Stone Town is an extraordinary place to explore; the ancient maze of narrow streets is a hotchpotch of historic old stone buildings, built close together for some respite from the tropical island sun; shaded by elegantly carved balconies, loggias and verandas that cling precipitously overhead. Stone Town gives a glimpse of the essence of Zanzibar; the sights, sounds and smells of the market, restaurants, harbour and mosques; albeit a very real and un-airbrushed view! However, it is increasingly becoming a dedicated tourist centre, with masses of tourist tat flooding the markets. All visitors should be prepared for noisy street vendors, dirty pedestrian streets and a sense of crumbling glory.
A guided tour of Stone Town allows time to see the Sultan’s Palaces and experience the sights and sounds of this idiosyncratic centre. There are many fine buildings to see and some, such as the House of Wonders and the Arab Fort, have been restored to create areas for coffee and relaxation. Generally the best way to explore Stone Town is to meander the streets, window shopping and absorbing the atmosphere. In the evenings a crowd gathers along the harbor front and in Forodhani Gardens, where smoke rises from barbecues at the assorted food stalls and the curio markets assemble by gaslight amid a hubbub of banter. It is a world apart, and well worth a visit.