Zanzibar isn’t like the mainland. The semi-autonomous archipelago is a 23
-mile hop from mainland Tanzania, and although it is officially part of the East African country, in almost all aspects—politics, religion, culture, food—life there is different.
Get on Swahili time. Time-keeping is initially confusing, but actually makes a lot of sense. In Swahili culture, people start counting time at sunrise rather than at midnight, which means that 7 a.m. Western time is one o’clock in the morning Swahili time, and 7 p.m. is one o’clock at night. (This works because sunset and sunrise times are relatively constant year-round, since Zanzibar is so close to the equator.)
Island life is slow. In Zanzibar, life moves pole pole – Swahili for slow. Things in Zanzibar don’t always make sense, don’t always work, or can take a while. It’s important to enjoy the calm chaos and take a cue from the unhurried pace. Your smoothie might take 45 minutes to show up, but it will be delicious and worth the wait. Lazuli, a tiny but wonderful restaurant in Stone Town is a good place to experience this.
Choose your own adventure. Zanzibar has become host to a handful of East Africa’s most posh luxury resorts, which can be a jarring contrast to what is an otherwise quiet, economically-challenged island (the average Zanzibari makes less than $1 a day).
Zanzibar has two rainy seasons. Every year, there are the long rains and the short rains. On the heels of the blazing and seriously sweaty East African summer, Zanzibar’s long rainy season lasts roughly from March until May. Booking a trip during this period if you’re set on a beach holiday is not a good idea; the islands get hit with some pretty epic monsoons that will quite literally dump on your beach time.
Taste the world. Zanzibar has had many rulers over the centuries, and its long, tragic history has created one of Africa’s most interesting cuisines. This is the original fusion food, a delicious mash-up of Indian, Arab, Chinese, Portuguese and African cooking traditions, all driven by the constant presence of spice (these are known as the Spice Islands, after all, where cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and nutmeg come straight from the source.)
Egg yolks are white, not yellow. Across Zanzibar, and many parts of mainland Tanzania, breakfast options are egg white or egg white—even when the yolk is included. There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just that yolks are never a sunny yellow.