Stone Town

Many people refer to Stone Town as the capital of Zanzibar, however, this is incorrect. Stone Town is in fact the old quarters of the capital Zanzibar Town. The name Stone Town refers to the many tall, white buildings which were built of coral stone during the 19th century, when Zanzibar was due to the slave boom one of the most important trading centres of East Africa. The 3- and 4-storeyed houses reflect the wealth and status of their former owners and many of them have impressive brass-studded doors with beautifully carved frames. Houses of Arab origin usually have large front doors leading to an inner courtyard, whilst Indian houses have large wooden balconies. In year 2000 Stone Town was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Stone Town is the cultural centre of Zanzibar and provides a unique picture of past times. Various sultans, merchants, explorers, shipbuilders as well as the slave market and spice trade characterised Stone Town. The town is a labyrinth of narrow streets, winding alleys, markets, shops, mosques, palaces and lively squares, which turns relatively quiet during nighttime.

Little has changed during the last 200 years in the old city, however, the coral stone walls eroded over the years and many houses are in need of repair. The Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority with the aim to restore the town's original magnificence has already completed several successful renovation projects.

The area outside Stone Town is officially named Michenzani (New City), but is better known as Ng'ambo (The Other Side). With big apartment blocks dominating the city's image, Michenzani is by no means as charming as Stone Town.