East Africa has been on the receiving end of a spice trade with the likes of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia for centuries, before the Arab and European spice merchants even arrived. By the eighteenth century, however, these merchants had turned the Tanzanian island into an economically important spice-producer.
Today, the fruits and spices of Zanzibar form a great part of the culture and lives of the local people, and the flavours are now their own.
The traditional meals and dishes of Zanzibar vary, and crayfish and all sorts of other seafood, as well as stewed or curried options made with lentils or eggplant, are common. Pairing this with an ice-cold hibiscus juice, bursting in its magenta colour and subtle floral notes, is a treat.
A spice tour is perfect to learn about, taste, and just immerse yourself in this side of the culture. On a visit to a spice farm or ‘shamba’, you’ll go on a walking tour of the farm, smelling and tasting as you listen to the wisdom your guide has to offer.
Often, a spice tour coincides with a visit to a local village, where you are hosted by a family who teaches you about the traditional attire and how to cook an authentic Zanzibari meal. Getting to know the humble locals in their home environment can illustrate so much more about a culture than when you are out and about, and you are sure to take away heart-warming memories and relationships.
At the farm, you will see items that you’ve only seen in packaging at the supermarket, in its purest most-natural form. There is a plethora of spices like clove, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, chilli, garlic, ginger, and turmeric, not to mention an array of fruits and vegetables. It goes without saying that the aromas of the spices and the tastes of the fruit will be an unforgettable journey of the senses.
Here you can witness a coconut cut from a palm tree before your eyes, and then sit under that very tree to enjoy the fresh coconut water. Hand-made rustic souvenirs are all around and the local children following you on your tour will spread the fun and make you feel more than welcome.
To bring the tour to a close, enjoy a traditional lunch, local brewed tea or coffee and a dessert fruit platter, under the shade of towering palm trees with a view of the spice farm.
Spices don’t only serve to give food a greater taste; most of the spices popular in Zanzibar have health benefits, too. Here are just some examples of what you can gain from the cuisine on your holiday to Zanzibar: