The Stone Town of Zanzibar is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture, which has brought together and homogenized disparate elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region, India, and Europe over more than a millennium.
The Stone Town of Zanzibar was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in the year 2000. This was done in recognition of its Outstanding Universal Value arising from its cultural diversity and harmony; its historic part in the Indian Ocean maritime trading activity over many centuries as expressed through architecture and urban structure; and its symbolic role in the suppression of slavery.
The inscription of the site was based on the following criteria of inscription under the World Heritage Convention of 1972, managed by UNESCO:-
Criterion (ii): The Stone Town of Zanzibar is an outstanding material manifestation of cultural fusion and harmonization.
Criterion (iii): For many centuries there was intense seaborne trading activity between Asia and Africa, and this is illustrated in an exceptional manner by the architecture and urban structure of the Stone Town.
Criterion (vi): Zanzibar has great symbolic importance in the suppression of slavery, since it was one of the main slave-trading ports in East Africa and also the base from which its opponents, such as David Livingstone, conducted their campaign.
We are responsible for controlling and managing conservation activities in Stone Town World Heritage Site (WHS). Among the major roles we undertake are:
Zanzibar’s Stone Town is an iconic, historical, artistic, and cosmopolitan part of the Zanzibar city metropolis in East Africa. It is now one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, named after its elaborate architecture of houses made of coral stones dating back to the 18th century. The Stone Town architecture reflects diverse influences that underlie Swahili culture, resulting in a distinctive concoction of Arab, Persian, Indian, and European elements.
Located roughly in the middle of the west coast of Unguja island, on a small headland jutting into the Zanzibar channel, Stone Town is a well-positioned town that is ideal for tourists and visitors. The town experiences “hot” tropical weather all year round, with the hottest months being February and March, and the “cooler” months being July-August. The months between December-February and May-August are less dry, making them the most suitable for beach tourism.
Commuting to and from Stone Town is easy and hassle-free. The Zanzibar seaport is in Stone Town, providing regular and reliable sea ferry services from Dar Es Salaam and Pemba. Besides the seaport, the Zanzibar airport, located about 5 kilometres south of Zanzibar city, offers regular local and international flights to and from Zanzibar. While in Stone Town, numerous transport options are available, including the islands’ popular public transport known as daladala, motorcycles famously known as bodaboda, taxis, and private hire services. Interestingly, Stone Town is formed of a beguiling, finely juxtaposed labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways leading through, across, and around numerous old houses, mosques, shops, and bazaars, providing visitors with a perfect, picturesque, and magnificent view of the old town. However, the maze of streets makes it rather challenging to access any form of transport other than bikes in the alleyways of Stone Town. The best way to get around here is on foot, making it easier to enjoy and experience the locals’ hospitality hands-on.
Stone Town is a must-see and indisputably the most beautiful and unique part of the Zanzibar metropolis. It is famous for its architecture, cuisine, cosmopolitan culture, spices, unique carvings, safety, hospitality, and, most notably, historical landmarks and sites. Here, the evidence of cosmopolitanism manifests itself in the architecture and cuisine of Stone Town.
The old coral Stone houses, most of them adorned with wooden, carved, symbolic Zanzibar doors of different crafts and designs, reflect nothing less than a perfect sense of cosmopolitanism. In Stone Town, there is no dearth of places to stay, eat and have fun. There are myriad options: from low-budget to the prestigious range of luxury resorts and restaurants offering a comprehensive selection of multicultural dishes. The cuisine of Zanzibar is usually loaded with flavors and spices that you would love to try and see by taking a 2 to 3 hours-long spice tour and learning more. In some spice tour packages, you can also have the option to learn how to cook with the local family and leave Zanzibar with an everlasting lifetime experience to cherish. Above all, it is said that if you visit Zanzibar but not Stone Town, you are not yet in Zanzibar.
On behalf of the Zanzibar government and the people of Stone Town, I humbly welcome you all to the Zanzibar Stone Town – the heart of Swahili culture and civilization.
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