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.