Amizade in Tanzania: The Bustling Streets of Stone Town

by Amizade Global Service-Learning

Narrow streets fill the historical city of Stone Town, located on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of the Tanzanian mainland. Most are too narrow for automobiles and are instead full of bicyclists, motor bikes, and pedestrians. Lined with a vast assortment of shops, houses, bazaars, and mosques, the labyrinth of streets is a stunning display of the fusion of Arab, European, Persian, Indian, and African architectural influences. The lively streets of Stone Town are bursting with a vibrant culture and history, which Amizade volunteers get to experience first-handed when traveling to Zanzibar during volunteer programs in Tanzania.

The name “Stone Town” derives from the coral stone used in the construction of many of the city’s buildings, giving the city a warmish red tone. The city was officially founded in the 19th Century and was formally the capital of the Zanzibar Sultanate. Throughout the 19th Century, Stone Town was an important port in the spice, as well as Arabic slave trade. Stone Town also became a significant port city for the British under colonial rule. When Zanzibar and Tanganyika joined to form the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964, Stone Town remained the capital of the island of Zanzibar which is now ruled as a semi-autonomous state.

The city is full of unique architecture. Many of the buildings lining the narrow streets feature a baraza, a lengthy stone bench used for sitting and as an elevated sidewalk during times of heavy rain and flooding. Further distinguishing aspects of Stone Town architecture are large verandas extending from buildings and detailed carvings, demonstrating Arab and Indian influences, on the doors along the streets. Historical buildings fill the city, including sultan palaces, forts, Islamic mosques, Catholic cathedrals, and Persian bathes (to name a few). All of these buildings are representative of the variety of people and cultures that have occupied the area. A central attraction within the city is the Darajani Market, the largest bazaar in Zanzibar. Colorful and lively, the Darajani Market is a winding maze of shops and stalls selling everything from kangas (brightly colored fabrics) and exotic fruits to consumer electronics. It is an excellent locale to visit and experience the unique culture of Zanzibar.

Traveling to Stone Town during Amizade programs in Tanzania is an opportunity for Amizade volunteers to witness a distinctive culture, resulting from a mixture of many different ethnic backgrounds. Volunteers get to explore the narrow streets and weave their way through the city. They get to gaze in awe at the stunning architecture, interact with people of the local markets, and learn the city’s fascinating history. It is a time of exploration, adventure, and learning, all important aspects of the Amizade experience.


Check out information on our upcoming Spring Semester program in Tanzania available here.