Located in Stone Town, the House of Spices resides in an authentic 18th century Zanzibar house. There are a few floors to the establishment. The ground floor duka sells spices and gifts, but also serves coffee and tea. The second floor contains apartments which can be rented on a long-term basis if desired. The third floor contains a wine bar with terrace seating in addition to the rooftop restaurant.
We stopped in here to have a bit of lunch before making the ferry trip from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam. It's a bit dark inside when you first go in from the street, but is quite charming to see the gift shop and spices for sale. It is also decorated in an old world style that I liked, and it seemed appropriate to the authentic old world style of the building too. The stairs are dark and steep too, like you would expect in such an old building. The authenticity was great.
Reaching the third floor it opens on the left to the wine bar and on the right to the rooftop restaurant. It is a long rectangular seating area with open air and light from the outside. Rustically decorated and quite nice. It seemed the perfect place to have a lunch. One aspect I liked is that you can observe the chefs preparing food from either side of the restaurant (from the entrance side kitchen to the far side brick oven).
The food selection here seemed to be more Mediterranean than local, but the menu is very appealing with a good variety. My traveling companions ordered Pizza for themselves and their son. I decided to try the sausages. While waiting for our dishes there was time to look at their very instructive Spice Book, which tells all about the various spices, where they come from, what they are used for, etc.
Well, the food was great. My sausages were definitely not the processed, packaged kind from a factory, but locally made most likely. I had some of the pizza too, and while perhaps not the thin crust variety I like from Southern Italy and Sicily (which I consider real Mediterranean pizza) it was equal to what you would find in other parts of Italy to the north. Of course, nicely spiced food is the expectation here, and it delivers that with an extra bit of flavor!
In short, I liked this place very much. The old world building and decor, in addition to the open air dining area, along with some very good food, earns it five stars with me. I was very satisfied the by the ambiance and the meal. I have no hesitations in recommending House of Spice for what it offers. Check it out if you visit Stone Town in Zanzibar - It's a great 'Spice of Life' experience.
This is the thing to do apparently - "everyone" goes to Africa House to watch the sunset. I had never seen so much hustle and bustle and downright rudeness as people tried to get a good view of the sunset. Funny really as it was pretty pathetic the night I was there!
However, there was lots of ice cold beer and a great assortment of cocktails. There was a great mixture of locals, tourists, expats and residents at the bar so it was certainly lively even after sunset.
There is a huge balcony that overlooks the ocean and a fairly large lounge area, but I enjoyed it more the following day when we went back for mid afternoon drinks! Hardly anyone there and nice views of the water.
The place is steeped in interesting history, with the original part of the building is 340 years old. It was built by a slave trader, who then married into the Omani Royal Family. In 1888 the building became the English Club and remained so until the end of the colonial era. There are wonderful photo's and paintings along the walls and on the stairwells.
Apparently it is a good place to stay, the rooms did look OK so it may be worth checking out if you want to spend about $US150. The location is great.
A great activity if you are one who gets up early. And it need to be at sunrise.
On the beach almost to the northern tip of the island is where the fish markets are each morning. The fishermen and marketeers tolerate visitors as long as you do not get in their way as they are buying and selling fish. Depending on the season and catch you can see huge tuna, kingfish and others that I knew nothing about.
Later in the day you can watch the women go out to fish. They wade out to the coral reef with huge nets, form a circle and bring the nets in. Facinating. They can catch small fish, octopus, and sell them to local cafes restaurants etc during the day.
One thing about this area - you will always be able to eat fresh seafood.
Baraka's Turtle Aquarium
Why didn't I have my camera this day? What a great time. There are two aquariums at Nugnwi and this is the smallest but the best (well that's what I thought anyway) - a bit of a walk or get a taxi. I just loved it.
Part of Baraka's Bungalows on West Beach this aquarium is nothing of what I was expecting. Basically it is an open cave and tidal pool. I thought the man feeding the turtles was joking when he said I could get in for a swim - until he went and got flippers and a towel for me.
I ended up spending several hours here - all for a total cost of about $US5, just relaxing, swimming and feding the turtles.
It is in direct competition with the neighbouring Mnarani Natural Aquarium and this too was interesting as they concentrate on conservation, but I enjoyed Baraka's and they seem to be getting into release and conservation now.
BEST TIME TO VISIT: as the tide is turning to - from high tide - otherwise you keep hitting the rocks.
Computer access was expensive in the resorts - actually anywhere it was expensive - and we seldom logged on until we found this place.
Nungwi School Computer room. The computers were not fantastic - and the power often went out - but we enjoyed logging on here. Cheaper than the hotel and all money went to help the school. Some of the kids would be happy to chat and offer to take you around the island - probably for a tip - but we didn't take them up on this.
This is an impressive old stone building almost next door to the Anglican Church of Christ Cathedral.
The main building used to be a hostel for nuns a missionary hospital, built over slave chambers.
Although today it is a hostel with an art gallery and craft shop, it is the basement which provides one of Zanzibar's simplest, but very most moving reminders of the horrors of the slave trade.
A stone staircase leads down from the entrance hallway to what was the dungeon where slaves were kept before being taken to market. It was small, dark, airless and people would have been horrendously cramped in these areas. Try to get a guide to really understand what this place was like during the slave years.
The Anglican Cathedral is a popular Zanzibar Attraction. Situated on the site of the former slave market (closed in 1873) it is located on the eastern side of Stone Town and is the oldest Christian Church in East Africa.
The cathedral was constructed in 1877 by the Universities Mission in Central Africa (UMCA) after the slave trade was abolished. Construction of The Anglican Cathedral, was supervised by Bishop Edward Steere (1874-1882) and if you have a guide you can hear some interesting stories about this man and the building of the cathedral. The clock on the tower was gifted by Sultan Seyyid Barghash (1880).
The altar of the cathedral was built directly over the site of the Slave Whipping Post and outside is a monument to the memory of the numerous slaves who passed through the islands’ markets.
There is also a crucifix apparently made of the wood of the tree under which Dr. Livingstone’s heart was buried. It was his wish that his heart should remain in Africa.
I took a half day tour of a spice farm and enjoyed it very much. Lunch (local food) was included. The plantations are located in the middle of the island, where the rains are more abundant and not far from Stone Town.
In centuries gone by Zanzibar achieved fame and wealth thriving on spice the trade. A visit to a plantation is certainly very interesting, I was amazed at the variety of spices and fruits that we saw including; cloves, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, citronella grass, saffron and curious fruits like tope tope.
Our guides were sweet and made us bracelets and hats from grsses and we proudly wore them - all of us looking a but crzy. We did have to tip them for these items but it was worth it - they were friendly, helpful and it was faciniating watching them make rings, bracelets etc from the grasses and leaves.
One of the wonders is that this building is still standing - in a great state of disrepair but it is slowly being fixed up. It was built in 1883 and its true name is Beit-el-Ajaib (Arabic for 'House of Wonders'). It was the first house in in Stone Town to have electric light and one of the first in East Africa to have an electric elevator.
There is lots of "stuff"in here - some very interesting some not so good but it is well worth a visit.
The building was damaged in the "shortest war in history" when the British bombarded Zanzibar, and after the turn of the century was used, by the British, as local offices until the revolution in 1964.
There has been little progress in making this building into a museum but there are some of President Karume's old cars inside and covered in dust.
There is a very small bazaar at the front entrance - interesting clothes and items - somewhat expensive though.
The Arab fort was built in 1780 by the Omanis and is almost next door to the House of Wonders.
The forst was used to protect people from attack from the mainland, it was then used as a prison.
There are left over ruins from a previous fortification and interesting artifacts to be seen.
The ground floor area now also houses a coffee shop and a few tourist shops. Prices inside here were much the same as anywhere else.
Apparently at night there is often a show (local music and dancing) in the arena.
The Palace Museum is a good place to visit. It is in various states of disrepair and that alone makes it an interesting visit.
There is a section dedicated to the life of Princess Salme of Zanzibar, daughter of Sultan Said. There are family photo's and exerpts of her book - Memoirs of an Arabian Princess. It is an account of her life in the royal court of Zanzibar in the 1800's and is precious as it only one of a kind. Women of Oman and Zanzibar were not taught to read or write so there is little in the way of written history of women. The book was available for sale at the museum - a great read!
The Palace also has displays of furniture acquired by the sultans over the years. Some opulent, some in great need of restoration and repair.
The view from the balcony on the roof is fantastic - you can see over the harbour and over the old buildings of Stone Town.
The markets were great but beware - if you do not like seeing lots of raw and red seafood and meat - don't go near the meat section! Smells pretty bad too. AND I do have pics here to show you, so if you don't want to look don't open pics.
The rest of the food and spice market was lovely. It's not a huge market but worth a visit to see and buy local spices, fresh fruit and veg.
Around the outskirts of the food market are shops and some market stalls selling clothing, tourist items and general goods.
We loved to watch the boats . The sail boats had the most incredible sails. The boats often looked so old and weary we wondered if they would make it . We saw some that were equipped with a person aboard to bail as fast as the water leaked in.
This morning we thought we’d abandon the pool and take a swim in the beach. The water is a gorgeous turquoise colour that we hadn’t seen since Thailand and as warm. I was first in. I took a short swim and felt some sharp stings on my arms and torso. Turns out it was a jellyfish sting. A waiter from a nearby restaurant saw my distress and gave me some vinegar to apply. It really did work. In actual fact it was not that bad and the sting went away fairly quickly. What disturbed me more was the garbage I saw further down the beach. There are lots of bottles and plastics in the water. Even though it was cleaned up in front of the hotels, tides have a way of moving things about and I really didn’t like the idea of maybe stepping on a broken bottle.
I knew this to be one of the highlights of Zanzibar, but was fairly suspicious that it might be really lame. So, I was pleasantly surprised at just how much of a good time I had with this. Basically, you will get picked up from your hotel and brought to one of many spice farms located on the island. You will take the tour of the land, getting to crush leaves and fruits along the way. Crushing them releases their aroma, which can be so over-the-top, that you are just blown away. It really is true that smell is one of the strongest senses. You normally get a guide who is part infomercial, part comedian. It really is worth the time.