Stonetown, Zanzibar

As soon as I found out that I was going to be working in Tanzania… I knew that I had to go to Zanzibar.

The Africa House Hotel - Lounge

We booked into The Africa House, a former Colonial British Club for the Foreign Service which is preserved along with the rest of Stonetown as a World Heritage Foundation Site… every room, elegant, infused with the memorabilia and atmosphere of The Empire and all of the intrigue that goes right along with it to the mysterious shores of East Africa.

The Africa House - Terrace Bar

The other day I posted a photograph of what every sunset looks like off of the terrace of the bar at Africa House… this is what the inside of that bar looks like after dark.

Stonetown, Zanzibar - Antique Shop

One of the things that so attracted me to Zanzibar is the incredible collection of antiquity that is for sale here… artifacts from all over Africa, from every different culture, religion and nationality find their way to the antique and junk dealers… I have never seen anything like it before… rooms after rooms, floors upon floors… filled with everything/anything you could possibly imagine… all there. It was like no flea market/antique shop I have ever seen. Completely wonderful and amazing. I saw hundreds of antique, navigational sextants, compasses, statues, censers, Omani Daggers & Victrolas, spears, fezzes, toys, batik printing blocks, coins &  jewelery fit for the proverbial Arabian prince and princess….

Poley, the owner of The Lively Lady was incredibly generous and gave me the mobile number of a friend of his in Zanzibar named Anjam who, among other things, ran a taxi van service and worked as a guide. How completely lucky we were.  Anajm picked us up when we landed at the airport, took us to The Africa House, and offered to meet us up in the terrace bar after we dropped our gear in our rooms to talk about what our plans would be. On the way up to the rooms and in the bar he was pointing out the details of all of the artifacts on the walls, the photographs of lords, officers and sultans hanging everywhere…

After unpacking we took a short walk down the main tourist street fronting our hotel, down to the harbor with Anjam and bid him good evening as it is Ramadan, and as he pointed out, all of the 95% Muslim population has some serious low blood sugar in the late afternoon working up to sunset, then prayers followed by finally eating a meal at the end of the day, Iftar, the meal that breaks each day’s fasting. Scott, Randall and I made arrangements with him to pick us up at the hotel the next morning and we would take a drive to Nungwi, the northernmost point on the island of Zanzibar and home of what may be the most beautiful beaches on earth. That night I ate Kingfish & Plantains wondering what tomorrow would be like…

Nungwi, Zanzibar - Dhows Heading Out Fishing

We started driving north along the west coast of Zanzibar and in about 10-15 minutes we were away from Stonetown and it’s monochromatic glow and out in the emerald green country… on our way to the beach. We passed big open spaces where you could see octopus fishermen hunting the yummy tentacle in the low-tide flats, homes and huts and people going about their business… and eventually we started to notice that the trees were getting shorter, the grasses more windblown looking, and that salty smell that I recognize from childhood as the smell of the road to the beach. An abrupt end to the road, some off-roading through the village at the end of the beach road and we break out onto the most amazing vista I’ve ever seen… Just take a look…

Nungwi, Zanzibar - Amazing Beach

Nungwi, Zanzibar - Dhow Rigged Trimaran

In Nungwi, the Dhows are all trimarans… and when rigged and under sail, they fly.

Nungwi, Zanzibar - Anjam & I

Here’s a shot of Anjam and I sitting on the smallest, one person, trimaran dhow… imagine trying to land a big Dorado or Sailfish in that thing on a hand-line…

Stonetown, Zanzibar - Night Food Market

After spending the day up in Nungwi we went back to the hotel… most of the crew went for a gourmet Indian dinner… I met up with Anjam and he took me to the Night Food Market on the harbor… once there, Anjam took me to some of the vendors that he knew and I had INCREDIBLE grilled octopus & prawns, a chocolate banana pastry cooked right in front of me and a taste of Anjam’s potato soup with spiced felafel, meat and vegetables… that was great. Felafel as dumpling… now that’s an idea I can get behind.

Stonetown, Zanzibar - Streets @ Night

After we had some food, Anjam and I walked to the home of his friend and we went upstairs for a visit. The home was lovely. The family that lives there welcomed me and we sat down and spent the rest of the evening answering eachothers’ questions about history, culture, media & the world. A lot of fun. It’s a challenge to talk about and explain one’s culture to people who live on the other side of the world and only know about my life from what they see on CNN or Al-Jazeera… the crappy blockbusters that I’d never see at home… or semi-censored newspapers written with the same unfamiliarity with my world or way of life. It was awesome.

The first question: “Is the USA an incredibly violent place?” My answer… “Don’t believe everything you read… every thing that business sells as entertainment… sure we have horribly violent places in the US… just like here. Do women get beaten in Stonetown? Same thing in the US… the real violence that hurts people, families, communities is all from ingnorance. The violence you see on TV… that’s all crap.”

And on into the night the conversation went back and forth… Wonderful experience. Great people… new friends.

I took the above shot on the walk back to the hotel, late at night… everything silent.

Stonetown, Zanzibar - Zanzibar Door (Indian Style)

The next day Anjam met Scott, Randall and I and took us on a walking/shopping tour of Stonetown. The first thing was some lessons about the famous Zanzibar carved doors. There are many original Zanzibar doors, hundreds of years old, that have been preserved or restored. Anjam explained to us that the ones with the arched top were designed for Indian families who settled here and have designs relevant to Indian culture, the Muslim’s doors have squared off tops and Arabic text inscribed on them. They are incredible works of craft and art.

Stonetown, Zanzibar - Resident On The Way

I knew that it would be rude to work on my street photography by taking pictures of the people I passed in the street so as I carried my camera, I left it turned on, my finger on the trigger and just tried to point it in the right direction and fire shots as I walked around, not quite pointing it at people, rather aiming as best I could as I went. These are a couple of the nice shots of people walking around one of the markets in Stonetown.

Stonetown, Zanzibar - Resident

Stonetown, Zanzibar - The Kids Are Alright

These kids were hilarious and cute as all get out… giggling, hiding and waving… they were having a blast, and so was I.

Stonetown, Zanzibar - Zanzibar Door (Islamic Style)

An Islamic style Zanzibar door, restoration in process.

...after a long day's fasting, rushing home for Iftar.

As the day went on we were finishing up our last minute shopping in order to leave for the airport and catch our flight back… everyone else was doing the same thing… except their goal was to make it back so that as soon as the muezzin’s call to prayer ended they could sit down to break fast with family and a home cooked meal…

...and we wing our way to Dar Es Salam as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean... As-Salamu Alaykum.

~ by robotbob on August 16, 2010.

2 Responses to “Zanzibar!”

  1. Cool pictures really capture the essence, along with your narration. Looks like a beautiful place – so different from our home land. What a great adventure it must have been…

  2. What amazing photographs! Thank you so much for sharing, as it really makes me want to go there myself. Your explanations are great, and the food….well, that lobster and other seafood looked great! Thanks for the adventure..even if it was 2nd hand.
    Keep shooting those photos guys!

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