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Zanzibar Island ("Unguja")

Zanzibar is located about 35 kilometers off the coast of Tanzania. It comprises the 1,464 square kilometer main island of Unguja (also known as Zanzibar); the island of Pemba (868 - square kilometers), which is located about 50 kilometers north of Unguja and famed for its deep-sea fishing and scuba-diving; and a number of smaller islands. Set as a jewel in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar has evoked the magic of "A Thousand and One Nights" for over two centuries. This exotic spice island combines mesmerizing beauty with the outstanding hospitality of its colorful people. The generally laid-back pace of this island has ensured that its rich tradition of spice trading is still evident, as is the historical structures, ancient ruins and crumbled palaces of past Sultans. Kiswahili is the main language and more than 90 percent of the population is Muslim. Visitors are advised to dress modestly in public places.

Zanzibar is warm almost all the year round with heavy rains from March to May and lesser rains during October and November. February is the hottest month with a maximum average temperature of 29 degrees Celsius, while in August the temperature falls to 21 degrees Celsius.

The city of Zanzibar consists of two distinct areas - Stone Town and Ngambo. In Stone Town shadows play with shafts of sunlight. Here and there, one will catch a glimpse of ornate latticework on a balcony or admire the intricacy of a carved door in sun warmed wood. A narrow staircase winds its way into a cool interior, children's voices echo in a hidden courtyard, old men chat next to the colored, crumbling stone walls and tantalizing scents of spices wreathe doorways and dark corners. A walk through the narrow, twisting streets of stone town plunges you into the past. The houses are over 150 years old and are constructed from the island's coral stone. Built by Arab and Indian merchants, in the 19th century, this is the only functioning historical city in East Africa.

A spice tour is a specialty of Zanzibar and involves a walk in the western and central regions of the island through plantations, private gardens and forests. There are more than 50 different spices and fruit - cinnamon, pepper, ginger, tamarind, coffee, ylang-ylang, coco, and sugarcane. Coconuts are another main produce of the archipelago. Hotel accommodations span the range of exclusive private island resort to comfortable small guest houses.

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