The first inhabitants of Zanzibar were Bantus coming from the mainland, and they were mostly fishers. In the 9th century, Arabs and Persians began colonizing the coast of East Africa as well as Zanzibar. In 1651 the Portuguese lost control of Zanzibar to the Omani sultanate. The Omanis brought new spices and as a consequence, Indian recipes such as chutney, masala, biryani, curry, fish cakes and samosa are now common foods. Around the beginning of the 20th century most of East Africa were colonized by the Germans and the British. As they did not mix with the local population their influence on Zanzibar cuisine is less evident.
Zanzibar is one of east Africa’s most culturally diverse and tropical destinations, thanks to its position in the Indian Ocean. Centuries of trade winds have blown Arab, Persian, Shirazi, Omani, African and European explorers through Zanzibar. All have left their mark on its cuisine, helping it gain its Spice Islands name.
Visitors should sample street food which is as alive here as it is anywhere else in Africa, You will find stalls filled with kingfish, marlin, octopus, lobster, tuna, snapper and barracuda, which sizzle alongside barbecued breadfruit, green banana and naan. There are also stalls selling Zanzibar pizza, a local delicacy. Arrive before dusk, and watch the space fill up methodically with chefs dressed in whites and tall hats setting up stands and grills. Row after row of grills with fish, squid, prawn, lobster, crab claw and seafood kebabs fill the square, Freshly pressed juices, like sugar cane juice and cassava, fried potatoes, chapatis, salads, beef skewers, falafel and Zanzibar ‘pizzas’ as mentioned are very popular.