures over millennia.
All Rights Reserved | Image by: Moiz Husein
Stone Town is Zanzibar’s historic heart, a perplexing labyrinth of streets and alleyways that form the island’s westernmost tip. The bustling capital now has a population of around a quarter of a million people, however, meandering the narrow streets of Stone Town allows you to step back in time and explore, in awe, the preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Choosing to visit Stone Town means dodging clattering street carts and walking past intricately carved doors, and you explore, you’ll find yourself winding through narrow corridors beneath colourful balconies. Stone Town’s streets are nearly impossible to decipher. Every turn is sharp, but you always seem to be going in circles. Though the Portuguese first settled the area in the 16th century, most of Stone Town’s construction dates back to the 19th—providing a spellbinding mix of Arabic, Persian, Indian, and British architecture—and Victorian accounts of the quarter still have an authentic feel to them today.
Zanzibar not only has a fascinating history, but it is also the hometown of Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury. His birthplace is included in a new documentary about his life, putting Zanzibar on the map for many followers. Another fascinating detail about Zanzibar’s historic centre is that it is named after the buildings and residences constructed of native stone. Arab tradesmen and 19th-century slaves worked on the construction of the structures. Visitors will almost certainly end up on the beach if they get lost, as the town is bordered on three sides by beaches.