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  • Meet Our Ninja Turtles: The Beloved Tortoises of Our Hotel

    In our hotel, guests have the unique opportunity to meet our charming tortoises, who reside in a specially designed enclosure. The first four tortoises that joined us were named after the famous Ninja Turtles! Get to know Leonardo, Donatella, Raphaelo, Michelangelo, and all the others up close. Here, we, the fascinating tortoises, would like to introduce ourselves. We live in a specially designed enclosure at this hotel. Dive into our amazing world and discover what makes us so special. Unique Physical Traits Our rear legs are very strong and trunk-like, while our front legs are almost paddle-shaped and "pigeon-toed," with a row of small "nails." Despite our seemingly cumbersome build, we can move quickly and maneuver easily over rocky terrain. We are also adept climbers and can stay underwater for up to 10 minutes. Masters of Thermoregulation As cold-blooded reptiles, we need to minimize extreme seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations through appropriate behaviors to maintain an optimal body temperature. An important role in this type of thermoregulation is the exploration of suitable shelters throughout the year and at different times of the day. Longevity and Maturity We tortoises are known for our impressive longevity. We typically reach sexual maturity at the age of 12 to 15 years. This long lifespan ensures that we have enough time to contribute to the reproduction of our species. Mating and Reproduction During the mating season, the males become more aggressive towards other males, often trying to banish them by ramming their carapaces. Males "court" females by ramming them. When mating, the males make grunting vocalizations, which are the only vocal sounds of our species. To lay our eggs, we dig a bottle-shaped pit with our hind legs and lay 5 to 18 hard-shelled, round to slightly ellipsoidal eggs. The subsequent incubation period varies widely, with natural breeding seasons observed from 178 to 458 days. The hatchlings are about five centimeters in size when they emerge. Leonardo & Donatella: A Tortoise Love Story Leonardo and Donatella are more than just two of our cherished tortoises—they're a couple with a heartwarming love story. Leonardo, born in 2003, was our first tortoise, originally living with private owners in Stone Town. Donatella, around the same age, on the other hand, lived in a small enclosure in the Jozani Forest. The owners of Donatella hoped to see offspring, so we brought her to our hotel for a planned stay of four weeks. The moment we placed Donatella in the enclosure with Leonardo, something magical happened. Donatella immediately ran to Leonardo and nestled her head against his shell—it was love at first sight. We promptly informed Donatella's owners that the two could not be separated. Since then, Leonardo and Donatella have produced a large number of offspring, who now live happily with them in the enclosure. Their story is a testament to the surprising and beautiful connections that can form between animals. Leonardo, Donatella, and their many children are a highlight of our hotel, embodying the spirit of togetherness and affection. We invite you to visit our hotel and meet our tortoise family in person. From the love story of Leonardo and Donatella to the playful antics of their offspring, we offer an enchanting experience for all our guests. Come and explore the fascinating world of our remarkable reptiles! By understanding and appreciating their unique characteristics and behaviors, you can help protect and cherish them for generations to come.

  • Get to know the hardworking helpers behind the scenes - part 2

    Matlai was closed during the rainy season, but not all the staff were on holiday. Our gardeners, in particular, had a lot to do to restore all areas after the heavy rain and to make the surroundings as beautiful as before. Let me introduce them in this article, along with some of our security guards who always take care of the hotel. Two of the security guards are employees of the hotel, while the others are from a security company. Let's start with the gardener 1. Salum Juma Khamis Salum is the head of the garden department. He is 29 years old, single, and originally from Dimani in Zanzibar. He has been working at Matlai since 2017 and possesses extensive knowledge about plants and their care. He enjoys designing garden areas. Salum lives in Michamvi village and, apart from gardening, he is also skilled in fishing. 2. Simai Vuai Siji Simai joined our team in 2018. He is 30 years old, married, and has one daughter. Originally from Bambi, Zanzibar, he still lives there with his family but sometimes stays in Michamvi as well. In addition to his gardening skills, he also has knowledge of electricity. 3. Mikidadi Khamis Kharu Mikidadi is 26 years old, married, and has two children, aged 2 years and 6 months. He has been working with us since 2018. He grew up in Michamvi and still lives there with his family. During his working hours, his grandmother takes care of the children. 4. Juma Rashidi Hassani Juma is 23 years old and single. Originally from mainland Tanzania, he now lives in Michamvi. He joined our team in 2023. In addition to gardening, he is a skilled constructor and has been instrumental in creating the beautiful fences we have. Our gardeners take exceptional care of the plants, transforming our garden into a tropical paradise. With their expertise and dedication, they ensure that every corner of the garden thrives with vibrant, lush greenery. Her hard work and passion are the secrets behind our beautiful, serene oasis. Let's continue with the security department 1. Makame Silima Yahya Makame is 48 years old and married. He has four children; the eldest is 15 years old and lives in Kwarara, while the other three live in Kibere. Originally from Zanzibar, Makame resides in Kibere with his family. He has been part of our team since the beginning in 2012 and loves the Matlai family. Makame also has expertise in galvanizing steel. 2. Mohammedi Mussa Selemani In our team, Mohammedi is called Maslai. He is 33 years old, married, and originally from Pangani in Tanzania. He has two children, both girls aged 5 and 3. He has been working with us since 2016. His wife takes care of the children. Maslai has knowledge in farming and started working as a gardener in our hotel. Our security guards ensure that no one can enter the hotel without permission. Their vigilance and dedication keep our guests safe and maintain the secure environment of our property.

  • Insights from Paradise: My Journey as a Trainee at a Hotel in Zanzibar

    Jambo! Hello! My name is Amaechi and I invite you to join me on my adventures during my internship in Zanzibar. My internship takes place at Boutique Hotel Matlai in Michamvi Pingwe. Michamvi consists of two districts - Pingwe and Kae. Pingwe is known for the incredible shades of blue of the sea, where it is rather tranquil, with few small accommodations and restaurants. Kae, on the other hand, is mainly visited for the beautiful sunsets over Chwaka Bay. Upon my arrival in Zanzibar, I was greeted by a friendly taxi driver named Eddy, who took me from the airport to Boutique Hotel Matlai. Even on the way there, I could hardly believe the number of coconut and mango trees we passed – a promising preview of what I hoped to find. Eddy asked me what I was most looking forward to. Without hesitation, I replied, "The food, especially the fruits." So for breakfast in HoteI Matlai, I can recommend Herson's French toast and tropical fruit salad. One day, I was fortunate enough to see a gardener harvesting fresh coconuts from the palms in the hotel garden. It was an unforgettable experience to taste this fruit directly from the source. One of Zanzibar's most famous fruits is undoubtedly the delicious Dafu - fresh coconut. This can be enjoyed directly at our hotel. With its sweet coconut water and flesh, it is a great addition to a sunny day. The second time I tried dafu was in Paje. Paje is famous for its wide sandy beaches with turquoise waters, ideal for water sports. If you don't want to be active yourself, you can relax in one of the beach bars and cafes; take in the vibrant hustle and bustle along the shore, where there's always something happening and the atmosphere is lively and engaging. ‘ Hello Capitano Cafe ’ serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. They offer a rental service for SUP’s, Kayaks, Surfboards, Kite and Windsurfing gear as well as lessons to learn those water activities. You can find this cafe right on the beach, therefore you have a stunning view over the Indian Ocean. It's always nice to support local businesses that promote traditional craftsmanship and local products. And ‘ Mwani ’ is one of them. With the knowledge of generation after generation they make creams, oils and soaps from algae from the beaches in Zanzibar. Sometimes you see them collecting algae. The soaps in the bathroom of our hotel are also from Mwani. If you like them, why not stop by their shop in Paje? In Paje, you can find nice cafes, shops and friendly people left and right. I walked past jewelry and delicious food. Now, I also own a bracelet in the colors of the Tanzanian flag. And now I know Kim and her ‘ Hanoi House ,’ a tiny café on the main road in Paje. Kim is Vietnamese and serves traditional drinks and dishes. From Coconut Coffee and Bao Buns to Chia Pudding, you can find everything your sweet-loving heart desires. Even though Paje is a bustling village, in this café you will find peace and comfort. Kim also runs a Vietnamese restaurant called Duyên Home Cooking at Hotel Matlai as part of the hotel's own Zatiny Restaurant. Only a couple of metres away from Hanoi House is another cafe you must visit. ‘ Corina Pastry ’ is also a great place to enjoy your coffee, desserts and breakfast. There you can taste European Pastries as well as her extraordinary creations like Mojito Cheesecake, Passion Fruit Cheesecake and Dates Cake. Nearby you will l find an Italian bakery, where Pizza, Bruschetta and Focaccia are waiting for you. Michamvi and Paje are two very different places on the southeast coast of Zanzibar. Those seeking tranquility should opt for accommodation in Michamvi, while those who prefer livelier atmospheres and enjoy partying will likely prefer Paje. Since Paje is only about a 25-30 minute taxi ride from Michamvi, one can also enjoy a mix of both experiences. See you in paradise! -Amaechi

  • Reopening with a Big Surprise

    After the rainy season, which we used for extensive renovations as always, our boutique hotel has reopened. And there's a big surprise waiting for you! On June 4th, the renowned Vietnamese restaurant Duyên Home Cooking, formerly in Jambiani, led by owner Kim, will open at our location. At Duyên, we will serve you authentic Vietnamese cuisine alongside the popular dishes from our Zatiny Restaurant. Here are some impressions of the dishes. Check out the full menu on our homepage and read the story of Kim's restaurant. Come and enjoy the delicious, exotic, and unique dishes of Vietnamese cuisine, freshly prepared and lovingly presented. We look forward to welcoming you soon at Duyên @ Matlai.

  • Just released!

    Our new travel book is now available for download from our homepage. Additionally, guests will find a copy waiting for them in their rooms upon arrival. Explore the wonders of Zanzibar at your fingertips! Our travel guide provides practical tips and recommendations for excursions and activities, shopping or parties ensuring you make the most of your stay. Immerse yourself in authentic Zanzibar and let its beauty captivate you. You can download the travel book from here: .

  • Get to know the hardworking helpers behind the scenes - part 1

    In addition to our well-trained service personnel, whom we have already introduced here, many helpers behind the scenes, such as housekeepers, gardeners, maintenance staff, and security guards, contribute significantly to ensuring that our guests feel completely comfortable during their stay with us. I would like to introduce them here. Let's start with the Housekeeper 1. Tatu Juma Ramadhani Tatu was our very first employee. She started working with us even before the hotel's opening in 2012. She helped complete the furnishing of the rooms, learned how to operate a laundry press, and stood by us through all the initial challenges. Tatu is 37 years old, married and has three children (12, 6 and 3 years old). She has a babysitter who looks after the children. Tatu hails from the Mwanza Region in Tanzania and resides with her family in Mwera, a village located east of Stone Town along the road to the west coast of the island. At home, she is a skilled cook and hairdresser. She can also weave beautiful rugs from fabric strips. 2. Shakira Khatib Rajab Shakira is 33 years old, married, and she has two children, aged 9 and 3 years old. A babysitter takes care of them during her working hours. Originally from Tanga-Lushoto on the mainland, she lives now in Taveta, which is a part of Zanzibar Town. In her free time, she is a talented businesswoman. Shakira has been with Matlai since 2015. 3. Maryam Mfaume Omar Maryam is 30 years old, married, and has one child, a 9 months old girl. Her sister in law looks after the baby while she works. At home Maryam enjoys cooking and tailoring clothes. She grew up in Kilwa-Lindi on mainland Tanzania but now lives in Michamvi. She is the head of the department. Maryam works with us since 2018. 4. Yasinta Ferdinandy Sanga Yasinta is 21 years old and single. She originally comes from Mbeya in the south-west region of Tanzania and lives now in Michamvi. She is a very good singer and dancer. Yasinta came to Matlai in 2022. 5. Jenipha Revocatus Mwalika Jenipha is 27 years old and married. She has two kids, 7 and 3 years old, whom a babysitter looks after while she works. She spent her childhood in Mwanza, located on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania and she lives now in Michamvi. She has been completing the team since 2022. All housekeepers enjoy decorating the rooms with flowers and creatively arranging the beds for the guests. Due to their cheerful demeanor and attention to detail, they are highly appreciated by both our guests and us as employers. Let's continue with the Maintenance Department 1. Is-Haak Mansab Moh'd Isaka is 40 years old, married and has two boys, 2 years and 2 ½ months old. His wife, originally from Pemba, diligently tends to the children. Isaka is born in Zanzibar and lives with his family next to Zanzibar Town. Isaka joined us in 2012, shortly after our establishment opened. Initially serving as a barman, he transitioned to the security department before finding his niche in the maintenance division, where he currently serves as the department head. His profound interest in technical matters has enabled him to excel in plumbing, electricity, and construction, showcasing his extensive expertise in these areas. 2. Yussuph Nassibu Haji Yussuph is 33 years old and married. He grew up in Michamwi, where he still resides in his own house. Yussuph has two daughters, aged 6 and 3, who live with their grandmother in Stone Town. He started working as a gardener with us, later transitioning to the Security Department, but his interests lie more in the technical field. Therefore, he now works in the Maintenance Department. Yussuph has been working with us since 2012. Over the years, both Maintenance team members have evolved into proficient all-rounders. Perhaps you may not encounter them as frequently, but they are among the most crucial members of our team. They remain readily available outside of their regular work hours, always ready to address both minor and major technical issues at any time.

  • Happy Valentine's Day

    Welcome to our enchanting hotel garden, where love knows no bounds! Amidst the lush greenery hangs a metal heart, a symbol of enduring romance and timeless love. Each year, our special guests return to adorn this heart with their unique locks. As we celebrate Valentine's Day, we invite all our guests to partake in this tradition of love. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a returning guest, feel free to attach your own lock to our heart and join the tapestry of affection that adorns our garden. May this Valentine's Day be filled with joy, laughter, and boundless love. And may our metal heart continue to beat in harmony with the collective pulse of all those who have shared their love on this ground. Happy Valentine's Day from all of us at the hotel!

  • Indulge in our Exceptional Hospitality

    At Matlai, we believe in going above and beyond to make our guests stay truly extraordinary. We understand that every detail matters when it comes to creating lasting memories, and that's why we've curated a selection of special amenities and experiences to pamper our guests. Welcome Cocktail Upon your arrival, you will be greeted with a delightful welcome cocktail designed to showcase the character of Matlai. This special gesture sets the stage for a wonderful stay, welcoming you with a touch of our hospitality and attention to detail. Indeed, the fresh coconut water is a treat even without alcohol. Yoga Mats and Dumbbells Our tip for a wonderful new morning: Embrace the sunrise. Unroll the yoga mat provided in each room on your balcony or terrace and invigorate your body with the Yoga Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar. For yoga beginners: In this sequence, we bow to the star (our sun), which gifts us with light and warmth. We also express gratitude for the life energy flowing through us, keeping us alive. The Yoga Sun Salutation involves a series of asanas, perfectly synchronized and excellent as a strengthening warm-up for the entire body. Due to its activating and energizing effects, it's particularly enjoyed in the early morning, ensuring you start your day full of vitality. For additional exercise, our dumbbells are available. Following your workout, allow us to serve breakfast on your terrace as you relish a new day on our beautiful island. Breakfast Sayings Mornings with us are accompanied by more than just delicious meals. Our breakfast service is accompanied by inspiring and uplifting quotes that create an atmosphere of positivity as you start your day. All quotes originate from various African countries and accompany you with their wisdom throughout the day. Preferred Seating & Flexible Meal Times Enjoy the luxury of choosing your preferred seating for all meals. Begin your day with breakfast served on your balcony or one of our terraces, offering a breathtaking ocean view. Whether you have a favorite spot in our restaurant or desire a more private setting, we ensure you get the best seat. Additionally, we understand the importance of flexibility, offering meal times tailored to your schedule for a truly personalized dining experience. Romantic Dinner Places Discover intimate dining experiences in our specially designated romantic spots. A candlelit dinner on your terrace or balcony, at one of the secluded spots in the garden, or by the beach - the choice is yours. Reserve your preferred spot and relish an evening filled with love and delectable cuisine. Of course, you can also dine in our atmospheric restaurant. Bedtime Stories As an imaginative conclusion to your day, immerse yourself in the charm of African bedtime stories. Treat yourself to a unique evening ritual during bedtime. Our room service will place a new tale from the rich tapestry of African stories on your bed every evening. Each story is original and offers a fascinating glimpse into African culture. These stories are as diverse as the continent itself - some whimsical, others infused with humor, but all undeniably intriguing. As you relax and delve into these stories, you'll find yourself transported to a world where tradition, folklore, and imagination seamlessly intertwine. Open-Air Cinema Immerse yourself in the magic of a private cinema under the stars. Our open-air cinema nights provide a unique and cozy setting with blankets and cushions, creating the perfect ambiance for a cinematic experience. Choose your favorite movie from our DVD collection and indulge in a romantic, thrilling, or action-packed evening. Popcorn is, of course, on the house. SUP or Kayak Delight in the serenity of our surroundings by exploring the waters with stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) or kayaking. Whether you're an experienced paddler or a first-timer, these water activities provide a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure against the backdrop of our picturesque locale. Our staff will provide you with safety instructions and assist in launching the paddle board or kayak into the water. Table Games Relax and have fun with our collection of board games. From classic board games to strategic card games, we offer a variety of options to entertain guests of all ages. Explore the extensive game collection in the lounges of your accommodation and in the game cabinet at our bar. Are you interested in the highly popular Bao game in Zanzibar? Our butlers would be delighted to explain the rules. Table Soccer & Dart For those seeking a bit of friendly competition, indulge in lively matches of table soccer or try your hand at darts. These games offer a perfect blend of skill and amusement, creating an engaging environment for guests looking to add a touch of excitement to their stay. Beach & Pool Service Enjoy the sun or take a refreshing dip in your inviting pool with the assurance of our attentive beach and pool service. Our butlers are ready to serve you refreshing drinks, snacks, or full meals wherever you may be, providing everything you need for a day of relaxation. Bicycles Explore the beauty of our surroundings on two wheels with our complimentary bicycle borrowing service! Whether you're seeking a leisurely ride along the beach or an adventurous exploration of the area, our bicycles are the perfect companion for your outdoor excursions. Enjoy the freedom to pedal at your own pace, immerse yourself in nature, and discover hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. Simply inquire with one of the butlers to reserve your bicycle and embark on a journey of discovery. Guests enjoying an extended stay of 7 days or more will be pleasantly surprised with some additional extras. Voucher for Foot or Head Massage in our Bustani Spa Elevate your sense of well-being with a voucher for a soothing foot or head massage at our esteemed Bustani Spa. Let our skilled therapists transport you to a world of tranquility, where stress melts away, and relaxation takes center stage. Matlai Aluminium Drinking Bottles To protect the environment, we refrain from using disposable bottles. Instead, we provide our guests with refillable glass bottles filled from reusable water gallons. For your convenience during excursions, we offer aluminum bottles - stylish and eco-friendly - as a complimentary gift from us, ensuring you have access to fresh and chilled drinking water wherever you go. Gift upon Departure As a token of our gratitude for choosing Matlai for a longer stay or as a returner, we present you with a special departure gift. This memento is a small expression of our appreciation for your time with us and a reminder of the wonderful moments shared during your stay. At Matlai, these special extras are not just amenities – they are expressions of our commitment to providing an unparalleled guest experience. We invite you to savor the moments, create memories, and let us be the architects of your unforgettable stay. Welcome to a world where every detail is designed to make your journey with us truly exceptional.

  • 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. 1. Handcrafted Wooden Artefacts 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 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, 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. 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 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 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 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 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. 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 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. 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.

  • Zanzibar: The Spice Island Paradise

    Zanzibar is often referred to as the Spice Island due to its rich abundance of spices. While a few spices were imported, such as vanilla from Mexico by the Portuguese, cloves from Indonesia by the Arabs, and nutmeg from India, Zanzibar itself is the origin of significant spices like cinnamon, cardamom, lemongrass, turmeric, and ginger. In 1698, the Arabs from Oman successfully ousted the Portuguese occupiers from Zanzibar, gradually extending their control over the entire East African coast. By 1840, the Sultan of Oman had moved his seat from Muscat to Zanzibar, strategically leveraging the island to further expand the slave trade. Sultan Said bin Sayyed required thousands of slaves, particularly for his 45 newly established date and clove plantations. The prosperity of the spice trade and the opulent wealth of the sultans on this small Indian Ocean island, which resonated in Europe, would have been inconceivable without the utilization of slave labor. The Sultanate of Zanzibar survived under British suzerainty until gaining independence in December 1963. The last Sultan, Jamshid, was allowed to continue his rule, with only 32 days remaining until the revolution. During the fasting month of Ramadan, in the night of January 12, 1964, the pent-up anger of the exploited African islanders erupted against the Arab-Indian elite. A bloody massacre ensued, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Arabs and Indians. The next day saw the proclamation of the "People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba," which shortly thereafter joined Tanganyika to form the semi-autonomous state of the United Republic of Tanzania. Arabs and Indians fled, including Sultan Jamshid. After the revolution, the Sultan's plantations and those of the Arab landlords were nationalized. Clove production was intensified, especially on the island of Pemba. Soon, a decision was made to redistribute a significant portion of the plantations in Zanzibar among small-scale farmers. Pemba became the primary cultivation site for cloves, leading to the extensive clearing of the majority of its original forests to make way for vast clove plantations. However, gone are the days when Zanzibar could thrive on the spice trade. The global market price for cloves has plummeted, and the once-largest clove producer now plays a minimal role in the world spice market. Most spice farms in Zanzibar are located approximately 20 km northeast of Stone Town. They no longer cultivate spices primarily for export but rather focus on local sales and catering to the popular spice tours, allowing guests to explore various spice plants and learn about their cultivation, harvesting, and processing methods. Certainly, I'd be happy to introduce you to some of the most popular spices: Clove Cloves are the nail-shaped (thus their name from the French “clou=nail”) flowering buds from the clove tree, an up to 8–12 m tall evergreen. Harvesting is done twice a year by pickers climbing the trees, gathering the small buds by hand in baskets made of coconut leaves. The cloves are then dried for three to four days on mats in the sun, the buds turn a dark brown colour and the spice is ready for use. Cloves are used in the cooking of Asia, Africa, and the Near and Middle East in meats, curries, and marinades, as well as fruit such as apples, pears or rhubarb and hot beverages (German “gluehwine”) . Cloves have also been used in medicine, especially topically against toothache, inflammations of the mouth and throat, the active ingredient Eugenol has been given to lower fever and blood sugar, against stomach upset, diarrhea, hernia, and bad breath, intestinal gas, nausea, and vomiting and premature ejaculation, the evidence of any of these effects being inconclusive. Clove oil can also be used to anesthetize fish. The spice is used in a type of cigarette called kretek in Indonesia, giving it a menthol like flavour. In the 19th century cloves have been -next to slaves- the single most important export product of the rich Omani empire of Zanzibar. A hurricane in 1872 largely destroyed the clove industry on the island, but on nearby Pemba the plantations remained largely intact, and the clove crop from there is still of great export value. Cinnamon Group of spices, derived from the inner bark of different types of trees. Cinnamon is native to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Malabar Coast of India, and Burma. Sri Lanka produces 80–90% of the world's supply of true Cinnamon. Cinnamon tamala and Cinnamon cassia  come from the north of India, China, Arabia, Madagascar and Ethiopia. Cinnamon is used for cooking in sweet and savoury foods, perfumes and medicine and has been known from ancient times like in Egypt as early as 2000 BC and been mentioned extensively in greek and roman literature. It was highly priced and one of the reasons for the Portuguese, Dutch and British to search for trading routes to Asia after the Mediterranean route via Alexandria was blocked by the Ottoman empire and the Mameluke sultans. After the rainy season the smaller shoots of the tree are stripped of their bark. These sheets of bark are then put overlapping to dry in the sun. As the bark dries it will curl up in the form of a cinnamon stick. The sticks are then cut to the right size. The small pieces and flakes that fall off during the process are ground into cinnamon powder. Cinnamon verum sticks can be recognized by the very fine thinness of the bark. The people of Zanzibar use the bark, but also the whole plant can be used for different purposes. The leaves can be used fresh or dried in cooking and tea, the stems can be burnt as incense and insect repellent. While Ceylon Cinnamon contains very little of the anticoagulant Coumarin, Cinnamon cassia has a considerable amount of it which can interfere with blood coagulation, liver and kidney function if ingested in great amounts (like during Christmas time) in susceptible individuals. Vanilla Is world’s second priciest spice. The plant from the orchid family with 25000 species and at least 250 different flavors originated from Mexico, where the Totonac people added it to chocolate, calling it the fruit of the gods. They were conquered by the Aztecs in 15th century, who taxed the Mayans in vanilla beans, using the beans as currency, followed by the Spanish, who introduced vanilla to Europe as additive to chocolate, considering it as the ultimate aphrodisiac until early 17th century, when an apothecary in the employ of Queen Elizabeth I developed a chocolate free vanilla dessert. The French then used it in ice-cream, and in 1780 the recipe brought to America by the future American president Th. Jefferson, who then lived in Paris as American Minister to France. The demand increased in the 2nd half of 19th century when vanilla was used in soft drinks including Coca Cola after 1886. The propagation was not successful outside Mexico, because the pollinating Melipona bee and humming birds only exist there. In 1841 a 12 year old slave boy in Reunion discovered a pollination technique using a stick and flip of the thumb, after which the plant spread worldwide through the tropics, nowadays being produced mainly in Madagascar and Reunion. The vanilla plant winds around trees up to 100 m and produces once a year 10 cm big green-yellowish flowers, which only open for 24 hrs and have to be pollinated (by hand) during this time or die. 9 months later 15-20 cm long pods emerge containing thousands of small grains. The pods have to be harvested by hand and in a very labor- intensive process with cooking, drying, curing in the sun over several months, matured into the dark brown shrunken pods, the whole development process lasting 1,5 years. Only 2000 tons are produced per year. The remaining 99% of the demand come from synthetic vanillin production by gene technology and from petrochemistry, wood processing and paper industry, from engenol (clove oil) and even from the secretions of anal glands of beavers. Vanilla is used in sweets, also in combination with meat, salads, in coffee, perfume, tea, home products, body lotion. The most popular vanilla species with distinct flavours are from Tahiti, Madagascar and Mexico. Tamarind Tamarind means “Indian date”. It is the only spice derived from Africa that is being used extensively in cuisines around the world, and that is not growing on a palm-like tree. It is cultivated worldwide in tropical and subtropical zones. It produces edible, pod-like fruit which are used for cooking. Other uses include traditional medicines and metal polishes. The wood can be used in carpentry. Mace & Nutmeg Mace and Nutmeg are two distinct spices derived from the same plant, Myristica fragrans. Nutmeg refers to the seed within the yellowish fruits of the plant, while mace is the lacy, reddish covering (arils) surrounding the seed. Once harvested, the mace arils are separated from the nutmeg seeds and spread out to dry, from a few days to a couple of weeks. The dried mace arils are carefully ground or grated, releasing the aromatic oils and intensifiing the spice’s flavor and fragrance. Both spices were highly priced in ancient times, have a fascinating history spanning centuries and are widely used in culinary traditions around the world. Originating exclusively from the tropical regions of Indonesia, particularly the Banda Islands, nowadays nutmeg and mace are cultivated in various countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Grenada. In the 15th century, the spice trade, including mace, became a driving force behind global exploration and trade routes. During the Middle Ages, mace was believed to possess various health benefits, including aiding digestion, relieving pain, and even acting as aphrodisiacs. Mace and it’s sister-spice nutmeg are versatile spices that add a distinct flavor and aroma to a wide range of dishes. Sharing similarities, but also with unique culinary applications setting them apart. Compared to nutmeg, mace has a more delicate, subtly sweet and fragrant scent with hints of citrus and pine. It is often used in lighter dishes such as fish, poultry, and delicate sauces, adding a gentle warmth and complexity without overpowering the other flavors. It can be used in spice blends (e.g. garam masala), marinades, and rubs to enhance the overall flavor profile. Maze offers some nutritional benefit (minerals, vitamins, fibre), which is small due to the small quantities of the spice used. Cardamom Cardamom is a spice belonging to the ginger family, native to the Middle East, North Africa, and Scandinavia, nowadays mainly produced in Guatemala (to where it has been introduced before World War I by a german coffee planter). The word is derived from the Mycenaean Greek  “ka-da-mi-ja”, and in the New Testament was mentioned as "amomon” = spice. It is world's third-most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla. Cardamom can be bought still in the pods (strongest flavor), as seeds or as ground cardamom with less flavor. It has a strong, unique spicy-sweet taste, which is slightly aromatic. In a recipe 10 seeds equal 1 ½ tsp. ground. The two main genera are “green cardamom” (white cardamom when bleached), and ”black cardamom” (Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom), both with a strong, unique taste and being used as flavoring and cooking spices in India, the Middle East and Scandinavia. In South Asia, China and in Ayurvedic medicine Cardamom is used to treat infections, digestive disorders, to break up kidney and gall stones, and as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venoms. Black Pepper Pepper is the most widely traded spice in the world. It has been used in ancient Egypt and is now being cultivated in India and the far east (Vietnam). One of the reasons for the exploring voyages of the Portuguese (including Christoph Columbus) has been to break the monopoly in spice trade of Venice and other Italian cities. Black pepper is the cooked and dried unripe fruit, green pepper the dried unripe fruit and white pepper the ripe fruit seeds. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine, not to be confused with the capsaicin that gives fleshy peppers their spiciness. The taste of green and black peppercorns is different from white pepper since latter lacks flavours concentrated in the shells. Discover the enchanting allure of Zanzibar's spices, where each aroma tells a tale of a vibrant and flavorful history.

  • Exploring Zanzibar's Culinary Traditions: A Journey into Typical Food Habits

    We invite you to embark on a culinary journey exploring the rich food traditions of Zanzibar. Our goal is to immerse you in the local culinary scene, providing insights into traditional meals and the cultural context in which they are enjoyed. Local Delights: Authentic Breakfasts Ugali: The day for many Zanzibaris begins with a staple known as Ugali. This traditional dish is crafted from cornmeal, simmered in boiling water until it transforms into a dense block of cornmeal paste. Ugali is often eaten with coconut sauce or fish soup. What makes this experience unique is the ritual of eating with the right hand, a practice that underscores the importance of hand hygiene as locals cleanse their hands before and after the meal. This tactile engagement is not just a means of consumption but a way to forge a connection with the food, enhancing the sensory experience of its flavors. Such a practice is deeply ingrained in the broader tapestry of African culture. Ugali is also a preferred lunch option among locals, often paired with fried fish or with beans in coconut sauce, known as Ugali na Maharagwe. Cassava: In Swahili cuisine, another common and delicious breakfast option is cassava with coconut sauce. Cassava is a starchy root vegetable widely consumed in East Africa. Typically, cassava is peeled, cooked, and then either fried or boiled until it reaches a tender consistency. The coconut sauce is prepared by mixing coconut milk with a blend of aromatic spices and herbs, such as garlic, ginger, and perhaps a hint of chili. On the coast of Zanzibar, cassava is commonly enjoyed with freshly caught fish. Cassava is also commonly cooked for lunch or dinner. The preferred breakfast beverage is a cup of black tea, enriched with milk, sugar, and a blend of spices. Chapati, Maharagwe, Mandazi, and Vitumbua - Breakfast the Swahili Way Let's delve into the culinary details of the mentioned Swahili breakfast dishes that we offer at our hotel. Chapati: Description: Chapati is a traditional, unleavened flatbread made from a simple mixture of flour, water, and salt. It is typically cooked on a hot griddle or skillet. Culinary Note: Known for its versatility, chapati can be enjoyed on its own or paired with various accompaniments. Maharagwe (Baked Beans in Coconut Milk): Maharagwe is a hearty dish featuring baked beans simmered in coconut milk. This Swahili breakfast option is reminiscent of an English breakfast. Mandazi: Description: Mandazi is a form of fried bread prepared with a mixture of water, sugar, flour, yeast, and milk or coconut milk. The dough is deep-fried to achieve a golden-brown, crispy texture. Culinary Note: Mandazis are a popular choice for breakfast or snacks. Vitumbua (Coconut Rice Pancakes): Description: Vitumbua are coconut-infused rice pancakes often enjoyed both as a street snack and a breakfast dish. These bite-sized treats are cooked in a special mold, giving them their characteristic round shape. Culinary Note: The addition of coconut gives the rice pancakes a sweet and aromatic flavor. This symphony of flavors in Swahili breakfast reflects the diverse and vibrant culinary heritage of the region, offering a delightful array of both savory and sweet options to please the palate. Main Courses Inspired by Swahili Tradition Many locals love to eat at street stalls or local restaurants, which can be found all along the main roads and in the villages. If you'd like to try any of the following dishes, keep in mind the well-known rule for eating in the tropics: Peel it, cook it, or forget it. Urojo Embark on a journey with traditional Swahili cuisine and discover the famous Urojo. Celebrated as Zanzibar's signature dish, Urojo is a hearty soup made with potatoes, rich in vibrant flavors, and complemented with a variety of toppings. Esteemed by local families, Urojo holds a special place alongside staples like rice and beans due to its simple preparation and affordability. Chips Mayai Discover the ubiquitous delight of Tanzania: Chips Mayai, a traditional street food found throughout the country. Originally stemming from the basic elements of potatoes and eggs, this dish transforms into a delicious omelet, often garnished with salad and occasionally with squid or calamari. Mishkaki This grilled meat delicacy is offered at many roadside stalls. Cubes of steak are marinated, skewered, and grilled until tender. The skewers are traditionally grilled over charcoal, imparting a smoky flavor to the dish. Pilau This rice dish, reflecting centuries-old connections to Arabic culture, is characterized by fragrant spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. The addition of meat, often chicken or beef, enhances the flavor diversity of the dish. Biryani As a testament to the fusion of influences on Zanzibar, Biryani has incorporated Indian culinary traditions. Fragrant basmati rice, prepared with an array of spices, tender meat, or aromatic vegetables, is served with a topping of caramelized onions and boiled eggs. Embark on a culinary journey through the diverse cuisine of Zanzibar. Whether you try the local street food or order it in our kitchen, exploring Zanzibar's traditional dishes is definitely worthwhile.

  • Happy New Year 2024

    Dear guests, As the year comes to a close, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude for choosing Boutique Hotel Matlai as your home away from home. May the New Year bring you joy, adventure, and unforgettable moments. Thank you for being a part of our extended family. Wishing you a year filled with peace, luxury, and wonderful experiences. Happy New Year! Warmest regards, The Matlai Team We had a wonderful New Year's Eve party on the beach with our guests after an excellent barbecue in our Restaurant Zatiny by Matlai. Thanks to our talented butler Hashim for the impressive acrobatic performance. Thanks to our amazing staff for once again creating a perfect New Year's Eve evening. The dance around the fire is always a great joy. Visit us and celebrate the next New Year's Eve with us!

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