What to buy while in Zanzibar?

A variety of locally produced crafts can be found in the shops and bazaars of Stone Town. Buying such goods benefits the local community:

  • Embroidered ‘kofia’. These are hats as worn traditionally by Muslim Men
  • Khanga –Cloths for women and Kikoi cloths for men worn as a skirt or a waist wrap
  • Tinga tinga’ paintings
  • Incense burners and Candle holders made from clay
  • Zanzibar Spice Baskets
  • Soaps and scented oils
  • Women’s henna body painting available in salons around Stone Town
  • ‘Mkoba’- Woven Baskets
  • Recordings of local music eg. Taarab, Jambo jambo, etcWood carved


Business Hours
  • Shops Opening Times
  • Monday to Sunday: 08h30-12h00 and 14h00-18h00
  • Friday: 08h30-11h30 and 14h00-18h00
Facts about Zanzibar
Remember what to do in Zanzibar
  • Not to walk around towns & villages dressed in bikinis, miniskirts, sleeveless shirts or similar clothing. Pay respect to the Muslim society.
  • Do not go topless! Swimwear’s are acceptable on tourist beaches, but not if there are fishermen or seaweed harvesters nearby.
  • Drunken behavior is considered offensive.
  • Ask for permission before taking pictures of people.
  • Do not walk alone at night on beaches or in towns. Do not carry valuables around.
  • Do not buy shells, turtle shells or pieces of coral from street vendors or on the beach. These are mostly taken from the reefs and buying them encourages the obliteration of the ocean’s fauna.
  • Do not accept tours or transport from unlicensed tour guides – their services are illegal and are not subject to insurance cover.
  • During the Ramadan, please do not eat or drink in public – use cafes, restaurants.

Zanzibar is generally flat with the highest point being about 120m above sea level. The Islands of Zanzibar are surrounded by coasts of rocky inlets or sandy beaches, with lagoons and mangrove swamps, and coral reefs beyond the shoreline.


The monsoon winds that blow across the Indian Ocean allowed contact between Persia, Arabia, India and the coast of East Africa for over 2000 years. The first European arrivals were Portuguese ‘navigators’ looking for a trade route with India. They reached Zanzibar at the end of the 15th Century and established a trading station here and other points on the East African coast. At the end of the 17th century Omani Arabs ousted the Portuguese.

During this period, Zanzibar became a major slaving centre. In 1840, the Omani Sultan Said moved his court from Muscat to Zanzibar, and the Island became an Arab state and an important centre of trade and politics in the region. Many European explorers, including Livingston and Stanley, began their expeditions into the interior of Africa from Zanzibar during the second half of the 19th century.

Zanzibar was a British protectorate from 1890 until 1963, when the state gained independence. In 1964, the sultan and government were overthrown in a revolution. In the same year, Zanzibar and the newly independent country of Tanganyika combined to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

The Language of Zanzibar is Swahili. Visitors with a basic grasp of this language will be understood anywhere, although there are many forms and dialects found in

different areas. Arabic is also spoken. English is widely used in towns and tourist areas.


Islam is the dominant religion, and practised by most Zanzibaris. All towns and villages have village’s mosques. In Zanzibar Town there are also churches and temples for the small populations of Christians and Hindus.


Zanzibar is a separate state within the United Republic of Tanzania, governed by a revolutionary Council and House of Representatives, whose members are elected or appointed. The president of Zanzibar is also the vice-president of Tanzania.


For the people of Zanzibar, fishing and farming are the main economic activities. From the beginning of the 19th Century to the mid 1970s Zanzibar exported a large proportion of the world’s cloves, and the islands’ economy was based largely on this commodity. Some diversification has occurred since then, but cloves are still a major export, along with coconut product and other spices. In recent years, seaweed has also become an important export commodity. The potential for tourism to be a major earner of foreign currency has been recognised and is being developed. The number of tourist visiting Zanzibar is still relatively small but increasing every year.

Currency and exchange rates

Zanzibar’s unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TSh). Visitors to Zanzibar must pay for some items, such as air flights, ship tickets and hotels, in foreign currency, usually US dollars and Euros. Money changers/ ATMs are available in Stone Town only.


The heat of summer (corresponding to the northern hemisphere winter) is often cooled by strong sea breezes associated with the northeast monsoon (known as Kaskazi in Kiswahili), particularly on the north and east coasts. Being near to the equator, the islands are warm year round. Rains occur in November but are characterised by brief showers. Longer rains normally occur in April, and May in association with the southwest monsoon. (Include tables with temperature & rain falls)


There are more than 25 beaches on this island. The best beaches are situated in the North East of the island around Paje & Bweju. But all the beaches are worth a visit though. The shores are protected by a reef that surrounds the whole of Zanzibar.

The whole island is affected by the tides (about 3 meters). At low tide the beach can be very different and you could end up walking up to 2 km in order to reach the water. On the beautiful shores of Bweju & Paje, the seaside villages on the southeast coast of Zanzibar, women crouch in the seawater for hours on end cultivating seaweed. Tying strands on to pieces of rope strung across the low tide fields, their work stops when the tides come in, and continues again when the tide goes out.