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    The Five Most Important Words To Know When Visiting Zanzibar

    10 minutes read
    10 minutes read
    words to know when visiting zanzibar
    Hakuna matata easy travel tanzania

    Visiting Zanzibar is like going to a literal paradise here on Earth.

    Okay, so this much we know: life is short, and the list of things to see and do is long, so it’s better to get on our horses now and experience life. There needs to be more sense in waiting for the perfect timing or retirement. The time to live is now.

    Visiting Zanzibar Pop Qui

    Marrakesh. Casablanca. Havana. Zanzibar. What do all these exotic locales have in common?

    Yes, their names make you dance. Instantly, you can taste, hear, and touch them. Havana smells sweet with cigar smoke and the sounds of salsa music. Marrakesh wafts of hookah and bustling vegetable markets. But what about Zanzibar? What do you see, smell, or taste when you hear that word?

    For me, I see the color turquoise. I see crazy-blue water, sugary beaches, and fried fish for supper. I wiggle sand between my toes and replace my alarm clock with snorkel fins. When I think of Zanzibar, I see, smell, and hear the sounds of paradise.

    Why Zanzibar is Perfect for Everyone

    The Zanzibar archipelago is genuinely one of Earth’s magical places. And while this island chain off the coast of Tanzania offers a wellspring of activities, Zanzibar also seems to encourage a “do-nothing” approach.

    You can arrive and spend all day, every day, with activities: spice farm tours and visits to Stone Town, scuba diving, and kayaking. Or, as soon as your plane touches down, you’re headed straight to the beach with a book, suntan lotion, and no agenda.

    It’s your call. The glory of Zanzibar is this: adaptability. Zanzibar can adapt to anyone’s needs. Plus, it’s gorgeous. These islands meet you exactly where you are, so to narrow down any Zanzibar agenda, let’s commit the following five words to memory:

    Five Words to Know when visiting Zanzibar - Must Know

    1. CLOVES

    If you’ve heard of The Spice Islands, it is referencing Zanzibar. Why? Omani Arabs colonized these islands in the late 18th century. They quickly planted acres of spices—starting with cloves—transforming the islands into a worldwide hub for the spice trade—vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

    Sign up for a spice tour, and you’ll sample all four potent spices. (source). PS: Spices are great (and packable) gifts for loved ones! Interested in learning more about the spices of Zanzibar? Click here.

    2. DHOW

    Pronounced “dow,” as in rhyming with “cow,” these elegant, traditional sailing vessels are seen all over Zanzibar. They are Arab-engineered boats with long, thin wooden hulls. As 98% of Zanzibar’s population is Muslim, dhows have long been used here for transportation and cargo.

    Dubai recently built the world’s largest dhow at nearly 300 feet long and 33 feet high! (source) Most dhows in Zanzibar are small and intimate, ideal for a romantic sunset cruise.


    Zanzibar’s most prominent attractions aren’t just world-class beaches and bustling urban hubs like UNESCO-designated Stone Town. The island’s capital city is a must-see, with its tangled history of slave trade and colonial charades (Learn more about Stone Town).

    The Darajani Market is the city’s central heartbeat, so schedule a Stone Town tour and spend time weaving through this market. It bursts at the seams with burlap spices, drying fish, and textiles. Zanzibari merchants are incredibly kind and welcome your patronage, so leave room in your luggage for gifts.

    4. MNEMBA

    Zanzibar wouldn’t be the destination it is today without the crystalline Indian Ocean surrounding it and all that lives beneath the surface. Over 500 species of marine life call Zanzibar’s coastal waters home, while bathtub-warm temperatures hover around 80 degrees year-round. So. Good.

    At Mnemba Atoll, you’ll discover blue-spotted rays, bottlenose dolphins, and hundreds of other creatures to dive or snorkel alongside. Did I mention it’s a nesting ground for endangered green sea turtles? (source)

    5. NUNGWI

    After an unofficial scouring of the planet for the most beautiful beaches on Earth, it’s conclusive: Zanzibar tops the podium. Anywhere you stay on the islands (Where To Stay? ,) you will find your own patch of paradise.

    Easy Travel has worked in Zanzibar for decades to find the best places to stay, and we often recommend Nungwi Beach, voted a Top 100 Beach on the Planet (source), and one of the island’s most swimmable beaches.

    Essential Swahili Words for Zanzibar Travel

    Jambo (jahm-boh) – Hello

    Asante (ah-sahn-teh) – Thank you

    Karibu (kah-ree-boo) – Welcome

    Habari gani? (hah-bah-ree gah-nee) – How are you? (response: Nzuri – Fine)

    Pole pole (poh-leh poh-leh) – Slowly, take it easy

    Ndiyo (ndee-yoh) – Yes

    Hapana (hah-pah-nah) – No

    Samahani (sah-mah-hah-nee) – Excuse me, sorry

    Nakupenda (nah-koo-pen-dah) – I love you

    Kwaheri (kwah-heh-ree) – Goodbye

    Must-Know Words for Exploring Zanzibar

    Mambo (mahm-boh) – General greeting, similar to “What’s up?”

    Shukrani (shoo-krah-nee) – Thank you

    Karibu (kah-ree-boo) – Welcome

    Safari (sah-fah-ree) – Journey or trip

    Bwana (bwah-nah) – Sir or Mister

    Dala-dala (dah-lah dah-lah) – Local minibus transportation

    Jua kali (joo-ah kah-lee) – Street market or informal market

    Maji (mah-jee) – Water

    Bafu (bah-foo) – Bathroom

    Baridi (bah-ree-dee) – Cold

    Key Swahili Vocabulary for Your Zanzibar Trip

    Salamu (sah-lah-moo) – Greetings

    Chakula (chah-koo-lah) – Food

    Maji (mah-jee) – Water

    Tembo (tehm-boh) – Elephant

    Mbegu (mbeh-goo) – Seeds

    Ndege (n-deh-geh) – Birds

    Pwani (pwah-nee) – Coast

    Shamba (shahm-bah) – Farm

    Miti (mee-tee) – Trees

    Kisiwa (kee-see-wah) – Island

    Swahili Essentials for Travelers in Zanzibar

    Karibu Zanzibar (kah-ree-boo zahn-zee-bar) – Welcome to Zanzibar

    Nakupenda Zanzibar (nah-koo-pen-dah zahn-zee-bar) – I love Zanzibar

    Asante sana (ah-sahn-teh sah-nah) – Thank you very much

    Hakuna matata (hah-koo-nah mah-tah-tah) – No worries, everything’s fine

    Pole pole (poh-leh poh-leh) – Slowly, take it easy

    Chakula cha jioni (chah-koo-lah chah jee-oh-nee) – Dinner

    Soko la asubuhi (soh-koh lah ah-soo-boo-hee) – Morning market

    Maji ya baridi (mah-jee yah bah-ree-dee) – Cold water

    Shikamoo (shee-kah-moh) – Traditional Swahili greeting for elders

    Safari njema (sah-fah-ree n-jeh-mah) – Have a good journey

    Five Crucial Words for Navigating Zanzibar’s Culture

    Karibu – (kah-ree-boo) – Welcome: This word embodies the warmth and hospitality of Zanzibar. You’ll hear it everywhere, from shops to restaurants, as locals welcome you with open arms.

    Asante – (ah-sahn-teh) – Thank you: Expressing gratitude is essential to Zanzibari culture. Saying “Asante” will show appreciation for the kindness and generosity you encounter during your visit.

    Mambo – (mahm-boh) – General greeting: Use this casual greeting to start conversations and connect with locals. It’s a friendly way to break the ice and engage with people you meet.

    Soko – (soh-koh) – Market: Zanzibar’s markets are lively activity hubs that offer everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. Knowing “soko” will help you quickly navigate these bustling spaces.

    Maji – (mah-jee) – Water: Staying hydrated is essential, especially in Zanzibar’s warm climate. Whether you’re ordering a drink or asking for directions to the nearest water source, knowing how to say “Maji” will come in handy.

    Main Takeaway?

    If you plan to visit Tanzania for a safari or to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, you would be remiss not to schedule some “dhow-n” time in Zanzibar. Flights are cheap, infrastructure is well-established, and Easy Travel can customize your island getaway quickly, however, you see fit. Whether you choose Stone Town and stand-up paddle boarding, spice hunting, scuba diving, or strictly books and suntans, the choice is yours.

    Getting You There?

    Whether you want to soak in some sunshine with the family or get away from the hustle and bustle with our honeymoon packages, we have something suitable for everyone. Looking for something more unique? Contact us today and allow us to help answer all your questions.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. What is Zanzibar?

    Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago off East Africa’s coast, known for its pristine beaches, rich history, and vibrant culture. It comprises several islands, with Zanzibar Island and Pemba Island being the main ones.

    Exploring the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar offers travelers a chance to delve into its unique blend of cultural and natural wonders. With its picturesque beaches and captivating history, Zanzibar provides an unforgettable escape for visitors seeking adventure and relaxation.

    2. What is the official language of Zanzibar?

    The official language of Zanzibar is Swahili, but many locals also speak English, especially in the tourism industry. It’s helpful to learn some basic Swahili phrases for more accessible communication during your visit.

    Learning a few Swahili phrases can enhance your interactions with locals and enrich your cultural experience while visiting Zanzibar. Don’t hesitate to practice your language skills, which can lead to great connections and unforgettable encounters during your trip.

    3. What are the main islands of Zanzibar?

    The main islands of Zanzibar are Zanzibar Island and Pemba Island. Zanzibar Island, also known as Unguja, is the more extensive and populous of the two, while Pemba Island is known for its lush landscapes and diving spots.

    Zanzibar Island and Pemba Island offer unique experiences, from exploring historic sites to enjoying tranquil beaches and underwater adventures. Consider visiting both islands to fully appreciate the unique charm and attractions they have to offer.

    4. What are the popular attractions in Zanzibar?

    Zanzibar offers many attractions, including pristine beaches, historic Stone Town, Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, and Prison Island, which is famous for its giant tortoises. Visitors also enjoy water sports, spice tours, and cultural experiences.

    Exploring the diverse attractions immerses visitors in Zanzibar’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural enrichment, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on this enchanting island getaway.

    5. What is the climate like in Zanzibar?

    Zanzibar experiences two rainy seasons—the long rains from (March-May) and the short rains from (November-December). The rest of the year is characterized by warm temperatures and sunshine, making it an ideal beach vacation destination.

    Some outdoor activities may be restricted during the rainy seasons, but indoor attractions and cultural experiences are still available for visitors. Consider planning your escapade during the dry season for optimal weather conditions and a more pleasant overall experience on the island.

    6. What is the currency in Zanzibar?

    The currency used in Zanzibar is the Tanzanian shilling (TZS). Carrying cash for small purchases and transactions is advisable, although larger establishments may accept credit cards.

    When exchanging currency, opt for official exchange offices or banks to ensure fair rates and prevent counterfeit money. Additionally, keep small denominations handy for convenience, especially when shopping at local markets or street vendors who may not have change for larger bills.

    7. What should I know when shopping in Zanzibar?

    Knowing some basic Swahili phrases for bargaining and communication is helpful when shopping in Zanzibar. Popular items include spices, textiles, artwork, and local handicrafts.

    Engaging in friendly banter with vendors using Swahili phrases can enhance your shopping experience and improve deals and interactions. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the products, as vendors often appreciate genuine interest and may share fascinating insights about their craftsmanship or cultural significance.

    8. How do I get to Zanzibar?

    Most visitors fly into Zanzibar International Airport from various destinations, including mainland Tanzania and other East African countries. There are also ferry services connecting Zanzibar to the mainland.

    It’s advisable to book your flights or ferry tickets in advance, particularly during peak tourist seasons, to get the best prices and ensure availability. Additionally, consider arranging transportation from the airport or ferry terminal to your accommodation beforehand to streamline your arrival process and avoid inconvenience.

    9. What are the best times to visit Zanzibar?

    The best period to visit Zanzibar is during the dry season, from June to October when the weather is sunny and pleasant. This period is ideal for beach vacations and outdoor activities.

    During the dry season, you’ll also have the opportunity to witness vibrant cultural festivals and events that showcase Zanzibar’s traditions and heritage. Planning your visit during this time ensures optimal conditions for exploring the island’s attractions and enjoying its stunning natural beauty.

    10. Is Zanzibar safe for tourists?

    Zanzibar is generally safe for tourists, but taking standard precautions is advisable, such as avoiding isolated areas at night and keeping belongings secure. It’s also recommended to respect local customs and traditions.

    Additionally, staying informed about travel advisories and consulting with locals or hotel staff for safety tips can enhance your peace of mind during your visit. By being mindful of your surroundings and respecting the local culture, you can enjoy a memorable and worry-free experience exploring the wonders of Zanzibar.

    11. What are the must-try Swahili dishes when visiting Zanzibar?

    Zanzibari cuisine is a delightful blend of Swahili, Arab, Indian, and Portuguese influences. Must-try dishes include biryani, pilau rice, seafood curry, samosas, and Zanzibar pizza, all bursting with flavor and spices.

    Exploring Zanzibari cuisine offers a culinary adventure that reflects the island’s multicultural heritage, allowing visitors to savor the diverse flavors and aromatic spices unique to the region. Take advantage of the opportunity to indulge in local street food stalls or dine at traditional Swahili restaurants for an authentic gastronomic experience in Zanzibar.

    12. Can I visit Zanzibar for a day trip?

    While Zanzibar is best experienced with a more extended stay, visiting for a day trip is possible, especially if you’re staying on the mainland. You can explore attractions like Stone Town and Prison Island or enjoy a beach day excursion.

    Consider planning your day trip carefully to make the most of your time on the island. Be sure to arrange transportation and activities in advance to avoid logistical challenges. While a brief visit may provide a taste of Zanzibar’s charm, extending your stay allows a deeper exploration of its diverse attractions and cultural heritage.

    13. What are the cultural norms in Zanzibar?

    In Zanzibar, it’s essential to dress modestly, particularly when visiting religious sites or local communities. Respect local traditions and customs, like removing shoes before entering homes or mosques.

    Additionally, familiarize yourself with cultural etiquette, such as greeting locals with a handshake or “Salaam” (peace) and avoiding public displays of affection. By respecting local customs, you’ll foster positive interactions and contribute to a more enriching travel experience in Zanzibar.

    14. Are there any health concerns when visiting Zanzibar?

    Health concerns in Zanzibar include malaria and other tropical diseases. It’s advisable to take necessary precautions, like using mosquito repellent and wearing pants and long sleeves. It’s best to consult a healthcare professional before travel.

    Furthermore, staying hydrated and practicing good hygiene can help prevent common gastrointestinal illnesses during your stay. Consider packing a basic medical kit with essential supplies for minor injuries or ailments, ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip to Zanzibar.

    15. What activities can I enjoy when visiting Zanzibar?

    Zanzibar offers various activities for all interests, including snorkeling, diving, spice tours, dolphin watching, and sunset cruises. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, Zanzibar has something for everyone.

    Exploring the aquatic world through scuba diving and snorkeling reveals the vibrant marine life and colorful coral reefs surrounding the islands. Additionally, immersing yourself in the local culture through spice tours provides a deeper understanding of Zanzibar’s rich heritage and culinary traditions.

    Engaging in water activities like scuba diving and snorkeling allows you to witness the breathtaking underwater biodiversity of Zanzibar firsthand. Meanwhile, spice tours offer a sensory journey showcasing the island’s historical significance as a hub of spice trade and cultivation.

    Musaddiq Gulamhussein - Owner - Easy Travel Tanzania

    About the author: Musaddiq

    Meet Musaddiq Gulamhussein, owner of Easy Travel Tanzania, a tour company creating life-changing safari experiences for over 35 years. Musaddiq has explored Tanzania, developing a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions. Follow his journey and gain insights into the African Safari experience through Easy Travel's social media and blog.

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