Darajani & Forodhani Markets, Stonetown, Zanzibar – a guide

Views from Serena hotel, Stonetown, Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a fascinating romantic island, with an exotic blend of Indian, Arabic and European architecture and influence and a mixture of crumbling buildings and palaces, sadly juxtaposed.

Darajani Market

The Darajani Market in Stonetown, also known as Estella Market (after Countess Estella, sister of Lloyd Mathews, a former Prime Minister of Zanzibar) is a traditional food market in the truest sense of the word. It isn’t too different from the market that first opened in 1904.

Clockwise (L-R) With young spice trader;dried octopus, a common sight;vegetables, vermillion at spice estate outside Stonetown

Zanzibaris buy and sell vegetables, meat, seafood, spices and fabric in separate sections under a gable roofed structure that often spills out onto side streets. Darajani Market is a perfect spot to watch life in Zanzibar unfold, as it has for so many years. It is bustling with life, mainly local. During the 16th century Zanzibar was placed in a unique vantage point on the Spice route by the Persians, and it became  famous for, amongst other spices, cloves.

Buy fruit and spices inexpensively here. Haggling is recommended, if not mandatory at this market.
Where: Darajani Road near the Anglican Cathedral courtyard, once home to the Great Slave Market that closed in 1873.
When: between 9 and 11 am.

Forodhani Night Food Market

Clockwise (L-R): Chefs at the market; on a dhow; endless seafood on the grills; slippers on sand in evening

A visit to Stonetown is not complete without a stop at the Forodhani Night Food Market at the waterfront location of Forodhani Gardens. Arrive before dusk, and watch the space fill up methodically with chefs dressed in whites and tall hats setting up stands and grills. Row after row of grills with fish, squid, prawn, lobster, crab claw and seafood kebabs fill the square, the air wafting with hunger-inducing smells. Freshly pressed juices, like sugar cane juice and cassava, fried potatoes, chapatis, salads, beef skewers, falafel and Zanzibar ‘pizzas’ are further temptations.

Forodhani Market is frequented predominately by locals who stream out in droves, placing orders and waiting in the low light of the gas lamps, flaming grills and woks. Families sitting on picnic blankets in the garden, enjoying dinner feasts is a common sight here.
Tourists are unmistakable, often in shorts (men; women are encouraged to cover up), sporting dreadlocks, backpacks, sturdy sandals and an air of hesitation.

What should you eat?

There are two schools of thoughts here at Forodhani – one says the food isn’t prepared freshly, merely re-heated and potentially dangerous, the other says it’s the tastiest and most inexpensive street food you will ever enjoy.
We were cautious with the pre-prepped seafood and ordered freshly made vegetable and sweet banana ‘pizzas’ watching the chefs with earnest expressions flip the dough in the muted glow of the grill and cook up our pizzas. This is a very popular choice, so prepare to wait in a queue.

Forodhani has a festive, carnival-like atmosphere, so go to enjoy yourself.

When: every night of the week.
Where: Forodhani Gardens, Mizingani Street, Stonetown.

pole pole in the words of the locals, swahili for “take it easy”


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9 Comments

  1. imah on 30 December 2011

    Feels like we might have crossed path! At the forodhani market, something I always go back for is the sugar cane juice as well as the steamed banana and thE zanzibari bread!a love the pi with the masai. I haven’t gathered the courage to ask them for a picture, I wonder how I’d feel if someone walked up to me n ask me to take a picture with, so I cowardly ask my husband to do the asking :-). I still got 3 weeks to enjoy zanzibar, and yes on the romance!!!!

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  2. Ishay on 06 January 2012

    Hi Imah. Thanks for your comment. Wow, you’re spending such a long time there – I’m so envious! :) We became friends with a group of askari who walked along the beach close to where we were staying…in fact until a few months ago, one of the guys used to still call/ send texts. I guess it’s one of those unusual things, as we are both a little on the shy side. Don’t be afraid to ask fro a pic (just buy a few of their items for sale in return,a s I’m sure you will). Enjoy the rest of your holiday!

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  4. Ming-Cheau Lin on 03 January 2012

    Looks and sounds so similar to the markets in Taiwan! I completely agree with you about the haggling. I think Zanzibar will be my next holiday spot :D

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  5. Ishay on 06 January 2012

    Hey Ming. Such good memories – you will love it I’m sure.

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  7. Mark Benson on 16 January 2012

    These markets seem to be astounding after a flight to Zanzibar and will surely give you a delight for your trip to Tanzania for the vibrant and colourful ambience they consist of.

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  8. Annelie on 16 February 2012

    Just discovered your blog and I’ve already added it to my favourites! :-)

    We went to Zanzibar almost two years ago and the Forodhani market was definitely one of the highlights. We had about three glasses of sugarcane juice each, every night we stayed in Stone Town! I also wondered about the fish, but tried quite a few different tasty skewers/sosaties (including shark!) without any trouble. I think they tend to err on the side of caution, since a few of the skewers I had were a bit dry/overcooked.

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  10. [...] and incorporates spices in a popular everyday drink.  I’ve written a short guide on the Darajani Food market and the Forodhani Night market  in a earlier post on the [...]

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  11. [...] loves and incorporates spices in a popular everyday drink.  I’ve written a short guide on the Darajani Food market and the Forodhani Night market  in a earlier post on the [...]

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