A foodie’s guide to the flavours of Stone Town

August 05, 2018
Julia D'Orazio

If variety is the spice of life, then the flavours of Zanzibar’s Stone Town are everlasting. Along the coastal waters of Zanzibar, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a place to treat your senses, with its melting pot of African, Arab, European and Indian cultures rolled into one. Although its distinct architecture is something to marvel at, the true essence of Stone Town can be found on the end of your fork.

Forget deliberating over a menu; these are the places to savour the best of Stone Town’s distinct flavours.

Darajani Market

Stone Town’s central bazaar, Darajani Market, makes for a great introduction to East Africa’s market scene. The market has been at the very heart of the island’s local produce and trading centre since the early 20th century. Erected in 1904 on the fringe of Stone Town, this brick-clad, tinned-roof building provides a labyrinth of sensory overload.

Once you overcome the waves of odours wafting through the market, expect to see a hive of local activity as shoppers browse and bargain for everything from fabrics and fresh produce, to spices and live chickens. Bright bold kangas, spices galore and neatly stacked pyramids of tropical fruits make for a euphoric sight and you can be forgiven filling up your bag with all three!

Market shopping in Zanzibar

Market shopping among locals | Photo by Zanzibar Urban Adventures

Forodhani Night Market

Seafood lovers rejoice! This nightly, seaside market is a great display of a fisherman’s hard day’s work. With the boats at bay, it’s the barbeques and food vendors anchored along Forodhani Gardens that draw in the nighttime crowds for cheap and cheerful eats.

Sample the best of Swahili and Zanzibari cuisine as local chefs in uniform heat up their outdoor kitchens from sundown until late. Expect to see skewers galore with stacks of freshly caught seafood, chicken and plantain, all neatly presented for an easy sell — and an even more delicious local meal. Save room for some Zanzibar pizza, which isn’t really “pizza” at all, but rather sweet or savoury fillings piled onto a thin crepe and then topped with a second crepe and sealed shut.

What makes this twilight culinary adventure even more magical is the market’s stunning location opposite some of Stone Town’s most famous buildings. Take a break in between bites to marvel at the Arab Fort, Palace Museum and the House of Wonders.

Traditional Zanzibar snacks

Snack time | Photo by Zanzibar Urban Adventures

Lukmaan Restaurant

Located just off the main tourist drag of Stone Town, this legendary institution attracts locals and tourists alike for its cafeteria-style display of local cuisines. The restaurant isn’t anything fancy, but the variety of dishes certainly make up for any lack of decor – as do the rock bottom prices. Besides an array of curry and biryani dishes on offer, there is a designated barbeque area where chefs are ready to cook the catch of the day, marinated chicken, and even giant octopus’ legs — depending on what piques your appetite.

Wash everything down with a freshly squeezed tropical juice at the front counter and you will certainly have tasted the best of Stone Town — with shillings to spare.