Every night Forodhani Gardens at the Stone Town turns into a busy street food market! The fresh seafood and local delicacies, such as Zanzibari pizza are sold at that time. Visitors walk by the seafront watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean while sampling street food with locals that pay a visit.
Forodhani Gardens is located inside Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town, along the main promenade by the seafront. You can find it easily by just walking towards the seafront, ask from your hotel or any local, or check the location from Google Maps. If you are already done either guided or independently touring Stone Town then, you will know the location by heart.
Be sure to bring Tanzanian Shillings with you and be prepared to barter if you want to avoid overpaying for your culinary exploration. The House of Wonders (Beit-Al-Ajaib) and the Old Fort are adjacent to Forodhani Gardens and may provide a nice pre-sunset excursion.
If you want to experience the unique atmosphere of Forodhani Gardens, you have to arrive early before the night food market begins; while fishermen drag their wooden dhows back to the sand, street vendors slowly set up carts and makeshift tables in the leafy walkways of Forodhani Gardens’ places.
You can walk towards the shore and take a seat at the seawall while watching tens of boys jumping off into the turquoise waters with the last rays of the sun. The seawall by Forodhani Gardens is the best place in Stone Town to take sunset photos if you are a photography lover.
While you have enjoyed the sunset at the dock, the Forodhani Gardens have already transformed into a lively open-air street food market whereby locals and tourists alike stroll between the food stalls! You can join the crowds and follow your nose to pick Zanzibar and Swahili delicacies such as grilled lobsters and calamari, samosas, sweet potatoes, and meat skewers.
A little history of Forodhani
Forodhani Gardens is the bustling place of assembly set out between the Indian Ocean and Stone Town’s most iconic buildings, like Old Fort and The House of Wonders. The word Forodhani means customs, this place is close to the site of the original customs house.
The Forodhani gardens were first laid out in 1936 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Khalifa and were called Jubilee Gardens until the 1964 Revolution. These gardens received a whopping 2-million dollar facelift in 2009!
Safety at the Forodhani Gardens Street Food Market
Remember that this is a street food market, therefore you should follow your guts and be vigilant because the street food stalls do not match with the Western hygiene standards, and cold chain might be broken. Be considerate of the risks of eating street food before diving in!
The place gathers crowds which bring in the opportunistic pickpockets, you have to watch your belongings and take only small money to avoid big losses. Beware of scam waiters who take orders and cash without representing any restaurants available.
Beware of alcohol! If someone tries to sell you a beer, it is a scam because alcohol is not allowed in Forodhani Gardens street food market. Drinking alcohol might even get you in trouble therefore, leave it to nearby bars. The Floating Restaurant at the port is stilted upon the ocean and it is a perfect place for sunset drinks.
Street food vendors can be really pushy, so if you are not interested in their offerings, please say so firmly to get rid of them. Otherwise, they may harass you through the evening and even throw a tantrum if you shop in other stalls nearby.
What to eat
Overwhelming! Forodhani Gardens Food Market’s selection can be overwhelming and many tourists ponder whether it is safe to eat street food, especially seafood. Thus, here are the list of the most popular dishes and further tips for avoiding food fails and stomach upset:
Barbequed meat and fresh kinds of seafood
Forodhani Gardens is an excellent and affordable place to sample seafood if you are convinced that it is fresh. Squid, lobsters, crabs, octopus, and shrimps are abundant. Tasty fish such as barracuda are also available. It might not be the freshest seafood around, therefore follow your nose and longest queues to find the best stalls available.
Zanzibar pizza is the Forodhani Gardens’ most famous dish. It is a weird mix of veggies, chicken, seafood, or beef mixed with mayo and egg wrapped in fried dough. It still looks like a traditional pizza when the chef is piling your choice of fillings on the thin batter. Then, a mayo and an egg are drawn in and the thing is crowned with another thin layer of dough just like calzone. Finally, Zanzibar pizzas are fried in ghee until decadently crispy!
The Spice Island lives up to its name because most foods are cooked with exotic spices, such as masala, cardamom, garlic, turmeric and saffron to mention a few. Due to Zanzibar having a history as a melting pot of cultures, the Zanzibari cuisine has Arabic, Mediterranean and Indian influences.
There is a refreshing sugar cane juice which can be taken well with any dish to add a dash of lime and ginger to boost your immunity with lime and sugar. For beverages, make sure you return empty bottles to the vendor you purchased your soda from.
The stalls sell many kinds of Swahili doughnuts including kalmati, mahamri and vitumbua. You can have a Nutella or Snickers pizza for dessert too!
Are there any hits and misses of Forodhani Gardens Street Food Market?
Some tourists have eaten the best dishes of their trip in Forodhani Gardens although the others reported stomach upsets and poor food quality.
Skip the street food and explore the grounds of Forodhani Gardens if you doubt your tolerance. It is well worth watching at least one sunset from the seawall with locals.
Avoiding scenes and incidents
1. Circle the stands first and check out food and prices. Choose the stand you think it sells the freshest food and also check out the staff and their preparation processes.
2. Make sure the food is well thermally treated because vendors are in a hurry and oftentimes seafood from the grill is just lukewarm! Make sure your meat or seafood is well-cooked to prevent parasites and salmonella.
3. The locals charge whatever they want to tourists. There are no prices or menus on the food. Do some research before you shop around. Fix the price of a meal before you order. You will end up paying more than ten dollars for a snack! Make sure you always agree on the price before ordering to avoid being charged ‘tourist prices’.
4. Drinking alcohol in Forodhani Gardens is prohibited. You might get yourself into trouble. Do not bring alcoholic beverages with you.
5. Order food directly from food stall vendors and not from touts following you.
A visit to Stone Town is not complete without a stop at the Forodhani Market. Forodhani has a festive, carnival-like atmosphere, therefore, go to enjoy yourself!
For safe culinary exploration in Stone Town, we advise you to contact us anytime. If you are looking for stunning beaches and all-inclusive resort culinary delights, we are reached to help you out.