Zanzibar Town: Other Places of Interest

The following Zanzibar places of interest are not major sights by themselves, but you will probably find yourself walking nearby as you visit some of the more important museums and palaces. Therefore the following background information would be of use:

The People’s Gardens

The People’s Gardens are found on Kaunda Road at the southern end of Stone Town near the main hospital. These were originally laid out by Sultan Barghash to be used by his harem many years ago. Many of the bushes and trees in the garden, including tea, eucalyptus, cocoa and coffee, were added by the British consul Sir John Kirk, on Zanzibar from 1873 to 1887.

During the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1899 Sultan Hamoud gave the gardens to the people of Zanzibar. The gardens were renamed Victoria Gardens. A building is found in the center of these gardens which is called Victoria Hall, Victoria Hall was built over the baths of the harem. The building was used as the Chamber of the Legislative Council from 1926 to 1964.

The hall and gardens fell into disrepair after the revolution, then, they were renovated in 1996, with help from the German government. The offices of the Zanzibar Sewerage and Sanitation Project can be found on the Victoria Hall.

There is a large house opposite the gardens found on the south side of Kaunda Road which was built in 1903 as the official British Residency. The old British Residency became the State House which is the official residence of the president after the Victoria Gardens being renamed the People’s Gardens. This was after the 1964 Revolution in Zanzibar. The building which is next door to the State House was the embassy of the Soviet Union. It is the offices of the ZIPA. Zanzibar Investment Promotions Agency is a government agency set up for the aim of attracting foreign business capital to Zanzibar Island.

Swimming

Tembo Hotel has a swimming pool that is open daily to non-guests costing about 3 dollars. Swimming costs not more than 2 dollars at the Bwawani Hotel. There is also a pool at the Serena Hotel although this is reserved for hotel guests only.

Mnazi Moja sports field

Mnazi Moja sports field is found on the opposite side of the museum, on the other side of Creek Road. Mnazi Moja means one coconut tree. The area used to be a swamp at the end of the creek that separated the Stone Town peninsula from the rest of the island. The land was reclaimed and converted to a sports field during the colonial period, thus the English-style cricket pavilion in the corner. Part of the sports ground was set aside for exclusive use by members of the English Club in the 1920s; it contained a croquet lawn, tennis courts and the only golf course on Zanzibar island. Todate, Mnazi Moja is used mainly for football matches and, although the creek itself has been reclaimed, the sports field is still prone to flooding during the rainy season.

Nyerere Road leading southeast out of the town was originally built by Bishop Steere of the Universities Mission in Central Africa as a causeway across the swamp. It is a pleasant avenue lined with giant casuarina trees today.

The big tree

There is a large tree that was originally planted by Sultan Khalifa in 1911 just west of the Old Dispensary, about 100 meters along Mizingani Road. It is simply known as the Big Tree. In Swahili, it is called Mtini which means the place of the tree. This has been a major landmark for years, you can see this on numerous old photos and etchings of Zanzibar Town viewed from the sea and are still clearly visible on the seafront from ships approaching the port. Traditional dhow builders use the tree as a shady roof for their open-air workshop until today.

Swahili lessons

If you would like to learn a few words or even more of the local language which is the Swahili language, the Taasisi Kiswahili Institute inside the State University on Vuga Road offers the lessons. Classes are normally 08.00 to noon and cost 4 dollars per hour or 80 dollars for a course during a full week.

Single lessons away from the institute and longer courses which include lodgings in the house of a teacher or local family are also available on request.

The orphanage

The Island’s orphanage is found next to the Fort, the road runs through a tunnel under a large building. It was built in the late 19th century. This building was used as a club for English residents until the year 1896 and then as an Indian school until the year 1950. A small craft shop is on the ground floor opposite the gardens selling curios and pictures made by the local artisans and the orphans themselves.

Zanzibar Island is one of the favorite places in the world that you can visit. Everything about the destination appeals to visitors. The history, the beaches, the culture, the flavorsome food, and the activities. It is the perfect place for immersive travel so it ticks all your boxes, it is absolutely beautiful. The above-mentioned are the places which are not major sights by themselves, but we thought you will probably find yourself walking nearby as you visit some of the more important museums and palaces in Zanzibar Island.

Responses

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  1. Sounds great. What would it be like to visit now, during the Covid-19 pandemic? I understand everyone must wear masks, and I assume social distancing. Are businesses like coffee shops, restaurants, and beaches open to visitors? Can one visit museums, the turtle island, go on dives with dolphins, and other scuba fives? Can one visit orphanages? I’d like to visit Ibadi mosques. Are they open for daily and Friday prayers?
    Thank you.
    Abdul

  2. Hi Abdul, everybody would be very excited to have you on Zanzibar. Locals are looking forward to welcome everybody again. Since a couple of weeks there are no mouth masks mandatory. Depending on the amount of tourists, hotels open. Most activities will be possible, but it would be smart to check in advance with the tours that you’re interested in. Dolphin dives, orphanages, museums, mosques will be open. When are you exactly planning to come? Thanks, have a great day, Caroline

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