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  • Writer's pictureInge BB

Discovering Zanzibar: Unique Souvenirs to Bring Home

Zanzibar is renowned for its magnificent beaches, rich history, and vibrant culture. As you explore the narrow, winding streets of Stone Town or relax on the beaches, you will undoubtedly come across some unique souvenirs. From intricately crafted artefacts to aromatic spices, Zanzibar offers a diverse selection of mementos for travellers who want to take a piece of the island's charm home with them.

African mask
1. Handcrafted Wooden Artefacts
African artwork
Local artisans in Zanzibar showcase their incredible talent through the creation of exquisite wooden carvings. Intricately designed masks, statues, and furniture reflect the island's cultural diversity and historical influences. Look for items made from ebony, mahogany, or coconut wood, each telling a unique story of Zanzibar's heritage.
The best places to buy handcrafted wooden artefacts:
  • The Zanzibar Curio Shop, Hurumzi Street, Stone Town

  • in small shops in Stone Town

  • from local carpenters on the beach

Kanga fabrics
Kanga - Alaa kumbe means Oh, I see.

2. Kangas and Kitenges
Colorful, vibrant, and culturally significant, Kangas and Kitenges are traditional fabrics from East Africa that make for lovely souvenirs. These brightly patterned fabrics feature traditional motifs and can be crafted into clothing, accessories, or used as wall hangings, serving as a lasting reminder of your vacation in Zanzibar. Kangas are distinguished by the Swahili proverbs adorning the lower section. Positioned precisely above the fabric's motif,

Kitenge fabrics
these statements are now predominantly written in Latin script, moving away from the earlier Arabic script. The significance of Kangas lies in the messages they convey. Some women choose their Kangas based solely on the statement, prioritizing it over color and pattern. Kangas serve as a form of communication, allowing women to subtly address situations like gossip or conflicts. Moreover, these phrases can express joyous occasions, such as a wife welcoming her husband home with a Kanga that conveys her excitement and longing for his return.
Examples of kanga sayings:

„Naogopa simba na meno yake siogopi mtu kwa maneno yake“ - I fear the teeth of a lion, but not the words of a man. "Nitazidi kumpenda mpate kusema sana" - Keep on talking. The more you gossip, the more I will love him.

"Wawili wakipendena adui hana nafasi" - In love, two people have no room for enemies.

African woman

Younger, more modern women prefer different fabrics for their clothes, but ones that are equally vibrant.
The best places to buy fabrics:
  • in many small shops in Stone Town

  • Suma Store, Darajani street opposite the Darajani market

spices of zanzibar
3. Zanzibari Spice Blends
Zanzibar has long been known as the "Spice Islands" due to its thriving spice trade. Delight your senses with the island's renowned spice blends, featuring a mix of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg. Popular choices include Zanzibar Curry Powder or the exotic Zanzibar Seven Spice blend, each adding a touch of the island's aromatic allure to your culinary adventures back home.
If you are interested in more information about the spices please read also our last blog.
The best places to buy spices are:
  • Darajani Market, Zanzibar town

  • Memories of Zanzibar, Kenyatta Road, Stone Town

  • Zanzibar Organic Spice Shop, Mkunazini Street, Stown Town

  • 1001 Organic Spicery, Gizenga Street, Stone Town

  • Spice Shop in Paje, behind the roundabout, direction to Jambiani

baskets made in  zanzibar

4. Mkokoteni (Handwoven Baskets)
Mkokoteni, or handwoven baskets, are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Crafted from local materials such as palm leaves and banana fibers, these baskets come in various shapes and sizes. Whether you use them for shopping, storage, or as decorative pieces, Mkokoteni embody the skillful craftsmanship of Zanzibar's artisans.
The best places to buy baskets:
  • in small shops in Stone Town

African painting

5. Tinga Tinga Paintings
Originating from Tanzania, Tinga Tinga paintings have become a beloved art form in Zanzibar. These brightly colored, whimsical artworks typically depict scenes from everyday life, wildlife, or local folklore. Bring home a piece of Zanzibar's artistic spirit by selecting a Tinga Tinga painting.
The best places to buy paintings:

  • Hellen Art Gallery, Kenyatta Road, Stone Town

  • Hurumzi Henna Art Gallery, 242 Hurumzi Street, Stone Town

  • some souvenir shops offer nice paintings

  • check the local painters on the beach

Tanzanian coffee

6. Coffee and Tea
Tanzanian coffee, known for its exceptional quality, is a delight for coffee enthusiasts. Grown in the fertile volcanic soils of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Meru region, Tanzanian Arabica coffee beans thrive in the high-altitude climate. The beans are characterized by a unique balance of bright acidity and a full-bodied, wine-like flavor profile. Renowned Tanzanian coffee varieties include Peaberry and AA, both celebrated for their distinct taste. The coffee culture in Tanzania is deeply ingrained, and enjoying a cup of freshly brewed Tanzanian coffee is an experience that every visitor should indulge in.
Tanzanian tea
Tanzania is renowned for its tea production, particularly black and green tea varieties. Cultivated at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro and in the Usambara Mountains, these teas benefit from the rich volcanic soil and favorable climates, resulting in a diverse range of flavors. The lush landscapes of these regions contribute to the unique characteristics that make Tanzanian tea a distinctive and sought-after choice, both locally and internationally.
The best places to buy coffee and tea:
  • Zanzibar Coffee House, Mkunazini Street, Stone Town

  • 1001 Organic Spicery, Gizenga Street, Stone Town

  • Spice Shop, Paje, behind roundabout street to Jambiani

seaweed farm

7. Seaweed Products
Seaweed souvenirs from coastal destinations like Zanzibar offer a unique and eco-friendly way to capture the essence of the sea. Whether you're drawn to the natural beauty of seaweed or its potential health benefits, these souvenirs make for meaningful reminders of your seaside experience. From decorative items like framed seaweed art to practical products like handmade soap enriched with seaweed extracts, these souvenirs reflect the coastal charm and sustainability of the region.
seaweed soap
In Paje a group of women, called Mwani Zanzibar Mamas, with a legacy spanning generations, cultivate seaweed in harmony with the natural rhythms of the Indian Ocean. Working daily in the clear waters shaped by the moon and tides, they consider seaweed a precious gift from the ocean. The Mamas blend traditional wisdom and artisanal skills to craft a skincare line. Each handmade batch undergoes meticulous preparation, taking 15 weeks from seedling cultivation to the creation of each skincare product.
In our bathrooms, you will find a piece of seaweed soap that you are welcome to take home as a souvenir.
The best place to buy seaweed products:
  • Mwani Zanzibar, Paje

8. Tanzanite
Balancing between lush blue, vibrant violet, and rich purple, the exotic Tanzanite is exclusive
to a single location on Earth, near the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. Tiffany & Co bestowed the name upon this blue-violet variety of zoisite, in homage to Tanzania, where it was initially unearthed in 1967. As these crystals exhibit different colors based on the viewing angle, cutters have the ability to create gems with a spectrum of colors ranging from violetish blue to bluish violet, depending on how much weight they wish to preserve from the raw material. It's fascinating to note that the largest Tanzanite ever found is a single colossal crystal weighing an impressive 16,839 carats, well over 3 kilograms.
When purchasing Tanzanite, prioritize rich, vibrant color and minimal inclusions for a visually appealing gemstone. Opt for a well-cut stone to maximize its brilliance, and inquire about any heat treatments, ensuring transparency. Choose a reputable jeweller providing certification from recognized gemmological labs. Taking these factors into consideration, you can choose a beautiful and valuable Tanzanite that aligns with your preferences and expectations.
Best places to buy Tanzanite jewellery:
  • Elias Jewellery, Kenyatta Road, Stone Town

  • Memories of Zanzibar, Kenyatta Road, Stone Town

  • on Kenyatta Road are many small shops

Zanzibar's diverse cultural influences, vibrant history, and natural beauty are brilliantly reflected in the array of souvenirs available on the island. From aromatic spices to handcrafted artifacts, each item tells a unique story of this enchanting destination. As you explore Zanzibar, take the time to immerse yourself in the local markets and workshops, discovering the perfect memento to cherish the memories of your Zanzibari adventure for years to come.

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