An island chain in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region which very much has its own singular identity. Zanzibar is known for its distinct colonial buildings, natural beauty and bustling markets. It is particularly known for its spice industry, which draws flocks of locals and tourists to the street markets every day. A historical hub of the spice and slave trade, its market heritage remains very much intact in modern times.
Main Shopping Areas/Markets
The most iconic area of Zanzibar’s capital Zanzibar City is Stone Town, a historic district and a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stone Town was Zanzibar’s historical capital and was the pulse of the thriving spice trade as well as its brutal slave trade. It is known for its distinct and versatile architecture, which blends European, Arab and Persian styles. Its wealth of historical buildings are a major draw for tourists, but so are its abundance of shops and markets. Stone Town is home to a wealth of boutiques specialising in local goods such as clothing, jewellery, textiles and antiques. Kenyatta Road is particularly well-known for its specialty stores. There is something to cater to the interest of all kinds of travellers in Stone Town and it is without a doubt the most essential shopping district in the region.
While it is technically a part of Stone Town itself, the Forodhani Gardens are worth singling out for special mention. Located outside Stone Town’s historic fort along the coastline, it is walking distance from the area’s most famous landmarks. While it is worth a visit during the daytime to appreciate the history and natural beauty, it is at night when the gardens really come alive. A major draw for both tourists and locals, it is known for its bustling night market. The market is one of the best places in the whole of Zanzibar to sample the local cuisine and more broadly, the local culture.
Zanzibar’s main bazaar is one of the most buzzing parts of the region. A hotbed of activity, the bazaar is the go-to place for local produce and goods. Its food is particularly great, with its seafood and spices being a notably important part of its identity. In addition to food, Darajani Market is a top destination for clothes, local arts and crafts and even household items such as phones and other electronic products.
Memories of Zanzibar
One of the best shops on the bustling Kenyata Road, Memories of Zanzibar is one of Stone Town’s most popular stores for local goods. It is known for its immense wealth of local goods, which range from touristy souvenirs to local clothing, jewellery and textiles. The self-described emporium offers a break from the at-times exhausting haggling of the major markets.
Surti & Sons
One of the more unique specialty stores in Zanzibar, Surti & Sons notably specialises in leather sandals. An artisanal boutique with a singular specialisation, Surti & Sons is known for its painstaking attention to detail. The sandals are made from leather and come in a number of different styles, each unique from the last and handcrafted by the store’s owner Parvin Surti or one of his family members. A truly singular shopping experience in Zanzibar.
Cultural Arts Centre Zanzibar
Stone Town’s artistic centre, the Cultural Arts Centre Zanzibar provides a change from the other local craftsmanship found in the majority of the region’s markets. The arts centre displays a wide range of artistic works, ranging from local craftsmanship to paintings both contemporary and traditional as well as jewellery. The centre also provides a number of workshops in various acts of craftsmanship including soap-making, both for locals and tourists alike.
Zanzibar and its many markets are full of great sweet vendors selling local goods, but Mwanzo Mpya is especially worth singling out. While Mwanzo Mpya sells a number of different items, it specialises in local fabrics such as the manga and the kitenge, all available in a wide range of striking colours which evoke the region’s unique and exotic identity.