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Restaurant on an island next to the sea

A Taste of Zanzibar

Zanzibar, Tanzania – Falling in Love with the African Island One Bite at a Time

Regardless of language, geography, culture, or religious belief, perhaps no other thing can unite individuals more than the common denominator of food. A shared meal not only nourishes our bellies, but often brings us together, despite what corner of the globe we inhabit and what beliefs and practices guide our daily lives.

Whether we travel internationally or domestically, one of the first aspects of our trip that we research is its food and drink scene. From food halls and markets to restaurants and cooking classes, to vineyards and farms, discovering a region’s cuisine is one of our all-time favorite things to do and something that I doubt will ever tire of. It’s not solely the delicious food and creative cocktails that we crave, it’s also the remarkable people who we meet along the way.

The meticulous raw fish purveyor in Tokyo, the knowledgeable wine producer in the Cape Winelands of South Africa, the effervescent restauranteur and cooking class instructor in Rio do Janeiro, the hospitable family who shared their home and lunch with us in Cuba. Our shared love for food and drink have brought so many fascinating and passionate individuals into our lives, even if for a brief moment of time. Their steadfast commitment and love of their craft and homeland has left an indelible mark on our travel-loving hearts.

We took a traditional cooking class in Zanzibar, where we first visited Darajani Market to peruse the narrow stalls and choose our ingredients for our meal. Lutfia, our affable host, guided as around the lively market. As the main bazaar of Stone Town, the bustling market is teeming with shoppers and vendors. Here you’ll find an abundance of dates, as they are widely cultivated throughout the island of Zanzibar, local spices, loaves of bread carefully stacked in towering pyramids, vegetables, tropical fruit, seafood, and meat.

a picture of many different colored spices

We then proceeded to Lutfia’s home where we learned about and prepared local dishes. We sat on the kitchen floor as we grated coconut to make coconut milk from scratch, chopped vegetables and mixed them with local spices and coconut milk to make a delicious vegetable curry, and deep-fried tuna and king fish. It was such an interactive and enjoyable experience – capped off with of course, savoring our delectable meal for lunch.

JoAnn attending a cooking class kneading dough with her hands

Following lunch, we visited a neighboring spice farm, where we were led on an informative and interesting spice tour. Zanzibar is one the world’s leading producers of spices including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and visiting a spice farm on the island is an absolute must – it’s practically a rite of passage here! Our guide showed us many different spices and fruits, which we could also taste. We also watched a coconut tree climbing performance, a very traditional and impressive regional ritual. Without a doubt, this entire day was one of our favorite and most memorable experiences during our time in Zanzibar.

Four people posing for a group photo wearing funny hatsA man climbing a tree

If you want to go to where locals gather and eat, night markets are typically a good bet. The Forodhani Night Market buzzes with activity and brims with Tanzanian and Zanzibari specialty street food. We particularly loved sampling the kabobs, grilled seafood, pizzas (that’s right!), and fresh juices. Be prepared to haggle and bargain with the vendors and expect some spirited (and sometimes even aggressive) hawkers!

Night market vendor holding up a piece of food Kabobs, vegetables, melons

Rooftop dining is quite popular throughout the island, and for very good reason. The views and sunsets upon Zanzibar’s many terraces are exquisite. We enjoyed lovely meals at the Emerson on Hurumzi and the Tea House Restaurant, Emerson Spice Café, and Taarab Restaurant.

One of the most unique dining experiences we’ve had was at the Restaurant on the Rock (featured image top of page), famously known for its location in the Indian Ocean. The standout restaurant, aptly known as the “Floating Restaurant”, is a short distance from the shore of the Michanwi Pingwe Beach. The tide was low upon our arrival, and we waded through the water, then climbed a ladder to get to the restaurant.

A few hours later once dinner was over, the tide was too high to walk back to shore and we took the short canoe ride provided by the restaurant. The breathtaking setting and overall unique experience certainly made for a memorable experience.

Group of people dining and smiling on a rooftop

Eating our way through Zanzibar was one of the best ways to acquaint ourselves with this incredible island, its warm and welcoming people, vibrant culture, and remarkable history. Indeed, an amazing adventure for the senses and the soul.

—JoAnn
The avid traveler and foodie who’s called the Nation’s Capital, Washington DC, her home for nineteen years along side her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson.

JoAnn Hill enjoys writing about their DC living and dining experiences as well as global travel adventures on her blog dcglobejotters.org When she’s not out globetrotting, you can find her sharing secrets of her hometown from her new book, Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure www.secretdcbook.com

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