Zanzibar is an island partner within the United Republic of Tanzania, located in the Indian Ocean about 35 km off the coast of mainland Tanzania at six degrees south of the Equator. Zanzibar is made up of many islands, the main two being Unguja (sometimes called Zanzibar) and Pemba. The land is divided into three main areas, the plantation area, the coral rag area and the indigenous forests. The highest point is 390 feet above sea level. The population is estimated at around 1 Million, including Pemba and Mafia islands.
The main language is Kiswahili. Even if you only use a few words whilst you are in Zanzibar you will make many friends. English is widely spoken and many people also speak Arabic. Other European languages such as French and Italian are known by some local people, especially around the tourist areas.
About 95% of the local population is Muslim. The remainder are Hindu or Christian and some with traditional beliefs. As well as many many mosques, Stone Town hosts an Anglican and a Catholic Cathedral and a Hindu Temple.
Zanzibar experiences ideal holiday weather for most of the year, with the exception of March and May, which are seasonally subject to the long rains. Short rains can occur during November but are characterized by short showers, which do not last long. The heat of summer is seasonally often calmed by windy conditions, resulting in pleasant sea breezes, particularly on the North and East coast. Being near the equator, the islands are warm all year round but officially summer and winter peak in December and June respectively. Zanzibar is blessed with an average of 7-8 hours of sunshine daily.
The population of Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim with a rich Swahili culture. Because of religious and cultural traditions dress code is important, and men and women should dress appropriately when away from the beach, ie covering shoulders and legs too below the knees. Beachwear on the beach is fine, although nude or topless bathing is not tolerated. When in villages or in Stone Town wearing beach wear would (and does) cause offence. Try to wear loose-fitting, non-transparent clothing when in public. Zanzibari people are generally very warm, open and hospitable, and your respect for permission before taking photographs or filming local people is appreciated. Do not take photos or film at sensitive government sites including the State House, seaport, airport or military sites. If uncertain, it is always better to ask. Public consumption of alcohol is not permissible, except in hotels and tourist areas, bars and some restaurants, where it is no problem. Public displays of affection such as kissing are not customary and generally considered offensive, unless behind closed doors. Local customs should respected. Mosques are sacred places an there is generally no entry to non-Muslims, unless accompanied by a person of the faith who can show you around except during the times for congregational prayer, which are five times daily. When offering or accepting things, try and remember to offer and receive with your right hand. This is the hand which should also be used for eating.
Banks, bureau de change and most hotels exchange cash travellers cheques. USD AND GBP are preferred but and other convertible currencies are accepted.BANKS MONDAY-FRIDAY