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In the heart of Zanzibar’s aptly named Stone Town, it’s a tantalizing tangle of bazaars, bicycles, bas-reliefs and benches. (Stone benches known as bazara line the narrow streets in a town where watching the world bustle pass is a worthy occupation.) This UNESCO heritage site makes for a captivating dip into the idyllic East African island of Zanzibar, a heady isle rich in culture, coffee, spices and – well, you know us by now – a sumptuous dose of five-star luxury in the form of the Park Hyatt, majestically perched on the fine white-sandified Shangani Beach front. From our doorstep, the town’s myriad attractions are easily explored on foot: from the lush Forodhani Gardens where street food is king, to the many-incarnated Old Fort (since 1699, it’s variously served as garrison, church, rail station and theatre), the Old Dispensary, the Peace Memorial and Palace Museums and more. A little spice shopping (OK probably more than a little since the bustling, heaving spice markets fairly heave with fragrant colourful wares that we’re sure you’ll want to take home, including the finest coffee in the world), perhaps a lovely Tanzanian necklace or two, even spotting the birthplace of one of its famous residents, Farrokh Bulsara aka Freddie Mercury of the band Queen… No tour is complete without pausing to admire a many of the island’s beloved Zanzibari doors, colossally ornate 19th century wooden carvings that are just another of Stone Town’s stunning sensory treats.
Our Stone Town abode is decorated with the mod-contemporary features you expect, and flourished with a pleasing measure of flavoursome luxe: Arabesque and Indian accents, brass-studded chests and carvings, spacious bathrooms with standalone tubs and rain showers. We love coming home to the opulence of a traditional colonial mansion built by a wealthy Omani trader; comprising the core of the hotel, the Zamani Residence is a magnificent Zanzibari mansion steeped in history, grace and mystique – one of the island’s architectural gems. From the Library to the comfy sofas in the Living Room, the elegant ambience is relaxed and residential.
Splendid views unfurl over the many-masted dhow harbours and onward across the intoxicatingly azure of the Indian Ocean. Whether it’s sundowner hour on the terrace or sunrise from your luxuriously appointed guestroom – which naturally comes with all the lovelies from an iPhone dock to an Illy coffee machine – Zanzibar time is decidedly time well spent.
Facing out to the ocean and overlooking the beach, the cooling infinity pool is the ideal place to refresh and replenish, as is the tranquility of The Spa and its expert masseuses. These retreats make for lovely befores and afters (and middles, of course) – forming ideal contrast to hours of strolling, trolling and generally mooching about the fascinating Zanzibari capital. Museums abound: the Slave Museum is a must to begin to understand the enormity and the trade of slavery which flourished here. (It’s thought 50,000 souls passed through port annually until it was shut down by the British in 1873.) The other biggie, the spice trade, comes alive – and we mean ALIVE – at Darajani Market. Bazaars, boutiques and shops purvey all manner of treasures from soft straw bags to glittering Tanzanian gemstones are present in this intriguing Swahili, Indian and Arabic-flavoured town built by Persians, Indians, Omanis, Portuguese and British… ever-ready to have you lost, found and inevitably as enchanted as we are.