As the historical and cultural heart of Zanzibar, Stone Town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Stone Town plays an important historical and artistic role in East Africa. Zanzibar is quite different from mainland Tanzania, because of its blend of eastern, African and western influences. Even now the population of Zanzibar Islands is largely Sunni Muslim, reflecting strong Arabic influences in the local culture, architecture and the design of Stone Town.
The Zanzibar Archipelago consists of Zanzibar Island (locally known as Unguja), Pemba Island, and numerous smaller islands.
Stone Town is centrally located on the main Zanzibar Island, which is about 90km long and 30km wide. Situated more or less in the center of the west coast of Zanzibar Island, Stone Town lies on the small headland of a peninsula along the Zanzibar Channel.
Stone Town is actually the old section of the larger Zanzibar City, referred to as the "New City", which stretches into the interior of Zanzibar Island.
As the ancient Capital of Zanzibar Island, Stone Town's narrow streets house numerous historical buildings and places of interest.
The best way to experience the vibrant local cultures and old buildings (sometimes crumbling) is to explore the winding alleys on foot.
Zanzibar Island experiences ideal weather for beach holidays almost all year round, boasting an average of around 8 hours of sunshine a day!
Summers (peaking in December) are hot with cooling sea breezes, especially along the northern and eastern coastlines.
The Zanzibar Islands lie near the equator, resulting in a warm tropical and humid climate.
The rainy season, called the 'long rains', is from March to May and sees frequent afternoon downpours, which can be quite heavy. This wet and humid season is probably the least popular time to visit Zanzibar, it only rains for a short time in the afternoon however, so conditions are still pleasant enough for travel.
The dry season is from June to October, when clear skies and sunshine are the norm. This is the best time to visit Zanzibar for beach holidays.
There is another rainy season, called the 'short rains', which lasts from November to December. As the name suggests this rainy period experiences less frequent and lighter rainfall than the long rainy season.
Outside of the rainy season the average temperature is around 28°C (82,4°F), although temperatures do vary depending on the location and altitude of where you stay.
Stone Town's unique blend of Arabic and African cultural influences originate from the 19th century, when Zanzibar Island served as a major centre for the trade of spices and slaves. During this period Zanzibar, also known as the 'Spice Island', was the most important trading hub along the east coast of Africa.
Stone Town is named after the old houses built of local stone in the 1800's, by Arabic traders and slaves.
As the main port city of Zanzibar, Stone Town, was also used as a base for missionaries and explorers on their way into the interior of Africa, as well as the slave traders. Several of the great European explorers, such as David Livingstone and Richard Burton planned their trips into Africa from Stone Town.
In 1873 slave trading was abolished in an agreement between the British and Omani Sultans ruling Zanzibar Islands.
In 1963 Zanzibar gained independence from Britain and in 1964 Zanzibar and Tanganyika joined to form Tanzania, with Zanzibar becoming semi-autonomous.
In 2000 Stone Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the old architecture revealing the diverse cultural heritage of Zanzibar, where Swahili, Moorish, Arabic, Persian, Indian and European influences come together.
Use the Google map to explore Stone Town. Feel free to Print the Street Map when you're ready.