Zanzibar is a fascinating romantic island, with an exotic blend of Indian, Arabic and European architecture and influence and a mixture of crumbling buildings and palaces, sadly juxtaposed. From visiting the markets in Stone Town to snorkeling in the blue ocean and relaxing on the wide open beaches – there is something for everyone to enjoy. Which is why Zanzibar is becoming such a popular holiday destination among travelers worldwide.
And, a visit to Zanzibar wouldn’t be complete without visiting Stone Town.
When visiting Stone Town, make sure to include a visit to the two main markets in Stone Town: Darajani Market and Forodhani Night Food Market.
Related read: Most Popular Day Trips from Zanzibar
The Darajani Market in Stone Town, also known as Estella Market (after Countess Estella, sister of Lloyd Mathews, a former Prime Minister of Zanzibar) is a traditional food market in the truest sense of the word. It isn’t too different from the market that first opened in 1904.
Zanzibaris buy and sell vegetables, meat, seafood, spices and fabric in separate sections under a gable roofed structure that often spills out onto side streets. Darajani Market is a perfect spot to watch life in Zanzibar unfold, as it has for so many years. It is bustling with life, mainly local. During the 16th century Zanzibar was placed in a unique vantage point on the Spice route by the Persians, and it became famous for, amongst other spices, cloves.
You can buy fruit and spices inexpensively here. Haggling is recommended, if not mandatory at this market.
Where: Darajani Road near the Anglican Cathedral courtyard, once home to the Great Slave Market that closed in 1873
When: between 9 and 11 am
Forodhani Night Food Market
A visit to Stone Town is not complete without a stop at the Forodhani Night Food Market at the waterfront location of Forodhani Gardens. Arrive before dusk, and watch the space fill up methodically with chefs dressed in whites and tall hats setting up stands and grills. Row after row of grills with fish, squid, prawn, lobster, crab claw and seafood kebabs fill the square, the air wafting with hunger-inducing smells. Freshly pressed juices, like sugar cane juice and cassava, fried potatoes, chapatis, salads, beef skewers, falafel and Zanzibar ‘pizzas’ are further temptations.
Forodhani Market is frequented predominately by locals who stream out in droves, placing orders and waiting in the low light of the gas lamps, flaming grills and woks. Families sitting on picnic blankets in the garden, enjoying dinner feasts is a common sight here.
Tourists are unmistakable, often in shorts (men; women are encouraged to cover up), sporting dreadlocks, backpacks, sturdy sandals and an air of hesitation.
What should you eat at Forodhani Night Food Market?
There are two schools of thoughts here at Forodhani – one says the food isn’t prepared freshly, merely re-heated and potentially dangerous, the other says it’s the tastiest and most inexpensive street food you will ever enjoy.
We were cautious with the pre-prepped seafood and ordered freshly made vegetable and sweet banana ‘pizzas’ watching the chefs with earnest expressions flip the dough in the muted glow of the grill and cook up our pizzas. This is a very popular choice, so prepare to wait in a queue.
Forodhani has a festive, carnival-like atmosphere, so go to enjoy yourself and don’t forget the favourite local phrase ‘pole pole’ – no worries, take it easy.
When: every night of the week
Where: Forodhani Gardens, Mizingani Street, Stonetown
Related read: Zanzibar Nightlife: The Island’s Magical Nightlife
Don’t miss out on visiting the top markets in Stone Town – you’ll find some great food and souvenirs to take home!