Apart from strolling around in markets, talking with people and looking at all the Stone Town doors – we ate. A lot and often. Because just as Stone Town was filled to the brim with visible traces of its cultural heritage – it was also a culinary rainbow of contrasts: From a first class rooftop Persian and Omani food experience, to deep fried Indian treats served on today’s newspaper on the street, and of course our first experience of Ethiopian food – you can imagine we were very happy.
Guided by Tripadvisor reviews as well as our own “let’s try this one!” exclamations, our taste buds got to experience the following:
Lukmaan restaurant is a local lunch spot serving huge portions at very affordable prices. The food is really “Zanzibar food” – mixing African and oriental spices in what I would refer to as elephant servings. Going here for lunch means that, despite sharing a portion, you probably won’t be hungry again until the next day. We ate really early, shared and didn’t really finish everything (sorry) because we knew we had booked a spot later that same evening – but still. Worth a visit if you’re on a budget and want to know where those Darajani market cow heads end up. Needless to say, I opted for the vegetarian option.
The Emerson on Hurumzi Tea House Restaurant was very worth pre-booking and probably our favourite food experience in Stone Town. The Persian/Omani restaurant is situated in a historical building on top of a hotel with the same name, and if you arrive early and ask the staff nicely you can sneak in to some of the rooms – all decorated as if for royalty. As would be expected from a #1 on Tripadvisor – everything in this place was impeccable, the food was rich in taste, the service was excellent, the singing and music entertaining – and the decor and view really hard to beat.
We were asking our waiter, Omar, so many questions that he decided to keep us company during dinner and told us about how the Islamic tradition of prayer is practiced in Stone Town – about how the city comes to life early in the morning with the Fajr and in many ways breathes and adjusts to the times of contemplation while at the same time adjusting to a modern way of life with jobs and errands. As we sat there, the Maghrib (sunset) call for prayer sounded from a nearby mosque, and the buzz of voices in the restaurant went silent.
On our last day in Stone Town we decided to try something different, and made our way to the Abyssinian Maritim which is an Ethiopian restaurant with nice Tripadvisor reviews. I had been trying to convince my mother to go with me to Ethiopia for years – so this would serve as a way to get a taste of it in the meanwhile, literally. The restaurant is, again, beatifully decorated and situated – and the injera flatbread, hand washing ceremony and way of eating was all good fun. The service was well.. really bad frankly, but the overall experience made it worth it and we had fun. Life is too short to eat bad food!
That same evening, as if we hadn’t already eaten enough, we made our way to what was portrayed as a secret oasis in town – The Secret Garden of Emerson Spice – squeezed in between the buildings of the narrow Stone Town streets, located in what looked like a roofless ruin of a castle. With only a few tables and almost no people around it made for a perfect place to have a good conversation, laugh, chat with the staff and try some dessert. We were so full that we impossibly could imagine eating anything more but we really wanted to pay the place a visit. I don’t have a photo of the bathroom but it had a pool in it, seriously.
On our last stroll, headed back to the hotel for our last sleep in Stone Town, my mother met a lady selling deep fried.. somethings. Oily, hot and served in a newspaper. Since our motto is a bit “if it’s hot, it’s probably safe” she insisted on having one. I was full – but curious, so we had one. Of course. Or at least shared one and gave the rest away because we realized that there was no way we were going to be able to eat more that evening. The taste? Deep fried. My mom was happy, deep fried is her favourite taste. haha!
The view from our room in Maru Maru after we had kindly asked for a room upgrade and kindly gotten one. Staff in hotels seems to really like the idea of a mother-daughter duo travelling together. Yay!
And then we said good bye and thank you to gorgeous Stone Town – a true gem!