Unguja – Home of Wonder and Old Port
Unguja – the other and formal name for the extraordinary island commonly called Zanzibar, is the perfect example of a Swahili trading town in East Africa. From its origins in the 16th century as a vibrant sea route and merchant hub, it has retained its urban fabric and culture intact and still retains many of the original buildings and landscapes that reflect its unique social structure, which brought together influences of Arab, Indian, European and African.
Situated 40 miles from the Tanzania coast, the buildings that reflect the town architecture, are built of coral stone, mangrove timber that are added to a mix of lime mortar, to reflect a complex mix of Arab, Swahili and European building traditions. Many of the buildings are two storey affairs with long and narrow rooms that offer access to an open courtyard, accessed through a narrow corridor, and marked externally by elaborately carved Zanzibar doors.
Stone Town is the heart of not only the major city in Unguja but also a social and commercial centre. Since the 1990s tourism has developed and remains the most significant revenue earner. The spice farming and trade also remains a significant contributor to the island’s GDP.
Property development in the island is hindered by lack of clear policy and changes of land use. The absence of clear policies on land division, development and ownership remain a major stumbling block to efforts at modernization. Again the lack of a strategy on how to accommodate the growth of tourism and how to stimulate public spaces may result in random and careless planning that could threaten its progress.
Attractions to die for
But on the brighter side, Unguja retains attractions to die for. The daily tropical sunshine and the soft breezes pregnant with spicy scents from the island’s spice plantations, and mingling of the coconut aromas, fruits and other flora all surround you.
There is a stunning freshness in the air, and as you doze away after a sumptuous meal, only the murmuring waves blowing from the powdery sandy beaches and the rustling of the palm fronds combine to create a serene harmony.
As you get awakened by birds, the scintillating colours of the Indian Ocean greet your eyes. The evening brings with it a mystical ambiance that is both tranquil and pleasurable. You can dive into the Indian Ocean that adds glamour to your skin, and emerge from the now cooled ocean waters to a delectable dinner comprised of meats, seafood, vegetables, and fruits. You can wash it all down with copious amounts of sugarcane juice.