A window into the past

Hotel Lobby, Zanzibar Serena Hotel, Stone Town

In spite of her ongoing political challenges, Zanzibar’s tourism industry appears to be growing rapidly. A runway expansion, the ongoing construction of a new airport terminal building, foreign investment in commercial property and a modern housing project in Fumba Town, Zanzibar’s Free Economic Zone all point to this fact.

However, it was the legendary Bob Marley who sang the words, “In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” Therefore, before exploring Stone Town, we sought to understand Zanzibar’s many influences. History records the first settlers on the islands to be Bantu speaking tribes. In the 15th century, the Portuguese established a military presence on the island, beginning the first of many foreign influences.

Zanzi Resort Dhow, Zanzibar

In the centuries that followed, Zanzibar acted out its own version of Game of Thrones. The Portuguese were ousted by the Omani Arabs who went on to have the most significant influence on the island’s trade, culture, language, cuisine, architecture and religion.

Old Arab Fort, Stone Town, Zanzibar

It was during the reign of Sultan Sayyid Said that Omani and Indian merchants came to settle on the islands. With a booming economy in spices supported by an unchallenged industry in slaves, much of present day Stone Town was built during that era. Eventually, the British arrived on the scene and abolished slavery before granting Zanzibar independence in 1963.

Armed with this background, we began our exploration of Stone Town.

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