Overlooking the calm blue sea is a garden that was built eight decades ago, inspired by Arab architecture. At its heart is a grand dome, once adorned by Sultan Khalifa during his 25-year reign over Zanzibar in Tanzania.
Here, amidst lush greenery, palm and jojoba trees are vigilant guardians of this historic garden, called Forodhani Garden.
Located in the heart of Stone Town, just outside the Old Fort, Forodhani Garden is popular for its lively evening food market, where a variety of food vendors offer delicious dishes in a vibrant and communal setting.
Forodhani plays an important role in Zanzibar’s culture and economy. It serves as an epicenter of culture. It showcases the island’s rich heritage through food, music and social gatherings. Forodhani also promotes local businesses, attracts tourists with its diverse cultural experiences and provides a livelihood for many people in the area.
Forodhani is often interpreted as meaning ‘customs,’ as it’s close to the original Zanzibar Customs House. This reflects its historic role in customs and waterfront trade. Today, it thrives as a cultural and gourmet center, offering a glimpse into Zanzibar’s traditions and street food scene.
Keep reading as we explore the world of Forodhani Garden in Zanzibar, focusing on the dining experience it offers both locals and tourists. With the following useful information, you can explore the Forodhani Garden on your own or choose to explore it with a food tour.
Related read: The Best Food Markets in Stone Town, Zanzibar
Here is our overview:
Zanzibar’s Forodhani Garden
Food at Forodhani is not just about nourishment, but also a source of pleasure and enjoyment through its flavors, quality and cultural significance.
The food market offers a tempting mix of local and international dishes that will tantalize the taste buds of all who visit.
With a rich history influenced by Arab, Indian, African and Swahili cultures, the garden has become a culinary haven where traditional and exotic flavors come together.
Must-try Zanzibari dishes at Forodhani Garden
Many tourists get excited when they enter Forodhani. They can’t help it. The energy is contagious. The lights, the food, the sea, the people. You’re bound to be swept away by the magic of Forodhani.
But whatever you do. Don’t let these local gems slip through your fingers. Here are the best Zanzibari delights you simply can’t leave without savoring.
Zanzibari pizza is a local favorite.
These delicious pizzas are made with a unique blend of minced meat, vegetables, eggs, vibrant sauces and a thin, crispy dough, resulting in an explosion of flavor.
The creators of Zanzibar pizza take great pride in frying their crispy, stuffed treats. Like a delightful cross between crepes and savory pancakes, these delicious fried dough pockets offer an incredible variety of fillings, ranging from avocado and squid to lobster and cheese to Snickers bar and banana.
To begin the process, the vendors flatten a ball of dough and place another smaller piece on top to strengthen it. Then comes the exciting part, where they let their creativity run wild by piling on various meats, sweets, spices and vegetables. Savory options include combinations such as ground beef, chicken, and mushrooms for meat lovers, or mayo, soft processed white cheese, chopped vegetables, and egg for those who prefer vegetarian delights.
For those who crave something sweet instead, Zanzibar pizzas can be filled with indulgent fillings such as Nutella or mango combined with cheese.
Once all the ingredients are added to the pocket-like structure created by folding the sides neatly together, vendors fry these culinary wonders on a sizzling tava (a large flat or concave frying pan) using ghee (clarified butter). The result is a crispy texture that tantalizes the taste buds with every bite.
Finally ready to serve after a thorough cooking process, these delicious pizzas find themselves gracefully placed on paper plates before being generously smothered in spicy mango chili sauce for an extra burst of flavor.
The price of a Zanzibari Pizza is Tshs 3000 / $1.20.
Urojo Soup (Zanzibar Mix)
With its roots in India, Urojo Soup is also known as ‘Zanzibar Mix.’ It is a savory treat from Zanzibar. Its base is a mixture of atta flour, gram flour and hearty potatoes, seasoned with a blend of spices.
This tasty and slightly thick soup is traditionally served with boiled eggs, crispy bagia and chutney. These toppings add layers of texture and flavor to a popular Zanzibari culinary experience.
Making this soup is a bit of an involved process because it requires creating toppings to accompany it. The soup itself is a satisfying meal, loaded with potatoes in a creamy sauce and served with bhajias (fried fritters) and crispy potato or cassava shavings. You can also enhance the flavor by adding coconut chutney and hot sauce on top.
This delightful dish is widely enjoyed as popular street food in Stone Town and Dar es Salaam, featuring various Indian chaats such as dahi poori, sev poori, bhel poori, and even pani puri. Zanzibar Mix exemplifies the typical roadside street food experience that offers warm carb-filled goodness to indulge in.
A bowl of Urojo soup costs Tshs 2000 / $0.80.
Fancy some seafood on the go? Forodhani’s seafood kebabs give you the option of not having to carry your favorite fish on a foil platter.
Prepare to be pleasantly surprised when you come across a plethora of street food vendors in Zanzibar offering a delightful variety of grilled and barbecued seafood on skewers ready for immediate consumption.
The locals have a deep appreciation for all things seafood, which is evident in the overwhelming selection of lobsters, crabs, shrimp, scallops and more. What’s truly remarkable is that not only do these delicious treats come at incredibly low prices, but they also exceed your expectations in terms of availability compared to what you might typically find back home.
Seafood kebabs include a variety of fresh seafood such as prawns, octopus and fish. The skewers are often served with a side of spicy or tangy sauces, making them a tasty and aromatic treat for seafood lovers.
The price of a seafood skewer is Tshs 5000/$2.
Grilled Plantains are locally known as “Ndizi Choma”
Ndizi Choma is a delicious and popular street food that you can enjoy at Forodhani Garden in Zanzibar. The plantains or bananas are seasoned with an appetizing blend of local spices and herbs.
The result is a mouth-watering treat with a slightly caramelized exterior and a tender, sweet interior. Ndizi Choma is a popular snack with a balance of savory and sweet flavors, making it a must-try when visiting Forodhani Garden.
The aromatic smell of these grilled plantains wafting through the garden will tempt your taste buds.
The price for a portion of grilled bananas is Tshs 2000/0.80.
Walking through Forodhani, you’ll be drawn to the sight of beef or chicken slowly roasting on a vertical cone. The aroma is irresistible.
And when it’s time to serve, local vendors wrap the expertly seasoned and thinly sliced meat in warm, soft flatbreads.
The price of a chicken shawarma is Tshs 3500 / $1.40.
The prawns at Forodhani are seasoned and succulent. They’re cooked to just the right temperature and burst with the flavor of Zanzibari spices.
Prawns are usually sold in portions. A single portion is about one cup.
The price of prawns is Tshs 5000/$2 per portion.
Another delicacy at Forodhani is squid. These tender pieces of squid are either grilled or fried to perfection. When you pop them in your mouth, you get a delightful combination of chewy and soft textures. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll enjoy the squid served at Forodhani.
Squid is also sold in portions.
The price of squid is Tshs 4000/$1.60 per portion.
Octopus dishes at Forodhani Garden are an outstanding choice for seafood lovers. The octopus served at Forodhani is known for its meaty texture and the rich flavor it gets from the strong marinating process, making it a popular seafood dish in Zanzibar.
Like squid, octopus is sold in portions at Forodhani.
A portion of octopus costs Tshs 4,000/$1.60.
If you crave the rich, delicate flavors of freshly caught crab – Forodhani Garden is the ultimate destination.
Crab dishes at Forodhani are celebrated for their delectable flavor, making them a must-try for those seeking an unforgettable seafood experience.
Crab is priced at Tshs 5000/$3 per portion.
What does the eating experience look like at Forodhani Garden?
The communal dining experience at Forodhani Garden is an absolute delight.
As the sun sets, the garden comes alive with locals and tourists mingling around shared plastic tables. The atmosphere is vibrant and filled with the aromatic smells of Zanzibar’s street food.
You can choose to dine casually at the plastic tables, enjoying your meal while taking in the lively surroundings.
Or, if you’re looking for a more mobile experience, take your meal to go and explore the nearby waterfront. Take in the stunning views and cultural interactions.
In the evening, creatives come out with their instruments and props. And enchant everyone with live music and cultural entertainment. This adds to your experience and makes your evening a memorable and authentic Zanzibari affair.
To fully enjoy the experience, complement the must-try Zanzibari dishes with a refreshing local drink. And Forodhani offers a variety of delicious drink options.
Sugar cane juice
Sugar cane juice in Forodhani is freshly extracted from sugar cane stalks. Vendors use a mechanical press to crush the cane, releasing the sweet juice.
It’s served as a refreshing, cool drink and is a local favorite for its natural sweetness and hydrating properties.
The juice is often consumed without any added ingredients, allowing visitors to enjoy the pure, natural taste of sugar cane.
Sugar cane juice costs Tshs 2000/$0.80 per glass in Forodhani.
For those who prefer beverages with less sugar, coconut water is a fantastic option due to its slightly sweet and nutty flavor.
Madafu are young coconuts and are a popular and refreshing drink in Zanzibar.
One dafu is usually enough for one person. They are enjoyed by cutting open the top with a machete to reveal the clear and slightly sweet coconut water inside. The water is cool and hydrating. This makes it the perfect natural drink to quench your thirst on a hot day.
The soft, jelly-like flesh inside the dafu is edible and can be scooped out with a spoon. Madafu is a popular local treat because it combines sweet, hydrating coconut water with soft, jelly-like flesh.
It is also low in calories and sugar because it is about 94% water. It also contains no cholesterol or fat.
Coconut water, which comes from the clear liquid inside young green coconuts, contains natural electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and magnesium. These essential nutrients help replenish lost minerals in the body, making coconut water an excellent choice for rehydration – especially during exercise.
In addition, studies have shown that coconut water can help lower blood pressure levels – a benefit for those with hypertension. However, if you are already taking medication for high blood pressure, it would be wise to consult your doctor before adding coconut water to your diet, as it may lower your blood pressure levels excessively.
Whether enjoyed with a delicious meal or on an empty stomach at any time of day, you can enjoy the refreshing taste and numerous health benefits of coconut water. Its versatility makes it a nutritious beverage option for many occasions.
One dafu costs Tshs 3000/$1.20.
Safety and hygiene
While Forodhani Garden offers an excellent culinary and cultural experience, it’s important to be aware of safety and hygiene.
Food stalls and vendors generally adhere to local health and hygiene standards. However, it’s good practice to eat in places where cleanliness is visible.
Tourists are encouraged to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before eating.
Also, consider drinking bottled water to ensure your well-being during your visit. Bottled water costs from Tshs. 2000/$0.80 per litre.
Tips for tourists when visiting Forodhani Garden in Zanzibar
- Timing is key to enjoying the magic of Forodhani Garden. It’s beautiful during the day, but it really comes to life in the evening. So aim to arrive at sunset to experience its full charm.
- Bring cash in small denominations and local currency. For example, Tshs 5,000, 2,000, 1,000. Many stalls don’t accept cards.
- Bargaining or haggling is common, so feel free to negotiate prices, especially if you’re trying several dishes.
- Come with an open mind and a sense of adventure, as Forodhani Garden promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Zanzibar’s culinary and cultural traditions.
Forodhani Garden Food tour
Experience the vibrant nightlife of Stone Town by exploring Darajani Market and Forodhani Garden Night Market.
Embark on a unique 3-hour culinary adventure in Stone Town, beginning with a convenient hotel pickup at 17:00. Immerse yourself in the local shopping culture at the bustling Darajani Market, where you’ll be amazed by the incredible variety of food on offer.
Afterward, enjoy refreshing soft drinks or Tanzanian beers while watching the changing sky colors at the charming Swahili House Restaurant.
Take some time to discover this UNESCO World Heritage Site as you explore the tea spots, game gatherings and storytelling hubs throughout the city.
Finally, head to Forodhani Garden for an evening of street food. Indulge in a variety of local delicacies such as Zanzibar pizza, urojo soup, shawarma, sugarcane juice, spiced tea or coffee.
At around 8:00 p.m., finish your tour and relax as we transfer you back to your hotel.
Price: from $25
Free refund up to 24 hours before
Book directly with the tour operator
This fantastic experience includes dinner at the Forodhani Gardens Food Market with mouth-watering dishes such as Zanzibar pizza and urojo soup. You will also enjoy a drink at the Swahili House with the guidance of our knowledgeable staff.
The preferred option is booked in advance, shuttle service to/from your hotel for added convenience.
How to order food in Zanzibar
When you go out, it’s fun and a nice gesture to be able to say a word or two in the local language. Imagine being at the market and being able to order a Zanzibar pizza in Swahili.
Tanzania is a diverse region that is home to a myriad of languages. However, the dominant language spoken in Zanzibar is Swahili (also known as Kiswahili).
Swahili is not only the main language spoken in Zanzibar, but throughout Tanzania and East Africa. It’s worth noting that English is also widely spoken in Zanzibar. So, there is no pressure to remember all of the phrases. 😉
Related read: Zanzibar’s Magical Nightlife
Useful Swahili phrases when ordering food
- “I would like to eat…” – “Ningependa kula…” (nin-ge-pen-da ku-la)
- “I would like to drink…” – “Ningependa kunywa…” (nin-ge-pen-da ku-nya)
- “Lunch” – “Chakula cha mchana” (cha-ku-la cha mcha-na)
- “Dinner” – “Chakula cha jioni” (cha-ku-la cha jio-ni)
- “Please, give me the menu” – “Tafadhali, nipe menyu” (ta-fa-dha-li, ni-pe me-nyu)
- “I would like a salad” – “Ningependa saladi” (nin-ge-pen-da sa-la-di)
- “Do you have?” – “Je, una _____?” (jeh, o-na ?)
- “Can I have a coffee, please?”- “Naweza kuwa na kahawa, tafadhali” (na-we-za ku-wa na ka-ha-wa, ta-fa-dha-li)
- “Please, bring me the bill” – “Tafadhali, leta bili” (ta-fa-dha-li, le-ta bi-li)
- “I am allergic to…” – “Nina mzio wa…” (ni-na m-zio wa)
- “What is this food?” – “Chakula hiki ni nini?” (cha-ku-la hi-ki ni ni-ni)
- “Fried banana” – “Chocha ndizi” (cho-cha n-di-zi)
- “I would like fish” – “Ningependa samaki” (nin-ge-pen-da sa-ma-ki)
- “I would like chicken” – “Ningependa kuku” (nin-ge-pen-da ku-ku)
- “Thank you” – “Asante” (a-san-te)
- “Please, choose a drink” – “Tafadhali, chagua kinywaji” (ta-fa-dha-li, cha-gua ki-nywaji)
- “May I have some water, please?” – “Naweza kupata maji, tafadhali” (na-we-za ku-pa-ta ma-ji, ta-fa-dha-li)
- “Tea without sugar, please” – “Chai bila sukari, tafadhali” (chai bi-la su-ka-ri, ta-fa-dha-li)
Learning basic phrases like these can make your travels in Zanzibar more enjoyable and easier when it comes to ordering food.
Useful Swahili phrases when asking about vegetarian food options
- “Is there a vegetable option?” – “Je, kuna chaguo la mboga?” (jeh, koo-na cha-gwo la m-bo-ga)
- “I would like only vegetable food.” – “Ningependa chakula cha mboga tu.” (nin-ge-pen-da cha-ku-la cha m-bo-ga too)
- “Does this contain meat?” – “Je, hii ina nyama?” (jeh, hee in-a nyama)
- “Can you make it without meat?” – “Je, unaweza kutengeneza bila nyama?” (jeh, oo-na-we-za koo-ten-ge-ne-za bi-la n-ya-ma)
- “Please, no meat.” – “Tafadhali, hakuna nyama.” (ta-fa-dha-li, ha-koo-na n-ya-ma)
- “I have a vegetarian diet.” – “Nina mlo wa kula mboga tu.” (ni-na m-lo wa koo-la m-bo-ga too)
- “I am a vegetarian.” – “Mimi ni mboga.” (mi-mi ni m-bo-ga)
- “Is there an alternative to cow’s milk?” – “Je, kuna mbadala wa maziwa ya ng’ombe?” (jeh, koo-na mba-da-la wa ma-zi-wa ya ng’o-mbe)
Please note that some of these phrases might not be understood everywhere, as the concept of vegetarianism may not be as common in all parts of Zanzibar or East Africa.
Some additional tips for ordering food in Swahili
- Be polite and use the word “tafadhali” (please) often.
- If you are unsure of what something is, ask the waiter or waitress to explain it to you.
- If you have any dietary restrictions, be sure to mention them when ordering.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things! Swahili cuisine is delicious and varied, so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
By learning a few basic Swahili phrases, you can make your dining experience in East Africa even more enjoyable.
Forodhani Garden has a deep historical significance in the history of Zanzibar. Originally called the Jubilee Garden, it was built in 1936 to celebrate the silver jubilee of Sultan Khalifa il Bin Harub Al Said.
Born on 26 August 1879, he reigned as Sultan from 9 December 1911 to 9 October 1960.
Zanzibaris celebrated his remarkable 25 years of reign as Sultan of Zanzibar. In recognition of this milestone, Sultan Khalifa himself instituted a Silver Jubilee Medal on 9 January 1937.
Forodhani Garden: Where culture meets culinary delights
Forodhani Garden is a must-visit for those who want to experience the heart of Zanzibar’s culinary and cultural traditions. It is a culinary gem in Zanzibar that captures the spirit of the island.
This vibrant food hub offers a diverse range of local and international dishes, giving visitors an authentic taste of Zanzibar’s culinary traditions.
The communal dining experience and lively atmosphere create a unique and memorable visit for tourists.
With its deep cultural history and historic trade links, Forodhani Garden embodies the essence of Zanzibar’s heritage.
Put it on your ‘to visit’ checklist so that you don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in this extraordinary culinary and cultural experience during your trip to Zanzibar.
Have you booked your Zanzibar accommodation? Check out our guide on where to stay in Zanzibar for the best places!
#Forodhani #Garden #Zanzibars #Heart #Beats