Zanzibar at a Glance

Stone Town


Most people on the Island of Zanzibar are Muslims . Guest staying at the Swahili House will not fail to hear the evocative sound of the muezzins calling people to prayer from the minarets, especially for the evening prayers at sunset..

During the holy month of Ramadan, when most  people fast during the day, the pace will slow down considerably.  Most  of the restaurants and cafes are closed during the day but the Rooftop Terrace restaurant at The Swahili house is open for breakfast lunch and dinner. We advise our guests to not eat and drink on the street during the month of Ramadan .  Also try and cover up as much as possible, especially in town.

There are also small populations of Christians on the island and the two most notable churches are the Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ and the Catholic  Church of St Joseph in Zanzibar town, which also has temples for local Hindus


Known as the “Spice Islands”, Zanzibar’s food culture is a fusion of African, Arab and Indian influences all of which have helped shape an eclectic cuisine. Spices from Middle East and Indian cooking paired with traditional African ingredients and fresh seafood makes Zanzibar food delicious.  Dishes and snacks one should try in Zanzibar include  Mandazi,  deep fried slightly sweetened bread with a hint of cardamom, Pilau Rice, rice, meat and spices are combined and cooked together, Octopus Curry cooked in a blend of rich spices and simmered in a coconut cream gravy and mishkaki, meat or chicken skewers marinated in a blend of spices and grilled to perfection.


Mishkaki Recipe

1 kg beef, cut into small, bite sized pieces

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

½ tsp curry powder, turmeric, ground cumin and coriander

1 tsp grated ginger

2 tbsp oil

2 tbsp water

Combine all ingredients except meat in a bowl .

Add the meat and marinate for at least one hour.

Place meat on skewers and grill till cooked.



Swahili is the official language in Zanzibar and is of Bantu (African) origin.  It has borrowed words from other languages such as Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, English and German.

The Arab and Persian cultures had the greatest influence on the Swahili culture and the Swahili language.  To demonstrate the contribution of each culture into the Swahili language, take an example of the numbers as they are spoken in Swahili.  Moja = one, mbili = two, tatu = three, nne = four, tano = five are all of Bantu origin. On the other and there is sita = six, saba = seven and tisa = nine that is borrowed from Arabic.

The Swahili words chai = tea, ahcari = pickle are some of the words borrowed from Persian merchants.  Words absorbed from the Portuguese who controlled the Swahili coastal towns are meza = table, pesa =, money and later also borrowed words from languages of the later colonial powers on the East African Coast – English (British) and German.  Swahilized English words include baiskeli = bicycle, basi = bus, penseli = pensil and Swahilized German words include shule – school.

Useful phrases

Hello                                         Jambo

How are you?                          Habari gani?

Fine (response)                       Nzuri

Goodbye                                   Kwa heri / Kwa herini (more than one person)

Yes                                             Ndiyo

No                                              Hapanna

Thank  you                               Asante

Thank you very much            Asante sana

Please                                        Tafadhali

May I take a picture?             Naomba kupiga picha