Can you travel to the one of the most exotic places on earth and not buy an ‘authentic’ mask? Of course not. You have to look around and you have to haggle. Look desperate and on your way to the airport and the price just trebled. Want to try the only fixed price shop in Stone Town? Worse still. Never shop if the a Cruise Ship is in the harbour, and if you are on the Cruise Ship, don’t admit to it.
So, what are you looking for? A real dancing mask. It fits on the face, has holes to hold leather straps, is somewhat ‘rough’ and is not made by a machine. You can still get a good mask for $10 if you are willing to stand your ground on your budget and be prepared to be thrown out of at least 4 shops.
What to pay:
$10-$20 for a good mask. For a great mask (fits over the head and onto the shoulders) you will pay $40 but have to haggle for 3 days. Seriously. And I had to buy the shop manager lunch!
Ok, I cannot remember the real name of this shop, but I can tell you about it and where to find it. Grace and her married sister run this shop and Grace is the nicest woman in Stone Town. Her brother-in-law (never saw him) owns the shop. They have absolutely everything here. Paintings, wood carvings, textiles and especially really great dancing masks. I bought a huge mask (pictured) from here after haggling for 2 days solid. I found that a few cold drinks for her and her sister helped negotiations.
If you visit, please email me the name of this fantastic shop!
What to buy:
Any and all of your souvenir needs. Their specialty is authentic dancing masks from across Africa
What to pay:
You have to haggle and negotiate. At some point they will go no lower and that is the final price. I found Grace to be very fair with her prices.
I was surprised finding shops at the airport (including a duty-free) with a very good variety and excellent prices. They sell anything from kangas to vanilla pods.
The duty-free shop accept credit cards.
What to buy: Most local craft are sold here
What to pay: Fixed prices
There are many shops in Stone Town. The area behind The House of Wonders and The Omani Fort has many shops. Wandering around that area, you will surely find enough to buy.
You will have to haggle – and quite hard to get the best possible price. Many shops sell the safe stuff, so there is a lot of competition, which brings prices down.
What to buy: Kangas
Woven Palm leave items
What to pay: Haggle, haggle, haggle
Looking for those souvenirs? Masks, paintings, bags, cloths, wooden figures, key chains. Almost every shop has the same things. The shops inside the Fort have a difference! You can get inside the Fort without paying the admission charge if you say you are going to the shops. So already you have saved money. They also do not see as many tourists as the shops on the main streets of Stone Town. There are about 6 shops and a small café where you can sit on a chair and enjoy a cold drink while you survey the architecture of the Fort from the inside.
Just click on the photos for a better view!
What to pay: Remember to haggle!
Woodcarving is an art that has flourished greatly in Zanzibar and in Stone Town you can buy beautiful wooden boxes are picture frames both in true "tourist" shops and in roadside stalls.
What to buy: Wooden boxes and picture frames whose design is inspired by the traditional Zanzibari doors, so expect to find iron or brass spikes, mountings and chains. Favourite carving motifs include the lotus, the fish, the chain, the date and frankincense.
What to pay: it really depends on the wood used, decorations and size. From 10 dollars onwards (and up to several hundred dollars)
A great place to pick up your souvenir T-shirts and caps etc!
One Way is a brand, available across most of East Africa. Some excellent options for designs and style. For men, women and children. Mostly cotton stuff. Slightly expensive though- almost European prices...
What to pay: Caps, T-shirts, cost about $15 each i think.
The Gallery offers a large selection of items, but they especially have a very large choice of books, either on Zanzibar and Tanzania or novels. If you're planning to go and spend a few days lying on the beach, you've got to stop there before
What to buy: Books !!!
The Zanzibar Emporium is a typically tourist shop. However it's not a bad idea to go there and there are a few bargains. They have a few nice carved objects at reasonaable rices. At least, as all the prices are written, it will give you a negociation basis with the street vendors.
At the evenings in the Jamituri Gardens you can find a street handycrafts market, with many food stalls as well. Is rather dark, illuminated with portable lamps, but very interesting, cheap stuff and local color. Just at the coast, in front of the Arab Fort.
There are some shopping places in Stonetown where you can buy local craft . But they are mostly for tourists, and the price is more expensive than you will find in Dar es Salaam.