With it’s gorgeous beaches, delicious food, cultural sights, affordability and an historic Stone Town, Zanizabr has a lot to offer.
It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, about 16-31 miles off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar), and Pemba.
Stone Town, the capital, which was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most unique cities in the world with it’s blend of Moorish, Middle Eastern, Indian, and African traditions and architectures.
Though Zanzibar is technically a part of Tanzania, it operates as a semi-autonomous nation with its own government, known as the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar. It is made up of the Revolutionary Council and House of Representatives.
The population of Zanzibar is estimated to be around 1 million inhabitants with the largest settlement being Zanzibar Town with about 150,000 inhabitants. Outside of Zanzibar Town, most people live in small villages and are engaged in farming or fishing.
Some random facts about Zanzibar
– Zanzibar means ‘coast of the blacks’, and comes from the Persian word Zangibar – ‘zangi’ meaning black-skinned and ‘bar’ meaning coast
– Zanzibar’s main industries are spices, raffia, and tourism. It is still sometimes referred to as the Spice Islands because of the significance of its production of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper
– Zanzibar has some of the most amazing local beaches
– The main language spoken is Swahili, though English and Arabic are widely spoken. Due to tourism, one may also find other European languages such as French and Italian being spoken by some local people, especially around the tourist areas. Learning a few Swahili words whilst in Zanzibar will prove helpful in getting acclimated in Zanzibar
– In fact, Zanzibar is one of the world’s oldest functioning city where Swahili is spoken
– Zanzibar experiences tropical weather almost all year, with the exception of April and May, which are seasonally subject to long rains
– About 95% of the local population is made up of conservative sunni Muslims. The remainder are Hindu or Christian and some follow traditional beliefs
– The currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). 1 USD is approx. 1600 TZS and that would get you quite far. For example, fresh fruit in the market may only cost you around 250 TZS per fruit
– One of the most famous events to occur in Zanzibar is the Zanzibar International Film Festival, which is thought to be one of the largest cultural event in East Africa. The film festival has a major impact on Zanzibar’s economy
– There are no large wild animals in Zanzibar; instead monkeys and small antelopes inhabit forested areas.
Want to go?
This will probably be your largest expenditure in visiting Zanzibar. To get to Zanzibar, you will have to go through Dar es Salaam. There are several flights from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. The main airport is the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport or simply ZNZ (IATA code) located on Unguja Island. If you are located in the United States, getting to Zanzibar won’t be cheap or easy; a flight from NYC will run you close to $1800 and could take up to 30 hours (with stops in Cairo and Nairobi). There are no direct flights from the US to Zanzibar.
For Americans and Canadians, a valid passport and visa are required for travel to Tanzania. United States and Canadian citizens with valid passports may obtain a visa either before arriving in Tanzania or at any port of entry staffed by immigration officials. The U.S. Embassy highly recommends that U.S. citizens obtain their visas before arriving in Tanzania to avoid potentially long delays at entry points. The current fee for a visa is $100 for a 12-month multiple-entry tourist visa.
There are several hotel choices ranging in price from $47/night for bungalow rentals to well over $600 for high-end 5-star accommodations. The average hotel rate is $200/night for a standard room.
Diamonds La Gemma Dell’Est is one of the luxury hotel options on the island with standard rooms ranging from $250 to $350/night.
Kwaheri (goodbye in Swahili)! And happy travels
Disclaimer: Since I have not yet visited Zanzibar at the time of this posting, this post was written through my research and textbook knowledge only and not from in person experiences. This post is for informational purposes only. Please note, experiences may vary.