Darajani Market Spices and Swahili Cuisine

Darajani Market Spices and Swahili Cuisine

April 2024

The fragrant, flavourful side of Zanzibar

Zanzibar is renowned as a stunning beach destination of azure blue waters and powdery white-sand beaches. But if you’re interested in everyday life and the culinary heritage, a visit to Darajani Market in Stone Town is highly recommended.

The vibrant Darajani, with its red gabled roof and arched passageways, is a fabulous place to experience local life and a real African marketplace. Since 1904, the lively emporium has served the people of Zanzibar as a one-stop shop for their daily needs. This is where locals buy ingredients for the rich, flavourful cooking that the island is renowned for.

Inside the covered halls are stalls of fruits, vegetables, grains, live poultry in woven cages, meats, and all kinds of freshly caught seafood. There are aromatic piles of fresh spices, sacks of rice and pulses, and heaps of coconut fruits. In other parts of the market are African print fabrics, traditional baskets, souvenirs, and many household goods. Traders selling all kinds of merchandise spill out into the adjacent streets and narrow alleyways.

Zanzibar was a major grower and exporter of cloves in the 19th century. The small commercial spice plantations still operating today are characterised by a fragrant, tropical forest ambiance. Here you get to see how cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon trees, ginger roots, nutmeg, lemon grass and many other spices are grown. Smell, touch and taste the whole spices as a farm guide explains how the crops are cultivated and cared for.

Back at the hotels, learn how to prepare classic Swahili dishes at a live cooking class in Breezes Beach Club or watch a one-on-one demonstration arranged at the other properties. Our seafood is locally purchased, sometimes bought on the beach from fishermen passing by. The chefs will talk you through the local spices and their uses in the kitchen so that you can still enjoy the recipes when you go home.

is a blend of Swahili, Arab and Indian cooking techniques. Catch-of-the-day prawns, squid, slipper lobster (cigale de mer), crab or Zanzibari-style vegetarian dishes are typically cooked in a creamy sauce of coconut milk, dried coconut and fresh spices. Cardamom, cloves, tamarind, lime juice and chillies are commonly used in Swahili cuisine. Ginger, garlic, turmeric and black pepper favoured for marinated grilled fish. With advance notice, there is also the option of making Chicken Dhansak, a favourite dish of musician Freddie Mercury who was born in Zanzibar.

Want to learn more about local crop farming? Take a tour of the Zawadi Hotel's orchard which has avocado, guava and lime trees, many types of chillies and plenty of fresh herbs. Donkeys and goats graze in the paddocks while ducks, chickens and Kiwi birds free-range nearby.


Cookie Settings