It's a travel agent's cliché, but Zanzibar really does have something for everyone. If your idea of heaven is to lie on the most perfect of perfect beaches, undisturbed by anything more than the occasional hermit crab, you'll find tiny, abandoned coves where you can forget the rest of the world exists, and stir only to flop into the bath-warm sea. But if lying immobile on the beach fills you with horror and your burning desire is for colourful local traditions, crumbling picturesque ruins and dim, fascinating markets, Zanzibar has all this in spades, too.
And if, like most of us, you'd prefer a bit of both, the small size of the islands and proliferation of places to stay in all price ranges makes Zanzibar the ideal destination for touring. For water sports enthusiasts, the coral reefs and open sea between Zanzibar and Pemba are justly famous for the quality of their snorkelling, diving and big game fishing.
When to Go
Zanzibar is a year-round destination. The coolest months are June through October, when the temperature averages 26 degrees Celsius. This can soar to over 30 degrees in the hot season from December to May. During November (the 'short rains') and between April and June (the 'long rains') rainfall is higher, but mostly rain in Zanzibar takes the form of a short, sharp shower in the morning or afternoon, followed by the return of the sunshine.
High season is June, July and August, and mid-November to early January. During these periods many of the more upmarket hotels may increase their prices, but smaller establishments and backpacker places keep their prices constant throughout the year.
Zanzibar Events Calendar
Eid el Fitr
Eid-el-Fitr is the festival at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Also known as Iddi or Sikukuu (days of celebration, festival or holiday), this festival is a time of gift giving and of giving alms. The fasting of Ramadan is meant to remind people what life is like for their less fortunate brethren and the alms giving at Eid (known as Zakat-el-Fitr) is a continuation along the same idea. Both fasting and the giving of alms are two of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. Because the Islamic calendar is different from that of Christians, the dates for Ramadan and Eid change every year by about 11 days. The beginning of Ramadan will fall in late October 2003, lasting until late November.
Ramadan is a holy month in which drinking, smoking, and eating is prohibited. Dress codes should be strictly adhered to. Some restaurants are closed during this month and outside town it can be difficult to get any food at all during daytime hours during Ramadan. Many discos are also closed during Ramadan. Eid is a nice time to see all the little girls in their new dresses and the boys in their new sneakers/trainers.
The girls wear kohl around the eyes regardless of age, and the boys run around firing cap guns. There is a general feeling of celebration as people go from house to house visiting friends and relatives, and attend Taarab concerts and discos at night. Ramadan lasts for one full cycle of the moon and is followed directly by Eid, which lasts for four days. The festivities can be seen at the Mnazi Moja grounds across from the National Museum or at the Kariakoo fair grounds out by the Main Post Office.