Besides its natural wonders, Tanzania also has some unique places to visit, including fascinating ruins, historic destinations and Freddie Mercury’s house.
Located in East Africa, Tanzania is renowned for its sprawling wilderness areas, including the Serengeti National Park with its endless plains – home to the Big Five of African game. The country is also well known for the Kilimanjaro National Park, home to the highest mountain in Africa.
Off Tanzania’s shores, lies Zanzibar, a popular travel destination and home to beautiful coral reefs and whale sharks. While these are all splendid reasons for visiting Tanzania, it also has other fascinating attractions.
1. Kilwa Kisiwani Ruins
Kilwa Kisiwani (“Isle of the Fish”) lies off the coast of Tanzania and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will need a permit for this visit and will head to the island in a traditional dhow, making it even more of an adventure.
From around the 9th century to the 19th century, Kilwa Kisiwani was a port belonging to one of the greatest civilizations in this part of Africa. At its peak, this empire covered everywhere from Kenya through to Mozambique, while Kilwa Kisiwani was a crucial part of the Swahili civilization. At this spot, impressive structures were built, including the Great Mosque with its 16 domes, a number of pillars and arches. This is the oldest standing mosque along the coast.
Close by is the Palace of Husuni Kubwa, standing in a high position on the island and originally the largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. These days the iconic buildings stand in ruins and are fascinating to visit and explore.
2. Unguja Ukuu, Unguja Island
Next we visit Unguja Ukuu, a village on the island of Unguja, which lies in the Zanzibar archipelago. The island has beautiful forests and unspoiled beaches where snorkeling and sailing are popular sports. With the way the oceans are rising, this is one of those islands you should probably visit soon.
In the local language, Unguja Ukuu translates at “Central Place,” and according to historians the village was originally a crossroads for international trade, even predating the well known Stone Town in Zanzibar from the 19th century.
Many European, Asian and Middle Eastern artifacts have been uncovered here to back up the history, including pottery, currency, jewelry and glassware hailing from the Roman Empire and India.
In 1966, fragments of Islamic pottery and Chinese stoneware were uncovered with origins dating to the 8th and 9th centuries. In 1991, archaeologists dug a little deeper and found 6th-century Egyptian pottery and more artifacts from the Roman Empire.
Nowadays, a boat trip out to Unguja Ukuu is a remarkable experience, with less tourist traffic than other areas of Zanzibar and beautiful scenery all around.
While there are several tours available from tour companies, it is a good idea to get to know some of the local language before heading to the island. The people of Tanzania and Zanzibar are thrilled when visitors try to communicate in their own lingo.
3. Mercury House, Stone Town, Zanzibar
This next destination has a more recent history, as it is a house that has been dedicated to Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury.
Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar, as his father, Bomi Bulsara, worked at the British Colonial Office. Located on Kenyatta Road in the historic center of Stone Town stands a house that has the honor of being a place where the vocalist and songwriter of Queen was said to have spent much of his childhood.
While there is some dispute over the history of Mercury House, historians believe Mercury spent his school vacations in Stone Town, while attending school in India. Reportedly the family used to visit the nearby Zoroastrian Temple in Stone Town during their stay.
On leaving school, Mercury headed back to Zanzibar at the age of 18 to live with his parents. However, he left for England soon after to escape the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964. At that time the Sultan was overthrown and thousands of Indian and Arab people were killed. It was then that Mercury formed the band and spent the rest of his time in England.
Regrettably the house is not open to the public, but it is worth visiting to see its façade. This offers a monument to the Queen singer in the form of photos of Freddie during his childhood and later life.
Besides going on safari, or loafing on the beach, make sure you explore the less-known and fascinating side of Tanzania and Zanzibar.