Since moving back to Lusaka from New York a couple of years ago, the Fest Gurus' resident Zambian, Mazuba Kapambwe, has not wasted any time exploring her neighbouring hoods. In 2013 she ticked off Harare's HIFA festival and Malawi's City of Stars fest before bringing in 2014 at Zanzibar's annual Sauti Za Busara festival.
Held every February in Stonetown (known locally as mji mkongwe), Sauti Za Busara sees over 20 000 people, both local and tourists, descend on Zanzibar to celebrate East African music at "the friendliest festival on the planet". Outside of checking out the local musicians and festival life, Mazuba took some time out to enjoy the food, music and beaches of this charming UNESCO heritage town to report back to SBA. In case you're wondering how to spend a few heady days in Zanzibar's old town, these are Mazuba's top picks to ensure good times all round.
In the mood for... PEOPLE WATCHING
"Directly opposite the Old Fort of Stone Town, is an open space where you’ll find people chatting, having coffee or taking advantage of the free wifi. As the sun sets, admire the bravado of the young Zanzibari boys who take turns doing somersaults before diving off the boardwalk, energized by the tourists who gather to watch and take pictures. Stay past night fall and the fishmarket vendors will sort you out with all kinds of seafood. The garlic naan bread and prawns they gave me were the best in town, and if you end up chatting into the wee hours of the morning, you can get your morning cup of joe and eggs there too as all day breakfast is served."
In the mood for...CATCH UP CAPPUCCINOS
Zanzibar Coffee House
"Set inside an old Arabian mansion, Zanzibar Coffee House is a popular meet up spot on Harumzi street run by a fabulously all female team of baristas. The owners grow the coffee on their own estates in Zanzibar and the Southern Highlands. It's not just about the coffee here though as their wraps are also divine- you won't go wrong with the banana and chocolate syrup wrap served on fresh banana leaves."
In the mood for... LIVE MUSIC
"Mercury's is a lovely seafront spot to fill up on delicious Zanzibari curry while you watch the sailing boats with the oddest names you've ever seen, actual names seen include 'Facebook' and 'Mr Bean'. Named after Farrokh Bulsara, better known as the flamboyant former Queen frontman Freddie Mercury who was born in Zanzibar in 1946, go to Mercury's on a Saturday evening for the live music from the energetic cover band not the service. You’ll find lots of tourists here and plenty a dance partner. Useful to note that from 4 to 7pm, only pizza is served."
In the mood to...CREATE
Dhow Countries Music Academy
"Two minutes walk along the waterfront from Mercurys (close to Malindi Port) visit the Dhow Music Academy, a school for aspiring local artists and one of East Africa's best music education hubs. The lower level doubles as an art gallery and a space where you can watch upcoming musicians perform in open mics. Head up to the upper level for various workshops including bellydancing lessons."
In the mood for...PARTYING ON THE BEACH
"Full Moon beach parties have been happening in Kendwa (55 Kilometres from Stonetown) since '96 but they still draw people from all over the island. Held monthly around the full moon, their Facebook page is the best place to check 2014 dates, although organisers Kendwa Rock's claim that "every Saturday night is beach party". When you get tired of dancing to the latest music via dj’s, grab some fresh fish off the grills while you watch the acrobats and fire-eaters display their skills. Full Moon parties usually coincide with Sauti Za Busara and while I didn’t have a chance to attend one, enough people raved about them for me to recommend you don't make the same mistake and miss it."
In the mood for...SUNDOWNERS
Six Degrees South Grill & Wine Bar
"Located in the ‘posh’ area of Stonetown, the waterfront Six Degrees South has several cool bars to play in. Start on the ground floor sampling the expansive wine collection before heading up to the rooftop in time for the 5-7pm happy hour as you watch the sunset over the dhows on the Indian ocean. During festival time, tuck yourself in a corner, enjoy the live DJ sessions, and sip on some Mojitos. Does life get any better?"
In the mood for... MORE THAN JUST YOUR AVERAGE SOUVENIR
"At some point during your stay in Stonetown, you will wind up in Harumzi street, a maze of narrow streets where modern hotels and art galleries intersect with everyday Zanzibari life. Children playing soccer, chasing each other down the street while their parents try to entice you to buy souvenirs like Kanga (traditional cloth) and spices. Ask around for the local curios store where you’ll find knick and knacks like old cameras, records and rare jewelery. Be sure to haggle for a good bargain. Shopping is known to induce thirst, so flag down the conveniently located men selling fresh coconuts on their bicycles captured here by the Fest Guru's photographers Crafted Media."
In the mood for a...MIDNIGHT STROLL
"The best way to end the night in Stonetown (apart from the fish market) is with a perfectly made Caprinhinia from the Livingstone hotel bar which stays open way past midnight. Relax on a beach chair as you feel the cool night air. If you’re up for it, take a midnight stroll or swim while you mastermind how to come back to Zanzibar as soon as possible."
What are your favourite Stonetown spots? Share them with us in the comments below!
Author: Mazuba Kapambwe is Co-Host of @TheFestGurus, Afro-Entertainment Guru for @RadioAFRO, a @LskGlobalShaper and term coiner of #zedcreatives. Follow her on Twitter and check out her blog afrosocialiting.wordpress.com.