Looking for a blissful holiday? Forget Thailand, hello Zanzibar!

Published: May 20, 2015

Zanzibar, an island off of Tanzania, is a beautiful place to escape to. PHOTO: AISHA IQBAL

The orange of the flame trees was so vivid that I felt it would come off on my finger if I were to touch it. The colour of the flame trees stands out in my memory when I think about Zanzibar, with its white beaches and dreamlike turquoise waters.

Zanzibar, an island off of Tanzania, is a beautiful place to escape to. The brilliant green of the trees is unfettered by billboards, tiny shacks with metal roofs crowd the roadsides, selling bright red, yellow and blue football jerseys, t-shirts and flip-flops. The locals are predominantly Muslim, the women are dressed in colourful flowing clothes and matching headscarves, and there is a smattering of tourists but not in an overwhelming-the-residents kind of way, in contrast to Thailand. There are mosques and there are bars and everyone goes to their preferred building without judgmental glances at the other.

Photo: Aisha Iqbal

Our first stop was Stone Town, the main port centre of the island. You could walk around the city in a day, or in a half if you really want to stroll slowly.

Our friends had been politely curious about our choice of destination but the immigration officer at the Karachi airport was evidently unimpressed.

“Why would you go there?

He asked, stamping our passports.

Well, for starters, you get a visa on arrival. That is not impressive till you remember, hey, you’re a Pakistani with the accursed green passport which gets stalled in all embassies.

Arriving in Zanzibar was amazing. I felt like a VIP, walking down the stairs from our airplane straight across the tarmac to the tiny airport (even though VIPs probably are not accustomed to walking around much – it might have been my sunglasses. I instantaneously feel cooler when I put on my sunglasses).

Photo: Aisha Iqbal

The hardest thing about getting the visa was trying to fill out the casual one-page application while an unruly breeze rushed through the open hall that was the immigration/baggage claim area.

$50 and a “Welcome to Zanzibar!”

We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast called Hiliki House. Moudy, our host, was awesome. He laughed a lot, shared his insights on Bollywood cinema (Salman Khan is a favourite) and left us midnight notes on possible adventure boat trips.

Photo: Aisha Iqbal

Photo: Aisha Iqbal

There was a four-faced clock in the centre of the town, and every time we passed it, we felt that time had slowed down. Then we discovered that each side had a different time zone displayed on it.

The beauty of a holiday though is that it does not really matter. No meetings, no work, no events that keep us all so ‘busy’ all the time, just a glance at the sky to decide if we want dinner or another wandering through the streets.

The first day we just walked around the town, found a random path to the beach and stared at the waves. The local boys played football on the beach while a foreign woman did headstands. We sipped mango juice and watched.

Photo: Aisha Iqbal

Engulfed in holiday bliss, which wraps around you in airy layers of happiness and freedom, we did not need anything more than cool sand on our feet and the balmy air.


Aisha Iqbal

The author has recently moved to the UK. She is working part-time at a nonprofit in Nottingham and her new year's resolution is to write more. She blogs at sidewalk-scribbling.blogspot.co.uk/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fareed Khan Afridi

    Very interesting. Seems like a nice peaceful, friendly destination. Have never
    been there. Sounds like a laid back, tourist friendly, place. With life moving at
    a sedate, unhurried, calm pace. One of those undiscovered havens. [Need to do research on Zanzibar.]Recommend

  • Chris

    Thanks for sharing, wouldn’t mind getting to know the procedure of getting there i.e. costs and prerequisites.Recommend

  • Malveros

    More pics please next time. I am planning for Mozambique.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Great piece……..but let’s be honest…….after how many minutes of this did you say ‘ ok…..now what do we do ? ‘ Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/ ather khan

    i went to phuket last december, found it quite messy. think zanzibar would be a better option.Recommend

  • Queen

    Have never been to Zanzibar but it is definitely going to be the next destination on my itinerary :)Recommend

  • Omar

    Is it a safe place?Recommend

  • Imran Waqar

    i would love to know more cause i was thinking of going to. any way to contact youRecommend

  • forced2

    Then go to Thailand for your happy-ending massage. I would prefer safety and tranquility to being ripped-off any day !Recommend

  • Mahmood Hussain

    i feel you have missed the Kilimanjaro , talest peek of Africa at zanzibarRecommend

  • Kelly

    Fun blog! Just spent a month in Zanzibar and going back for two months this summer. Great place, amazing culture, loved the food, lots of beaches to explore, and of course, sailing in an ancient dhow is my favorite past time. If you need any Zanzibar advice, feel free to email me [email protected]. I also go to Lamu, Kenya all the time and highly recommend it – no cars! Only donkeys, dhows, and camels Recommend

  • Critical

    But people dont go to Thailand for the beaches but mainly for the massage parlors and cheap electronic items.Recommend

  • Ramchand

    Mount Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, mainland. Not on the Island of Zanzibar.Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    TQ . Now this has entered my must-visit list .Recommend