Stone Town holds magic and mystery. Shafts of bright light joust with deep shadows creating a fascinating world within its narrow streets, built for pedestrian traffic. The streets wind between tall buildings, opening unexpectedly into ornamental squares that endow the town with gathering points for local people as well as atmosphere of Arabian Nights charm.

Stone Town was declared a Conservation area in 1988, although several individual buildings had already been declared national monuments well before then. These sights included the Turkish Bath (Hamamni) built by Persians in the 1870s and the Omani Fort (Ngome Kongwe), where the Festival Office is housed, which was built on the site of a Portuguese Fort destroyed in 1753. Other national monuments include the House of Wonders and the Cathedrals as mentioned above.

The old town of Stone Town is roughly the shape of a triangle, bordered on two sides by the Indian Ocean and the eastern side by Creek Road. Walking from one side of the old city to the other takes about 15 minutes, unless you are a beginner in which case it could easily take several hours. Maps are available at any tourist shop.

Main Festival venues are centred around The Old Fort, House of Wonders and Forodhani Gardens, whose waterfront make a pleasant place to spend hours of an evening at any time of year, with the local traders selling freshly cooked kebabs, seafood, breads, chai and sugar cane juice.


Beit el Ajaib (House of Wonders)

Formerly the Sultan’s Palace, built in the nineteenth century by Sultan Barghash, the Festival is proud to be using this venue for exhibitions, film screenings, seminars and workshops.

People's Palace Museum

Located adjacent to the House of Wonders is another fine building, which served as the residence of the Al Busaid Sultans of Zanzibar until the Revolution in 1964. It now serves as a museum, where for a few shillings you can hire a guide to show you round and talk you through local history.