Four weeks on Zanzibar of being smoothly introduced to Africa are over and I’m heading to Moshi on the mainland, figuring that I should check what it looks like elsewhere. Somehow I actually want to stay and just continue in this bubble where it doesn’t matter if I do a little or a lot, the destinations beach or rooftop bar are always an option. The summary of my impression of Zanzibar is: put some elements of the Middle East and Africa in a cocktail shaker, then add the ingredient relaxing lethargy that kicks in shortly after arrival.
I proudly present some of these moments, captured with the camera I recently acquired from Mr. Frank (ah, it feels good to finally be able to take reasonable pictures).
Two weeks before my flight to Dar Es Salaam I still didn’t know where exactly I wanted to go, so I decided that the best choice would be to start with a place that is safe and easily reachable from Dar Es Salaam, where I can take Swahili classes for an affordable price and where some nice organization would babysit me, err, I mean, bring me to my place, show me around, and everything you need when you’re a poor lost traveler arriving in Africa without a clue.
So I booked Swahili classes and a homestay through WorldUnite! (www.world-unite.de) and yes, they did everything I thought a perfect babysitter should do. I basically didn’t have to think about anything because they even got me a Simcard with credit and helped me to buy the right package (thanks Gabriel).
Now the only problem was, even if Abdi did a very good job showing me all the important places in town I was still completely disoriented and only could remember how to get to my Swahili teacher’s house and to the street where Lukmaan’s restaurant is (there is a bank and shops to buy water, too). So for the first two weeks all I did was studying Swahili during the day and in the evening following the volunteers (who lived in the same place as me) to restaurants and rooftop bars.
This behavior pattern had several consequences. Not only did I learn much more Swahili than I thought I would, I also got swollen legs from the lack of physical activity to a point where one night the conversation on the way to the restaurant turned around different ways of dying from thrombosis (Lucie and Sofia are studying medicine and volunteering in the hospital). And I basically hadn’t left Stonetown’s narrow alleyways in two weeks, because to be sure I don’t get lost I only walked to the two places I knew, or followed other people.
I also noticed a slight increase of my belly size caused by the delicious food I had a t Mama Raya’s place where I was staying.
The third week I decided something had to change. I went to a Zumba class in the Old Dispensary (the course is held on Tuesday and Friday at 5.30pm and on Sunday at 10am: https://www.facebook.com/zumbainzanzibar/) and tataaa, I finally had some energy to brave the maze of Stonetown and everything that is around it! The next day I took all my courage to Darajani market and from there decided that by now I should be able to find my way to the sea. I somehow did and I also somehow found back home. I tried the same the next day without trying to remember which direction I walked so I would get lost, because I had realized that it doesn’t really matter.
Stonetown is a half circle between the sea and Creek Street, so there is no way you can get lost, because even if you get lost you will definitely end up somewhere you know and from there find back home.
I also finally started using my camera, with some results here. I’m still happy every time I take a picture, even if I have to carry around something that is completely against my goals of packing little volume and weight.
Slave Chambers and Anglican Church
My first activity as a tourist was a visit to the slave chambers, which gave an impressive insight into the time when Zanzibar was a slave trade hub. A church was built on the site of the slave market, with a white circle in the otherwise red marble surrounding the altar marking the spot where the whipping post was. Slaves used to be whipped and then locked into tiny chambers in order to only ship the surviving ones, who are the strongest, to other continents.
Some impressions from Stonetown
A pleasant walk in a forest where visitors can see and even get close to Red Monkeys, followed by some explanations about local plants and a walk in a mangrove forest. The tide was low and loads of little crabs were between the mangrove roots.
A beach like on a postcard… Since the water level on the beaches in the east is more affected by the tide than the ones in the north I checked when the water would rise again. Always a good idea to avoid any disappointments when planning a trip to the beach from Stonetown. http://tides.mobilegeographics.com/calendar/year/7156.html
The beach in Nungwi literally gave me the feeling that this can’t be real. While I was there I also visited the Aquarium, which is a project raising turtles to release them 25 years later, when they are not easy preys anymore.
The water wasn’t as high as I expected it to be, following the comments saying that the sea on Zanzibar’s north side is always high enough to swim, even during low tide.
Finally I have seen the plants that all those spices like cinnamon, cloves, … grow on. On the tour we also could meet members of the women’s project who are producing clothes and other items made of fabric, while enjoying fresh fruit and coconut.
Harith, who offers the tour, is doing several projects besides the spice farm and is always happy to welcome volunteers, for example also to the fish farm project a few kilometers further from Maungini. Harith.firstname.lastname@example.org
Just a few minutes out of Stonetown by daladala 509 Mbweni ruins hotel offers a much nicer alternative to going to the beach in front of Tembo Hotel in Stonetown.
Getting a haircut
Not only does Mbweni have a nice beach, there is also a hairdresser who did a great job at getting my hair as short as possible: http://www.malispa.com/hair-salon-zanzibar.html. The hairdresser in Hyatt in Stonetown is popular with expats as well, but she wasn’t available for my departure.Art workshop in the Old Fort
Art workshop in the Old Fort
We followed Johanna’s invitation to participate in a water colour workshop at the Cultural Arts Centre in the Old Fort. They offer different workshops and the skilled artists were very good at explaining the painting techniques while we were painting. The Old Fort has a stage for concerts, but I missed the one I wanted to see because I didn’t realize it was written in Swahili time (which starts counting at 6am/pm, so 10 to 2.30 translates to 4pm to 8.30pm).
Jambo Party in Paje on Friday nights was exactly the way it was described in a comment on tripadvisor: “How often you can dance on the beach sand with Masais, Rastas and people from all around the world?!”
It’s also a good way of losing everything in one night: your mind, your friends over and over again, your phone, and eventually your flip flops.
Andreas would be able to tell the story better, because all of this happened in the same night. Ok, I admit he only lost his mind when he got the phone back in miraculous circumstances a week later. For reasons unknown (theft? loss?) his iphone disappeared during the party. So did his flip flops unfortunately, but that’s probably just so we could feel even more sorry for him. He told the staff and they said they would keep an eye out for it. A week later he already had given up and bought an iphone off a friend of a friend. However, he did check if Find My iPhone gives any result, and the phone appeared to have been switched on during the night in a hotel in Jambiani. He got his simcard back when he went to that hotel, and the following day he managed to find his iphone in a shop in Stonetown with the help of the Maasai who was a guard in the hotel the night he located his phone.
It sounds unreal, but it did happen.
This is Africa
The same goes for my stay in Zanzibar, too. It is only gradually becoming less unreal. When I arrived I thought: whaaat, I’m in Africa, really?! Or when I went to the market alone for the first time and everything felt as if I was in some sort of movie, anyway, it didn’t seem to be real.
Now situations like let’s say the daladala ride sitting in the place with the highest probability of ejection in case of an accident feel normal:
I was sitting on the floor in the exit of the daladala with Sofia, while the controller and another passenger were hanging out of the back, somehow managing to stick to the vehicle using one foot and their hands. I was giggling about how we would pretty much be dead if the driver decided to brake abruptly now, except if we managed to elegantly roll to the side of the street like a stuntman.
Ok, but where and what is Zanzibar?!
You might still wonder about this, so for some general information about Zanzibar and Tanzania (and for some exciting stories about spiders, monkeys, snakes… and activities on Zanzibar) check Katrina’s article from her trip a few years ago: http://www.tourabsurd.com/zanzibar-house-mercury/