Zanzibar’s history stretches back to when the first dhows from Arabia and India discovered its natural harbor. Using the island as a stopover point for caravans that journeyed deep into the African interior, permanent settlement soon created the beginnings of what became Stone Town. Merchants from Oman, Gujarat and around the Indian Ocean moved their families from across the ocean to start a life in Zanzibar, some amassing great fortune and building the high stone houses so indicative of Stone Town today.
Although Swahili civilization in the area of Kiliwa Kisiwani further south peaked in the 14th century, Zanzibar’s prosperity came much later with the arrival of the Omani sultans in the 18h century. Living and ruling from Stone Town, the sultans presided over the slave and ivory trade, planting vast spice plantations that survive to this day.
Remnants of the hey-day of Swahili civilization in Zanzibar still remain, vestiges of a vanished past that people still look to with a sense of heritage and pride. In Stone Town, the House of Wonders greets visitors arriving by sea, a grand building once used by the sultan for his administrative duties. His town palace stands adjacent to it, the walk ways that connected the two buildings still in dilapidated existence. Nearby, the Portuguese Fort recalls the brief occupation of the island by foreign rule, while the nearby Anglican Cathedral built over the site of the old slave market soothes the wounds of a sobering past. Today, Stone Town is as much of an attraction for visitors as Zanzibar’s beaches, world renowned for their idyllic seascapes and island charm. Guests have their pick of beaches famed for their tropical climate and soothing crystal clear waters. Swahili fishing villages, snorkeling , diving, or just beach combing offer perfect choices of relaxing itineraries.
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