24 October 2010

Zanzibar – The Spice Island

We spend the night in Dar Es Salaam, at a camp site on the beach before catching the ferry for our four night ‘get away’ to Zanzibar.   The camp site at Dar Es Salaam is lovely but we get there too late to enjoy the beach. 

I have always dreamed of visiting the exotic spice islands of Africa, so it isn’t just chance that Zanzibar was an inclusion on this African Adventure.  The ferry is crowded but we find seats and relax for the 2 hour trip to this romantic island off the coast of Tanzania.

JPEGS 2010 10 21 Stone Town

Zanzibar is an interesting cultural mix where the traditions of India, Africa and Arabia melt into a ‘Zanzibari Mix’!  It was one of the great trading posts of East Africa where the annual monsoons forced the traders to spend long periods at the trading post.   Today this has resulted in a wonderful melting pot of cultures that seem strangely removed from the rest of the African continent. 

JPEGS 2010 10 21 Stone Town3We get there in time to enjoy a local lunch and sign up for a spice tour.  Our guide ‘Ali G’ is hilarious and regales us with tales from the past in accents from the west!  We learn about the history of trade between Arabia and Zanzibar and the less colourful past of the slavery trade.  This place has seen the Portuguese, the British as well as the Omani Arabs and in its hey day during the 1840s the Sultan of Oman even relocated his court to this amazing place!

JPEGS 2010 10 21 Stone Town1We get back in time to sip cocktails and watch the sun set from Africa House.  We begin to relax and enjoy a very different place, pace and tempo from the wild life parks where we have spent most of the past 4 weeks.

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We have dinner at the local night market where we sample the local cuisine, eat loads of seafood and stuff ourselves silly on chocolate mango pancakes - yum!  The locals are friendly and Julie, Emma and I spend a fun evening chatting to the local boys!

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We have a leisurely breakfast the next day before Julie and I visit the House of Wonders.  Built by the Sultan of Oman in the 19th Century it is now a fantastic museum with exhibits on the history of Stone Town, the Swahili culture and the Dhow way of life on the Indian Ocean!   2010 10 20 Stone Town  

After our informative morning, we have a spicy JPEGS 2010 10 21 Stone Town-36 Indian thali lunch and browse the alleyways of this fascinating town.  Zanzibar is famous for many reasons including the lesser know fact it was the birthplace of Freddie Mercury.  I hadn’t realised he was of Parsi origins!

It is a wonderful lazy afternoon of good food, chats with locals and a bit of shopping to remind us of this place that was once one of the greatest trading ports in the world.JPEGS 2010 10 21 Stone Town-89 We meet up with the rest of the group for our JPEGS 2010 10 23 Ngunwe Beach Zanzibar-14transfer to Ngunwe Beach in the north of Zanzibar.  We will spend 3 nights of R&R, relaxing and enjoying the delights of being close to the Indian Ocean.  The turquoise blues of the ocean are stunning and I never tire of watching the dhows sail past. 

As we walk past the beach cabanas on our orientation tour Julie and I decide that after weeks of roughing it in a tent this would be the one time we splurge a little and upgrade.  Julie has just turned 50 and she is having a year off to celebrate her milestone. 

JPEGS 2010 10 23 Ngunwe Beach Zanzibar-18 Our beach cabana is built on stilts and is right above the water.  I go to sleep with the sound of the ocean lapping beneath me and smile at the thought there are two more days of luxury!

I don’t plan to do much in my time here at the beach besides having a bit of pampering and eating lots of seafood and of course updating my blog! 

Conchesta, my beautician turns out to be a real find!  She gives me a manicure and pedicure that lasts for hours and massages my legs till all of the knots from months of travel disappear.  After a wonderful facial, she walks me to the local village and introduces me to her friend who does my hair.  As I sit in this little hair salon in a tiny village in Zanzibar, I am surrounded by the local girls who have come here to have their hair cut and braided.  I marvel at the unique hair styles of each girl and smile as they feel my hair and ask if I am really black! 

A wonderful second day ends with Julie and I having dinner at a restaurant that overlooks the ocean.  We treat ourselves to lobster and wonder how we can go back to life on the truck and a camp site!

Day 3 is spent enjoying the ocean, writing and reading and watching the dhows sail past!  This evening we have the full moon party but that’s another story!  Zanzibar is a magic place…and the sound of lapping waves is music to my ears.

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“This is the finest place I have known in all Africa to rest before starting my final journey.  An illusive place where nothing is as it seems.  I am mesmerized…..” David Livingstone, 1866

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