In photos: The spice of life in Zanzibar

In photos: The spice of life in Zanzibar

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The Spice Island is sure to charm you, from the narrow streets of Stone Town to the spectacular sunsets of the coastal beaches. If a trip to Zanzibar is in your future plans, these photos will get you pumped up for your visit — and if you’re not planning to head there any time soon, well, maybe they’ll change your mind!

boys on bikes riding past shops in Zanzibar

As you wander around the narrow streets of Stone Town, watch out for young boys, being boys, as they careen through the neighbourhoods on bicycles. If they startle you coming from head on, they mean no harm, but try to remember to jump to the left so that they will pass you to the right.

 

Exterior of a shop in Zanzibar

Wandering aimlessly through the historic streets of Stone Town will give you hours of shopping pleasure. Curio shops and beautiful handicrafts can be found along every street. If you see something you like, it’s a good idea to buy it. Otherwise, finding your way back through the winding streets to your favourite shop for that one unique piece might be a lost cause.

 

hand-carved doors on display in Zanzibar

Known for its variety of architectural styles, Stone Town has a beautiful array of hand-carved doors, windows, and shutters everywhere you look. Skilled craftsmen also use re-purposed materials for intricately carved window frames, mirrors, and artwork that they sell to locals and tourists alike.

 

locals watching sports on TV in Zanzibar

Football (American soccer) is taken very seriously in Zanzibar. If you hear the sounds of excited cheering, follow it! You’re likely to find a small gathering place in a corner amongst the winding streets. Crowded around the television will be a group of die-hard fans waiting for their team to score.

 

hands holding out a cut-open passionfruit

Spice farms aren’t just about spices, even on the Spice Island of Zanzibar! Most of them grow a variety of fruits as well, like this unripe passion fruit. Fruits are used for local consumption on the farm when in season, or sometimes in the community, but are not exported.

 

pineapple in Zanzibar

Contrary to popular belief, pineapples do not grow on trees; they grow from the ground up. The one pictured here has a lot of growing to do before it reaches maturity. Once mature, it will begin to change colour, starting from the bottom up. Most spice farms in Zanzibar have fruits on their farms for personal consumption, but they are not money-making crops like the spices.

 

A local in Zanzibar showing how a medicinal plant is used

If you are hiking through the woods in Zanzibar and cut yourself on a stray rock or branch, the locals can show you how to sterilise and seal your wound with the sap (or resin) from a local tree. When you rub the liquid on your skin it turns white and sticky, but keeps the wound clean. Hospitals are not always easily accessible, so natural medicine is still widely practiced, at least for minor medical issues.

 

Close up of nutmeg spice in Zanzibar

Although not native to Zanzibar, nutmeg was likely introduced from Indian or Indonesian traders. Inside the nutmeg seed, you’ll find a beautiful red aril covering the nut. The covering is called mace and has a leathery texture. It has a similar flavour to nutmeg, but yields a higher price for its delicate nature and strong color.

 

Plate of traditional Zanzibar food of rice and potato with sauce

There are many varieties of traditional Swahili meals. Here is a plate filled with the yummy goodness of spiced rice, green banana, potato, and chicken. Although it has a strong resemblance to Indian food, it has a twist all its own with the mixture of fresh spices grown on the local farms in Kidichi, Zanzibar.

 

A local cooking over an open fire in Zanzibar

In the small villages that are part of the Kidichi area, which is just outside of Stone Town, you can see the women tending to the fields, taking care of children and cooking meals. Often an extended family will each have a small home for their immediate family, but come together for shared meals cooked in a separate building set up as a kitchen, with extra air flow for the fire.

 

A boat in the ocean at sunset in Zanzibar

With sailboats passing by in the distance and fishing and tourist boats moored for the night, the day slowly winds down as the sky changes colours and the sun sinks below the horizon. On the north coast of Zanzibar, enjoy the shades of yellow and orange from the long stretch of powdery white sand in Kendwa.

 

artists' shops on the beach in Zanzibar

The village of Kendwa doesn’t offer much in the way of shopping, but at the southwest end of the beach you can find a market full of handicrafts and curios. ‘You are welcome,’ they will tell you as each one invites you into their shop to see the their own work or that of their family members. If you are lucky, you’ll even get to see some of the artists at work doing paintings or carvings.

Inspired to see more of Zanzibar? Hop on a tour to experience the local side of life on the Spice Island.

About author
Profile photo of Shari Tucker

Shari Tucker

Photographer, adventurer, storyteller, travelling travel agent.

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