Having stayed in the Serena Hotel for around 6 weeks when we first arrived in Kenya, we accumulated a few points we could spend on accommodation with any of the Serena hotels in the world. A few months ago we received an email to warn us our points were about to expire, so we decided to use them for a trip to Unguja, better known as Zanzibar. Serena have a lovely hotel right on the waterfront in the historic centre of Zanzibar City known as Stone Town, a Unesco world heritage site.
We took the ferry across on Saturday morning and arrived at the port only 1.5hr after departure from the city centre in Dar. A great way to get across, providing the seas aren’t too rough and you don’t get sea sick. The port is located perfectly for a stroll into town and not much later we arrived at the Serena where we were given the honeymoon suite with a huge balcony on 2 sides, overlooking the ocean and the pool.
Our points were only enough for one night’s accommodation, but as Stone Town has some excellent food options this suited us perfectly as we could eat out anywhere we wanted. For our first lunch we decided to go to 6º South, also overlooking the ocean where we both had fish with a Swahili sauce and some chapatis. Delicious, but the winner was our drinks made with fresh lemons and lots of ginger.
For dinner Jude had found a roof top terrace where they served a 5 course degustation menu with a great view, we had made a reservation but needed to pay a deposit to guarantee our table. A great reason to head out into town and stroll the streets of the old Stone Town, admiring the Zanzibari, Indian and Arabic doors, marvel at the number of street cats, watch the women and children go about their business in the narrow streets, jump out of the way for the bikes and scooters zooming along, follow the game of men playing dominos, and check out the ancient shops, still doing business like they have been doing business for at least a hundred years.
On our way there we took a guided tour of the old slave market where a cathedral and a museum now stand. It is a chilling site with some of the old slave chambers left as they were (only adding a light so we could see where we were) and a monument built using some of the original chains. Inside the museum is an excellent educational display with photos and explanations in both English and Swahili well worth reading.
A quick swim back at the hotel before heading to the roof top terrace for sundowners before dinner. The views are astonishing, you can see the whole of Stone Town, parts of the newer city area, and of course the ocean. You can also hear the call for prayer from nearby and far away, all starting within a few minutes of each other.
The food was excellent and we had many favourites, learning some new Swahili words from the menu as we went along. A few hours later we were very satisfied, and strolled home through the dark streets of Stone Town. It was a novelty to just be able to walk home, something we had always taken for granted, and we very much enjoyed it. We played around with the camera and shadows before going to bed, listening to the sounds of the waves as they were rolling beneath our balcony.
A generous sleep in was followed by another stroll through the narrow, windy streets of the historic stone town. This time slightly more focused as we were going to the Zanzibar Coffee House for breakfast. We had already been to their sister company in Mbeya where they grow the coffee, and were keen to check them out. It proved to be another excellent choice as their smoothies and muesli with fruit and yoghurt was exactly what we wanted.
On our way back to the hotel for a final swim before checkout, we investigated the excellent book store in town and discovered it is located in the Mercury House, the place where Freddy Mercury was born. He lived here before going to boarding school and ultimately becoming world famous as the singer of Queen.
With our bag packed and having zoomed around the old fort we headed to another roof top terrace for a late lunch. The food was excellent, the views pretty special and being on the top of the roof meant there was a much-needed cooling breeze blowing. It wasn’t far from our lunch stop to the ferry terminal, so we walked back in no time. This time the sea was a little rougher and Jude regretted not bringing any seasickness tablets. The ginger tea unfortunately didn’t help enough… But, only one and a half hour later we were back on land, zooming past all the customs people and straight into the waiting company car. Not much later we were home as there isn’t much traffic on a Sunday evening. It was a very chilled weekend, much needed, and we can now recommend even more places to visit and check out when you come over for a visit! Karibu sana! (you’re very welcome!)