Zanzibar Part 1

Community Highlights Africa & The Middle East Zanzibar Part 1

Zanzibar Part 1

We arrived in Stone Town, the main city in Zanzibar, on time after a very easy flight. We had used a very low cost airline (Fly 540) as we wanted to fly direct from Mombasa to Zanzibar and, despite reviews of bad customer service, we found it to be a great experience. We stayed at a guest house called the Princess Salme very near the ferry terminal which connects Dar Es Salaam with Zanzibar. Our room was a tad smaller than expected, being about the size of a postage stamp, but the lovely warm staff made it a really enjoyable place to stay.

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Had we not stayed there, we would not have discovered the Old Dhow Harbour where many of the local fishermen come in on their boats with their catch which then gets auctioned off. Buckets were everywhere used in many different ways …. to carry fish from the boats or to take the fish away after they had been bought, to sit on, to shade people from the sun or rain, to beat like drums when some people started to make music, to carry water from the sea to clean fish and so on. It was a hive of activity and we literally spent hours watching and photographing. This was definitely not a regular tourist experience as we were the only non-locals there the whole time. We love getting off the tourist track and discovering something new. We went there again on our second morning in Stone Town and discovered that there is even a lot of more activity early in the morning. Here are some photos that we hope will give you a flavour of what we experienced.

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Stone Town is similar to Mombasa, a maze of alley ways filled with gorgeous old doors, colourful people and wonderful architecture. We really enjoyed walking around discovering what was around every corner.

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While walking around we discovered the Zanzibar Coffee Shop and Roastery and were glad we did. They had the best mango lassis ever! The next morning we went there for breakfast and had lattes made by Tanzania’s best coffee barista in 2014. Here is a photo of her and her lovely coffee. By chance we met a man that we had gotten to know in Wasini — he was just in having coffee when we were there. We love how these happenchance connections occur from time to time when we are travelling.

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One of the main attractions in Stone Town is an old fort which is at the heart of the city and is very well preserved. It is right near the harbour where there is an array of boats at any given time.

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We went to the Darajani market late one afternoon and discovered just how busy it is there. It was intense so we didn’t stay too long. It seemed like there were endless sellers trying to get us to buy just about everything! We sure don’t want to acquire anything more at this point as it feels like we have too much with us already!

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One of the sweetest things that happened for us in Stone Town was that our taxi driver from the airport who goes by the name of Eddy (but whose actual name is Mohammed) invited us to lunch the next day with his family: his wife Mayasa and his two young children Zakir (3 years old) and Zikra (6 months old). Eddy, we quickly learned is a medical doctor who works at the government hospital in Stone Town. He drives taxi as a way to supplement his income as doctors are very poorly paid especially when they work for the government. We gladly accepted his invitation and he picked us up and drove us to their home on the outskirts of Stone Town. We had a wonderful time there meeting Mayasa and the children and learning more about all of them. Mayasa, who also works for the government, prepared us a traditional lunch so we got to eat local Zanzibari food. Zakir, though at first very shy, became enchanted with Chris and within an hour it was as though Chris was another grandfather for him. It was the sweetest thing to see. Mayasa like Eddy has a strong aspirations and wants to be a tax lawyer. She has completed part of her education but still needs to do another two years. Going to university in Tanzania is really expensive so they are hoping that they both will be able to school to realize their dreams. Eddy would like specialize in Orthopedic Surgery. We don’t doubt that they will find a way as their patient persistence with a system that really does not support them is very inspiring. Here is a family photo we took of them.

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The next day Eddy drove us across the island to Pwani Mchangani (which I still have to pronounce correctly!). We had booked this place as our original accommodation cancelled on us. It was certainly an upgrade from our usual accommodation but was a surprise in many ways. Located right beside the beach, the grounds were gorgeous and our room on first view was as well. But quickly we discovered the fan wasn’t working and so let them know as it was easily 35 C and we wanted to be sure we had a way to stay relatively cool. Within an hour they had replaced the fan. As it got dark we then discovered that the main light wasn’t working so off we went again to ask for it to be fixed. By the time I got back to the room, Chris had found that, after he had flushed the toilet, the cistern started to continuously overflow and that there was no way to switch off the water supply! A staff member swiftly came to remedy this situation. Even though we had the air conditioning on, it never seemed to actually cool the room, and it kept beeping every few minutes. The next morning I sat on an extra bed and fell through! It seemed like a comedy of errors where we never knew what mini-disaster was going to happen next. In all the places we had stayed we had never had an experience like this. We also discovered that the food was not great and was very pricey so in the end we regularly went to a nearby hotel, the Waikiki, as the service and the food were great and a lot less expensive.

We arrived on December 31st so celebrated the new year on the beach. The staff of the resort had really gone to a lot of trouble to create a lovely celebration for us which included a troop of local acrobats, a huge fire pit they had constructed on the beach and a Happy New Year Sign which was lit up in flames at midnight. The food was pretty bad and the wine was even worse but we still enjoyed the sound of the waves and the warm Zanzibari breeze at midnight.

The thing that is very stunning about the east coast of Zanzibar is that there is a reef that runs all along the coast several kms out from the shore and when, during high tide, you would never know that — at low tide — a huge area of tide pools is revealed that go out a long way. The women in the village grow and harvest seaweed and tend it every day at low tide. The men fish either in small kayaks or sail boats (dhows) or some swim out to the reef in the evening in the dark to hunt for large fish, like kingfish, tuna or grouper with their spear guns. Late into the evening we would see them navigate their way back in the dark of night with their flashlights. How they avoided stepping on any of the myriad sea urchins completely mystified us.

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So our days were spent just enjoying being in this lovely place and watching Pwani Mchangani life. Here are some of my favourite photos or the women tending and harvesting the seaweed. The first two are the process how the women load up with the strings of seaweed and then carry them to the drying racks that are set back from the beach.

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The woman who looked after our room was so sweet and everyday she would leave this beautiful towel art. Here are several of her gifts for us and a photo of Mafunda with Dana on our last day

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We loved the staff there, but clearly whoever owned the small resort (named The Dhow Club) was cutting big corners. We never did get the air conditioning working and the electricity supply was insane, going from full on to almost nothing every few minutes — the fan reflected this by changing speed constantly — sometimes fast, other times slow! There were many times we had no water either. Despite all of this we really did have a wonderful time there and were enchanted by the daily flow of life.

Here are some photos of the Dhow Club

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We discovered on our first evening that many Masai people come out to Zanzibar in high tourist season ….. they are relentless in wanting to sell you something or to be your guide to show you local places of interest. It kind of drove us crazy as we simply could not walk for 5 minutes without being approached. It gave us all sorts of opportunity to try various responses. In the end I discovered saying that we had already done everything worked best. Soon they gave up when they realised there was no hope of tempting us to accept any of their offers.

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We did do a snorkeling trip our to Mnemba Island which we were told is owned by Bill Gates and who often goes there. It is a private island which has an up-market resort which costs a mere $1700 per night per person. Looks gorgeous. We loved our snorkeling trip that we did with a two people from South Africa named Kitia and Mpiti. It truly was beautiful with pristine clear blue water and the snorkeling was great, especially seeing the fish which were profuse and amazingly colourful.

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That completes the first part of our time in Zanzibar. The next post will be about our visit to Jambiani on the south east of Zanzibar.

Until next time, Dana And Chris

This featured blog entry was written by danjali from the blog East Africa Adventure.
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By danjali

Posted Mon, Jan 21, 2019 | Tanzania | Comments