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Stone Town's alluring alleyways, stone walls and secretive windows enchanted the world and in 2000 the old capital of Zanzibar became a UNESCO World Heritage site. Called in Swahili Mji Mkuu or Old Town, Stone Town grew from a small seaside settlement of thatched huts to become the home of sultans, powerful merchants and both the famous and infamous players in East African history. A swampy area that regularly flooded, Stone Town was once separated from the rest of the island by the mangroves underneath Darajani Bridge; the only way in or out to the countryside, into Ngambo (or 'the other side').
Stone Town's ruins conceal centuries of history within their walls and doors. It is a labyrinthine collection of Arabic, Indian, Persian, Portuguese, French and English architecture. Each district reveals a different cultural influence and story. The opulence of Shangani's mansions, the solid Gujerati doors of Kiponda's old gold markets, Vuga's European villas and the palatial towers of the sultans- every corner is homage to the luxury of the residents of historical Stone Town. Each building is a limestone memoir of slavery, colonial rule, royalty and the sensual spice trade. The doors all tell their stories in carvings, signaling the wealth and trade of their owners to passers-by.
Each morning hundreds of mosques passionately call the city to prayer. Although predominately Islamic, the minarets that pierce from beneath the rooftops declare the eclectic mixture of faiths that have bloomed in Zanzibar. The peaceful and tolerant Swahili attitude is displayed by the Mosques, Hindu and Zoroastrian temples, Christian cathedrals and churches that all sit side by side.
Travellers can explore Stone Town's rich history, indulge in fresh seafood at the Forodani garden night market, shop for curios and unique crafts, order tailor-made clothing in boutiques and enjoy a sundowner on the beachfront.