Updated: Jun 14
I'm not always the brightest star in the sky, and my intelligence seems to plummet further when I'm off exploring the world. I think I'm the kind of person that researches all travel options... and I think I soak it all in, but I don't. I'm an idiot. That's why I could never have my own travel show. I unintentionally disregard information and guidance, and I make rookie mistakes over & over & over again. Actually, based on that information alone, it might be quite a good show. "Screw UP with Joanna McBride."
Stonetown, Zanzibar was no exception to the rule.
I had read multiple articles, reviews, tips, tricks... all about time spent on the island. Every single blog, vlog and travel publication said, "Spend 1-3 days in Stonetown. That is all you need."
I planned 8 days.
So guess what naturally happened? I got bored.
Guess what happens when I get bored? I eat.
Normally boredom also leads to over-consumption as well, but considering we are in a predominantly Muslim location, wine is NOT readily avaiable for purchase, unless you are actually in an upper-scale hotel/restaurant or pub. Believe me, I have enjoyed a rooftop rosé here and there, but my bum knee and my wallet prevent me from any possible overindulgence. As a solo traveller in a foreign area, I need to keep my wits about me at all times.
So that leaves eating!
It pains me to admit it, especially as an avid traveller... but I am not as open as I should be to new foods and flavours. It's both my ruin and my crutch. I tend to rely heavily on any bread products option, which isn't necessarily a great option for my travel experience, my body or my energy level.
Hence - no beach bikini photo shoot.
Not yet anyway.
More pineapple! Less chapati!
That sound be my new motto.
Here are a few of the doozies I found during my 8-day adventure in Stonetown...
This is only 6... believe me, there are more!
This was my first recommendation of Stonetown, and funny enough, my very first stop. I didn't even seek it out, it just miraculously appeared as I walked around a corner. When you're new to a place, anything seemingly familiar grabs hold of you like an old friend.
I stopped in, due to its international reputation of being one of the top places in Stonetown to serve true, authentic Zanzibari food. It seems others had read the same reviews, as the place was absolutely heavin' with locals and tourists alike.
It took awhile to get service at the crowded counter, but when it finally came to my turn, I ordered the rice, a vegetable curry and chapati. Delicious... but way too much and much too heavy meal for a quick lunchtime snack in the extreme heat.
Regretfully... I didn't take any pictures.
Service: BUSY... but I was impressed by their patience. Those servers must describe what's in each pot about 7000 times per day. It's down to a monotone, monotonous science by now. A few good, laminated English signs might do the trick!
Food: Good bang for your buck. Seriously - it was enough to share with a couple others.
Atmosphere: Busy! ... but that's a good thing, right?
Advice: Split a meal with a friend... if you have a friend! AND pay at the counter so that when you finish, you can get up and just go!
I had heard the Sunset Bar, on the rooftop of the Africa House Hotel, was the very best place in Stonetown to watch the sunset.
They weren't wrong.
Beside the intense 'Africa-hot' heat and the ridiculous long-sleeved, polyester dress I was wearing, everything was perfect. I was intent on only popping in for the magnificent view of the Indian Ocean, and a delightful glass of rosé, but the appeal of a delicious brownie, smothered with bubbling chocolate sauce & vanilla ice cream, was much too tempting and lured me in.
I didn't really need much coaxing, but it's nice to have something to blame.
You can watch the incredible sunset - in faster-than-normal motion - right here!
Service: Meh... not particularly attentive.
Food: Brownie was good... but too big and too much, and the bubbling chocolate had almost a burnt taste to it.
Advice: Ask the server to come back in a bit... just in case you decide you want to add something else to your bill, because once they drop your items off, you're done! It was very difficult trying to get their attention.
This place opens up RIGHT on to the beach, right in the sand. No balcony or sand mat, just sand. You can sit at the table, take off your shoes and let your toes embrace the sandy warmth of the ideal seaside location.
It was a perfect, shaded & breezy location to watch the boats come in and go out, as well as check out all the local vendors, as they desperately try to get your attention with their textiles & trinkets, while maintaining mandated restaurant fencing distance.
This place also got me thinking.
It was named after Dr. Livingstone, I presume...
I knew that legendary David Livingstone had covered a large part of Africa in his expeditions, but apparently some of the most iconic memoments emanete from Tanzania. Very interesting...
I ordered the largest bottle of water they had in stock and I guzzled it all down within mere moments. Full from liquid intake, I sat there, comatose, for some time, hazy from the heat and mesmerized by all the movement on the beach. I eventually ordered a glass of pinot grigio, as well as some toasted pita and tzatziki to nibble on, which seemed a brilliant idea at the time. It WAS delicious, but definitely worked its garlic magic, reminding me of the potent ingredient for the entire remainder of the day and into the next, regardless of how much water I drank or how many times I brushed my teeth.
Service: Fabulous... EVEN when I was short shilling, and they had no WIFI for me to pay by credit card.
Food: Garlic. A lot of garlic.
Atmosphere: Hang loose... beach vibes forever.
Advice: Bring enough money. I'm an idiot...
I hear they have beach bands in the evening, which might just lure me back! (and to pay my debt!)
I had read about this place in various TOP places to eat. I hadn't really sought it out, but was fully prepared to venture in had I passed by with a tinge of hunger. Just so happens, it appeared not long after I had set out on my first culinary tour of Stonetown tour. As I walked in the door, on my left hand side, I immediately noticed a small cooler case, holding a few traditional items. Nothing looked familiar, except for some sort of concoction with bananas. That one will do. Thought it was a safe bet for my first culinary exploration. I was wrong.
Banana in Brown sauce
I'm giving it a 3 for the service, but a 1 for the food. Meeting in the middle at a solid 2.
Some of you may have seen my Culinary Tour Video I made while dining in this establishment. If not, check it out here. Please keep in mind that I'm not an ass... I was trying my best!
Service: The loveliest man alive. Seriously - such a kind soul.
Food: No further comment.
Atmosphere: Just a very simple diner.
Advice: Stay away from the bananas in brown sauce.
Bring your own water!!! They only had 2 options - Sprite & Coca-Cola.
I had already made a solemn oath to myself, "no more crap!" and I meant it. By crap, of course, I refer predominantly to carbs, deep fried, sugar... etc. Basically I had promised myself to avoid absolutely everything I loved... as I have, many times before. BUT... after my brown-sauce banana fiasco, I really felt a debt had been left unsettled. I was owed something enjoyable.
Hands down, I was!
So I opted for Coconut Ice Cream, a decision I came later to regret. Especially when guzzled down with Stoney Tangawizi Ginger Beer.
PS - Most powerful ginger beer ever tasted. Soda with a serious kick. As delicious as it was, it actually made me cough! Their very own marketing pins it as "a refreshment that gives you the thrill of ginger, as it catches the back of your throat."
Service: Incredible! She was even kind and patient when I questioned the size and price of my frozen dessert. For the rest of my life, I will never understand why I questioned the bill... it was ONLY $3. Man...
Atmosphere: Pinned as oozing Zanzibar style, this garden-like atmosphere was somewhat peaceful, despite the constant beep-beep-beep from beyond the courtyard fencing.
I can't believe it took me so long to wander here. The Forodhani Food Stalls runs 7 days a week, and starts at 5pm every evening. Despite the fact that almost every single vendor sells the exact same thing, and the place is abs0lutley swarming with flies, it's fun and the food is tasty.
I waited almost one full week before I managed to haul my ass over to this seaside market! Perhaps it had something to do with an underlying anxiety of navigating my way through a dark maze alone... or maybe it was the constant exhaustion of never ending jet lag that kept me away. Once I had completed my day's excursion, I almost collapsed into my air conditioned room. There was little joy found in the thought of going out again.
But once I came across Forodhani, I haven't missed a night since.
I've tried falafel, samosas, chips, coconut bread, chapati, tomato & onion 'pizza' (for lack of a better word)... and I'm going back tonight!
Even if you're not hungry and you have no intention of spending money, I highly recommend this market, if only for the people-watching potential.
On one of my final evenings there, I stopped at Mr. Nutella and ordered the Cheese, Tomato & Spinach Pizza. This menu choice intrigued me, as there didn't appear to be an oven anywhere, so how they were posssibly going to make pizza, what beyond my comprehension. Watch here to see my pizza being made.
I might add, it was filled with mayonnaise, tomato, onion and, from what I can only assume, cheese chunks. No spinach to be found... Popeye would have been disappointed.
Food: A true tantalizing buffet of bizarre and exotic.
Atmosphere: It's a vibe.
Advice: Get there before the sun goes down so that you can;
1. Watch all the kids jump off the high wall and into the high tide ocean and
2. Watch the beautiful sunset.
***BRING SMALLER BILLS****
Seriously... NO ONE has change...