Food, Facts, & A Fort

Linda Lou Burton posting from Zanzibar Serena Hotel, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania – Who doesn’t love pizza? The minute I saw “pizza” on the menu I knew that’s what I was ordering. I’d read about “Zanzibar Pizza” and was dying to try it – not Italian pizza, but Zanzibar pizza. You take unleavened dough, stretch it thin and fill it with beef, chicken, seafood, vegetables, cheese, eggs, whatever you please. Then you wrap the sides around, throw it into a pan full of butter, and fry it to a crispy gold! You can also make it sweet: bananas, mangoes, chocolate spread, even peanut butter. We’d had our Zanzibar coffee earlier, now with the Walking Tour done, Rick and I were in a tiny restaurant-by-the-sea for our lunch break. Said and Ali would fetch us later for our ride south to the Spice Farm. Lots to talk about – Rick had wandered through several hundred years of civilization in the last few hours. Stone Town is on Unguja, the largest of the Zanzibar Archipelago’s four main islands; it is 53 miles long and 24 miles wide, about 25 miles from Tanzania’s mainland. Zanzibar’s population (all islands) is under 2 million. Zanzibar City, of which Stone Town is a part, is the capital of this semi-autonomous province-within-a-country. That’s the geography. We needed to get Zanzibar’s HISTORY unscrambled in our heads, so, dates next.


10 Significant Dates (among many!):

  • 1498 – Portugal’s Vasco da Gama visited the islands
  • 1571 – Zanzibar became part of the Portuguese Empire
  • 1635 – Portuguese established a fort on Pemba Island
  • 1698 – Zanzibar came under influence of the Sultan of Oman
  • 1699 –Omani’s expelled the Portuguese, built fort in Stone Town
  • 1784 – Brief revolt against Omani rule
  • 1890 – Zanzibar became a protectorate of Great Britain
  • 1963 – British protectorate terminated, Zanzibar became monarchy
  • 1964 – Sultan deposed, Zanzibar became Peoples Republic
  • 1964 – Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika to become Tanzania

Oops, here are our pizzas, looking very American. “Sorry, we don’t serve Zanzibar pizza here,” our server explained. Okay then, something familiar! “Just tell me about two things you saw this morning,” I said to Rick as I scarfed down my cheesy pizza. “Your favorites.”

His picks: the coral stone used for building construction and the Old Fort. 

Stone Town was named “Stone Town” because its buildings were mainly built with coral stone, giving the town a warm color. Look at this alley wall!


The Old Fort is on the main seafront, by the House of Wonders, facing Forodhani Gardens. History: it was built by Omani Arabs after chasing away the Portuguese in 1699. It was used as a garrison and prison in the 19th century. In the early 20th century it was a depot as the railway that connected Stone Town to the village of Bububu (named for the sound a steam engine makes as it passes by bububububu) was being constructed. A new guardhouse was built in 1947 and used as the ladies’ club. And, thoroughly modern — its amphitheater is now the headquarters of the Zanzibar international film festival!


Zanzibar Serena Hotel

Fisherman’s Tours

Next Post: A Spicy Afternoon