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5 Things About Zanzibar’s Culture You Should Know Before Your Visit

The breathtaking Zanzibar archipelago is one of the most beautiful locations in the world. The region is home to extraordinary flora and fauna, and allows tourists to enjoy scenic and unforgettable views of sandy beaches, lush vegetation, mesmerizing marine life, and crystal clear water. A trip to Zanzibar is guaranteed to be a fulfilling and extraordinary experience. Here are 5 things every traveler must know about Zanzibar’s culture before their visit!


  1. Zanzibar is conservative

Zanzibar happens to be a conservative place, so one must comply with local values of modesty. Visitors must always ensure that they are at least covered from their shoulders to their knees. They should avoid wearing revealing clothing, and must cover their heads if they visit a mosque. While bathing suits are considered acceptable at beach destinations, nudity is not allowed. In fact, travelers and tour guides can be fined at least $700 for dressing indecently. It is also not considered proper to drink alcohol. While it is tolerated in certain places, being drunk in public must be avoided. There are a few bars in Stone Town, and alcohol can be found in fancy hotels at the beaches. However, as there are only a few stores in Stone Town that sell booze, it is a good idea for tourists to bring their own.


  1. The local cuisine is very unique

Zanzibar has an extraordinary local cuisine, which is influenced by Turkish, Arabic, Portuguese, Chinese, African, and Swahili tastes. Local dishes are made with a blend of spices such as cardamom, vanilla, nutmeg, cumin, lemongrass, turmeric, cloves, coriander, pepper, and ginger. Popular dishes include Zanzibar pizza, Kuku Paka, Nyama Choma, Chipsi Mayai, Mshikaki, Mandazi, and Samaki. One can also enjoy drinks such as ginger tea, avocado juice, and sugarcane juice.


  1. The locals may use Swahili time

Often, travelers in Zanzibar might get confused as locals are using Swahili time. People in Swahili culture count time from sunrise, not midnight. The reason for this method of time-keeping is that Zanzibar is close to the equator, sunrise and sunset time stays constant throughout the year. A trick to understand Swahili time is to draw a line across a clock, so this code is to imagine drawing a line directly across a clock face, so twelve becomes six, and three becomes nine. An easy way of avoiding confusions is to specify the time of day when setting up meetings or scheduling trips, by clarifying if the set time is of morning, afternoon, evening, or night.


  1. The language is easy

It is a good idea to learn some of Swahili, as the language is easy to learn and speak. Travelers can learn basic Swahili, as this will help them communicate with locals on their vacation. Greetings are an important part of local culture, so one should learn how to say hello.  While Jambo is used to say hello, tourists can also Shikamoo if they do not know the other person and wish to show respect (it is a good idea to say Shikamoo if they are speaking to an elder). Kwa Heri is goodbye, Asante means thank you, Habari gani is ‘’how are you, and Tafadhali translates to please. If tourists want to say yes, they can say ndiyo, while no translates to hapana. Some other basic phrases include samahani for excuse me, and tutaonana for see you later.


  1. The locals are friendly

The locals are very friendly, helpful, and down to earth, and tourists can have a great time interacting with them. However, visitors must know that they have to treat locals with respect, and adhere to a certain code of conduct. They must not insult people or their culture. When meeting children, tourists must not take any pictures, or give food or any item to a child without the consent of the parent.