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Treasure hunt: Shopping in town
A tongue-in-cheek local shop in Stone Town
Once upon a time, the island of Zanzibar was a tremendous location for sourcing stunning antiques and colonial furniture - having been a melting pot for so long, the island was full of far-flung treasures.
Sadly most of the real bargains have been snapped up, and many of the 'antiques' on offer are of dubious quality, or even copies. As the tourism influx escalated, lots of small shops opened up to cater to new visitors - offering a fairly standard selection of trinkets, from carvings (often made in West Africa) to tinga-tinga paintings.
For some time, there was little choice of souvenirs, but the more recent tourism boom has generated a crop of new and exciting shops and products. Whether you are here for the beaches, the history, the diving or one of Zanzibar's excellent festivals, don't leave the island without picking up some presents to take home.
With our Mambo shopping guide we aim to show you the pick of the bunch so that you make the most of your purchasing power and boost the local economy!
MAMBO PICK Upendo Means Love - Upendo Means Love (below) is a great initiative bringing together Muslim and Christian women on Zanzibar and training them to tailor traditional 'kanga' cloth into pretty dresses and shirts, as well as clothes for children. Their shop in Stone Town, close to the NBC bank and Silk Route restaurant in Shangani, offers some gorgeous products with an island flavour. Kanga Kabisa, near Africa House, also offers kangas in modern designs, or if you just want to buy an original kanga and customise it yourself, visit the Chavda kanga market near Darajani.
Other options: Treasure Trove on Kenyatta Street has a range of clothes in different styles, from beach wear to floaty daywear. It also sells a wide range of jewellery.
MAMBO PICK Doreen Mashika - Swiss-Tanzanian designer Mashika is a bit of a gem. Having previously worked for luxury goods companies in Switzerland, she decided to relocate to Zanzibar and produce a range of top-quality bags and shoes, inspired by East Africa. Her shop is high-end and the range is superb (and also features jewellery and clothing). Her shop (below) is on Hurumzi street in Stone Town, close to the former Emerson and Green hotel, 236 Hurumzi.
Other options: Fahari is a local co-operative run by jeweller and bagmaker Julie Lawrance, working with local tailors and artists, and incorporating local materials such as mother of pearl harvested in Fumba on the south-west of the island. Their workshop is near Africa House and you can contact Fahari on +255 714 541537 or julie-lawrence [at] live [dot] com
Or if you fancy investing in some tanzanite jewellery, read our Mambo guide to the 'blue diamonds'.
MAMBO PICK A Novel Idea - This excellent bookshop started off with branches in Dar Es Salaam, and has just expanded to Zanzibar, on the ground floor of hotel 236 Hurumzi. With a diverse choice of titles covering Zanzibar, the wider East African region and fiction, there is something for everyone here, and books can also be ordered.
Other options: The Gallery Bookshop on Gizenga Street also offers a good range of books from fiction to African interest.
MAMBO PICK Moto/Dada - These Zanzibari women's co-operatives have stunning and top quality products to take home. Visit the Moto shop (below) on Hurumzi street and find Dada's exemplary new range of beauty products, in adorable packaging. The range covers everything from body oils in orange & green tea or lemongrass & ginger to baobab and sweet basil foot scrubs and soaps in 60 varieties inclding eucalyptus & sea salt and aloe vera & cinnamon. Sister range Moto includes beautiful handwoven and lined bags and baskets.
Other options: Saifa shop in Kelele Square near the Serena Hotel stocks gorgeous coconut soap made with essential oils on Mafia island off southern Tanzania.
Interiors and gifts:
MAMBO PICK Indaco - This gorgeous Italian-managed shop on Gizenga Street in Shangani is a treasure trove of stylish, fresh wares from across Tanzania, from colourful blankets and throws to ultra-stylish jewellery and bags. This is the place to go if you're not into rustic and like clean lines and minimalism with an African twist.
Other options: If you go to the Darajani area and go into the shopping street on the opposite side from the main market, you will find shops selling kitenge cloth at good prices. Go for vivid textiles in greens and turquoises to take a taste of the islands home - use them for table cloths and curtains. Be warned though, these are not 'authentically' local as they tend to be manufactured in West Africa.
MAMBO PICK Local shops - For general souvenirs, do let your feet do the talking and take time to explore the alleys of Stone Town for the best bargains. Lots of shops appear to have the same products, but if you delve a bit you'll often find something special - just don't be put off by the heavy sales patter. If you're a veteran of Marrakech or Mumbai, Stone Town will be a breeze in comparison. And by supporting local businesses you are giving money direct to local families - great for supporters of trade, not aid. Gizenga and Hurumzi areas are where many of these shops are concentrated, but wander with an open mind and who knows what you will find!
Other options: If you are shy and can't cope with the banter, head instead to Memories of Zanzibar on Kenyatta street, where you can shop in peace and choose from a wide range of souvenirs and gifts.
MAMBO PICK Go on a spice tour - It only takes half a day, isn't expensive and you can learn huge amounts about the fresh, aromatic spices that Zanzibar is famous for and that make up much of the island's cuisine. And at the end of the tour you have the chance to purchase spices direct. We particularly recommend the vanilla and black pepper.
Other options: Visit Darajani, the main market, and shop for spices here. Prices are reasonable, though you might want to haggle a little.