One may be deceived by the vibrancy; the excited visitors, the overwhelming hospitality of Zanzibaris and the holiday buzz on the spice island. As one enters Stone Town, it’s a moment of nostalgia, a city that will take you back to time, hundred years back. For whatever you experience here, is a reflection of a strong past, rich, complex and extremely captivating. Karibuni Stone Town, a place to explore the depths of history framed in present and the rarest of vintage cities claimed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I chose to walk down to my hotel from the harbor, soak in the warm sun and look around. An entire city made in coral stone, unpainted walls of popular landmarks and an unchanging architecture for new establishments. I could only imagine the great influence of four strong ethnicity; Swahili, Indian, Arab and European reflected in the buildings, most dating back to the 18th and 19th century.
While lost admiring the simplicity and the uniqueness of Stone Town, I found myself smiling. It seems like a customary tradition but more than that a heartfelt desire of every Zanzibari to make you feel at home. The glimmering eyes of a 10 year old girl in hijab, a babu sitting on the baraza or a tour guide at the historical site all have it naturally to wish the guests with warmth and love.
A maze of narrow alleys with several curio shops, boutique hotels in aromatic spice scents, bicycles meandering and solemn prayers from the mosques are some unique experiences in Stone Town. It is also astonishing to galore at most buildings that retain the classic architecture including new establishments; wooden stairs, mosaic glasses, traditional windows and the most attractive of all, long carved wooden doors studded with brass or metal uniformly seen across all entrances.
I could only comprehend the title bestowed to Stone Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as I walked through the stretch of the harbor front right to Forodhani. The historical influence of the Sultan, Colonial rule and rich traditions persists till date well reflected in the monuments lined on the main road. The Old Fort built in stone where international film and music festivals are held, The House of Wonder built by Sultan Burghash of Oman, The religious buildings; The Anglican and Catholic Churches, Malindi Mosque and Arya Samaj Temple, Jamat Khana and the Slave Market; landmarks that show the prominence of historical, cultural and architectural influences prevalent and intact till date.
Spice Island is most famous for its beaches and luxury resorts. As an explorer, Stone Town is a place for a unique stopover, an explorers paradise to celebrate a rich and infamous history of Zanzibar echoing in the architect, people and culture of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.