As we expected, the hustle and bustle was a far cry from tranquility of Paje, but so, so interesting.
It is also a far cry from the Stone Town I visited 20 years ago.
Most of the narrow streets are now paved. Many more shops have opened, a lot selling mementos of Zanzibar, especially wood carvings, the unique Zanzibar chests, and “tinga tinga” art. A much wider range of restaurants have opened serving international as well as local dishes. So many more houses have been restored, many of them being transformed in to boutique hotels.
Stone Town, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the restoration of houses and transformation in to hotels are strictly controlled so as to retain the original appearance. But as in many places around the world, money can get you around rules and regulations, as witnessed by the development of an internationally branded chain hotel on the seafront.
Our hotel, Mizingani Seafront Hotel, has been converted from the original Custom’s House, my grand father’s office during his time as Commissioner of Customs during the 1950’s. The restoration has been done really tastefully. Our Family Room on the top floor was the size of a tennis court, with views to die for.
Alawi from Grand Travel International (Zanzibar Travel agent on the island) went out of his way to make the 3 hour town tour interesting for the boys. They learned so much about the history and culture of Zanzibar, the slave trade, the centre for exporting (often poached) ivory, the island’s heyday as the worlds leading exporter of cloves and other spices, the history and origins of Zanzibar doors, etc.
During the tour there was the inevitable retail stop!
Meals most nights were at The Spice Route, and we have to agree with Zanzibar Travel’s advice that the curries are as good as one gets anywhere. Lance was in to the spiciest dishes available, though they were not chilli hot – and the restaurant coped with Milan’s need for non spicy food.
Antonio, Meredith, Lance & Milan from Madrid.