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A secret Stone Town
A maze of alleyways and shadows, Stone Town bewilders travellers. The first few days inside can be overwhelming, but a compass or GPS would only spoil the experience of getting lost in it.
Hurumzi is a good place to find yourself, if you can. You'll get there if you visit the House of Wonders and walk into the maze, in the general direction of the Malindi port. Hurumzi hosts many local art galleries with cheap, beautiful henna paintings created by local 'wachoraji' or henna painters. Other works include watercolours, oil paintings and some more inventive pieces.
If you feel like diverting your tour further towards the port in Malindi, you'll find the oldest mosque in Stone Town (Malindi Mosque). From here, just over the Darajani road, is David Livingstone's original Stone Town residence, not to be confused with the old British embassy, now Livingstone's restaurant. The residence is a museum housing an interesting collection of artefacts, including his diary, and it's hiding just beyond the petrol station.
If perchance you aren't interested in architecture, take a wrong turn at Darajani and treasure hunt in the market on the other side of the fruit and spice stalls. Kanga and other fabrics, clothing and other oddities can be found. For an excellent coffee on your way back through town, find the seller next door to Shamsu pharmacy, Darajani. His blend is a stronger espresso-like cup of Swahili tradition.
If you manage to avoid temptation, you can head back along the Darajani road, plunge back into town and turn right and then pass the gold shops, until you cross past the baobab tree and arrive in Vuga. It's got a European feel as it is heavy in French-style architecture, and boasts many beautiful Zanzibar doors that are forgotten on city tours.
Come back into the maze, behind the Old Fort, and look at the Zanzibar People's Bank. The second floor balcony is where Zanzibar's rebel-princess, Salme Binti Said, began courting her lover Rudolph Heinrich Ruete. This balcony caused a lot of trouble for the sultanate, and her infamous affair became history after she recorded her life story in a memoir. Salme's balcony is not marked on maps, and when you look at the short distance between the palace verandah and the window of the adjacent building where Rudolph lived, it's not hard to understand how the two lovers began talking to each other.
Blackened by centuries of slave trading, the coastal capital has remnants of the trade that many visitors miss. In the Shangani district, the four storey mansion of slaver Tippu Tip stands as a reminder of the trade - and how lucrative slavery really was. The inhabitants of this beautiful house welcome anybody interested in taking an (eccentric) tour back to the Stone Town of slave markets. It contrasts well with the more visited Anglican Cathedral and slave market in Mkunazini.
Part of Stone Town's appeal is its Swahili character. It will charm and draw you in further, losing your direction, until you have no idea where you are in the midst of the chaos. Every traveller must get lost at least once before they leave.