To visit Zanzibar is to be immersed in its smorgasbord of cultures, and perhaps to leave your own mark too. It’s hard to pinpoint all the different cultural influences here, because they have become intimately entwined with one another over time. You will see fortress buildings which strongly resemble those in Oman, hear words of Portuguese being spoken, and smell Indian spices cooking. The rhythm of the music on the street might as easily come from Iran as from Tanzania, such is the cultural diversity of this place.
UNESCO listed Stone Town - a World Heritage Site since 2000 - is the cultural heart of Zanzibar, and a fascinating place to explore, either with a local guide or wandering through the labyrinthine streets alone. Along the waterfront you can see St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the Sultan’s Palace, and the House of Wonders (which houses the Museum of History), as well as the Forodhani Gardens. The Old Dispensary - famed for its beautiful stained glass - has been sensitively restored, and the Palace Museum exhibits the possessions of the Zanzibari Royal Family. The Slavery Memorial is a poignant reminder of a darker side of the island’s history, and the reasons why so many different people came to be here.
Aspects of culture pervade the island, so no matter where you are in Zanzibar there will always be something new to experience and learn. Foodies should pay a visit to one of Zanzibar’s spice plantations, followed perhaps by a tasting or cookery demonstration. You can watch a Bamba ceremony in the Ngonga Cave, witnessing an ancient and authentic expression of indigenous identity. With a guide you can visit leather and textile workshops, meet artisans, or shop for colourful, handmade souvenirs in the bazaars. Music lovers might recall that Freddie Mercury was born and raised in Zanzibar; you can wander the streets of Shangani, where he spent his childhood, and even visit his family home!