A Must Visit – Darajani Market in Stone Town, Zanzibar

A Must Visit – Darajani Market in Stone Town, Zanzibar

One of the best ways to experience how locals live, once you’re done visiting the game reserves, and the museum in Zanzibar, is perhaps a visit to the local market.  Any tour of Stone Town, Zanzibar would not be complete without a tour of Darajani Market. This is not only where traders conduct their businesses, but also where people go to meet a friend, socialize and eat.

Darajani market in downtown Stone Town pulls them all in and fits the bill perfectly. Built in the 1900s, the building that houses the massive market was designed with sufficient access points to allow entry and exit, smooth flow of merchandise and customers, and enough stalls to accommodate more than 5,000 traders. As if this wasn’t enough more vendors sprawl their wares outside the market and once you approach the market, you’re met with a deafening cacophony of noise as traders shout themselves hoarse attracting customers.

Bazaar or Estella

Nicknamed Bazaar or Estella, and Marikiti Kuu in Swahihi, Darajani is a commercial hub for everything from fresh fish, slabs of beef, live chickens, spices and hardware. You’ll need a strong nose to venture inside the meat area.

Other merchandise are spread inside a series of covered stalls and overflows to the adjoining streets. You can find merchandise that is both locally made as well as imported.

The fish market

An overpowering stench comes out of the fish market and can be a bit of a put off for people with weak stomachs. Getting bumped by men from the slaughterhouses hauling large slabs of bloody portions of beef is a common sight. The mix of spice smells, odours and human sweat all add to the experience as you wander through each section of the market. If you arrive early, you may encounter trading involving shark meat and other exotic seafood.

Electronics and garments

There are also specialized stalls that cater for electronic goods from as far as Dubai and clothing from China. Other stalls stock local fabrics called Kitenge and Kanga. These are all manned by huge women dressed in colorful Kanga from head to toe. Others are manned by Muslim women wearing black bui-bui and veiled to the face. Bargaining is allowed, so do not hesitate to bargain, if you bargain well you may end up with great deals.

Eating area

If you love eating out, then Darajani market is for you. There is a separate eating area where you’ll encounter recipes fit for a king, including lobsters, shrimp, barracuda, octopus, shawarma, kebabs, and bread. You can also order the famous Zanzibar Pizza; a mouth-watering dish  so tasty that it leaves you wanting to come back for more.  It’s a mixture of crepe stuffed with loads of meats, chillies and vegetables. All can be washed down with copious quantities of cane juice.

Watch out for vendors selling stale food if it’s your first visit. Eat at places that attract more bigger crowds. This is an indication their food has won a thumbs up.