Three Days on Zanzibar

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September 23rd 2010
Published: September 23rd 2010
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This morning we went on a walkabout in the old quarter of Stone Town, with photography of the famous doors on Kayla's agenda. Emily joined us. There are some 500 mahogany doors with large brass studs, each a different hand carved design, all of Indian origin. The studs were originally to keep elephants from rubbing against the door. Interesting to note that there have never been elephants on Zanzibar. However that doesn't take away from the beauty of the doors. Although she didn't get photos of all 500, Kayla did take shots of many interesting designs.

Stone Town is on the ocean, which provided other sights of interest, including a secondary school for Muslim youth, and a very high end hotel opened by the Aga Khan, with room rates starting at $450 US. We luxuriated on the veranda overlooking the sea and pretended for a short while that we were the guests of the local sultan.

Found a bar with free wireless and got caught up on our blogs. Then off to Nungwi Beach for a few days of lounging on the coral sands. Nungwi Beach is a combination of high end resorts (not where we stayed) and very low end basic rooms set back from the beach. Guess where we stayed. However we were grateful for a bed, toilet and shower in our room.

Not being beach types, we found that we could enjoy nice long walks along the beach in the mornings, walking beyond the resorts to the local fishing village. One morning we were joined by "Martin" who hung out with us in a nice low pressure way (unlike most of the aggressive touts that were everywhere). We ignored him for some time, but after a while, his technique worked and we started asking questions about the island and village life. He acted as a go-between, asking the locals in Swahili if we could take their picture, and taking us on a walkabout through Nungwi Village, the highlight of which was a fish auction. Next morning we walked on our own and met him again, this time with an Italian couple. Wonder how the communications went for them. This time we noticed hundreds of women walking in the shallows at very low tide, harvesting seaweed from their cultivated underwater gardens, prying shellfish off the coral and collecting octopus (pweza in Swahili), which were then beaten quite vigorously to tenderize before eating.

Afternoons were spent avoiding the hot sun and generally lounging about. Evenings were a bit more tolerable and we joined various people from our group in open air seaside restaurants for dinner.

There are two kinds of local housing on Zanzibar. One is a rectangular home built with cement blocks. In fact we have seen many homes made with cement blocks everywhere in Tanzania and there is a very large cement factory just outside of Arusha. Cement factories were everwhere. Typically these homes have tin roofs. 

The other kind of home is made of sticks in a cross-hatch pattern, filled with mud. Typically these have thatch roofs. We were told that these are very cool in hot weather. The other kind of construction we have noticed is woven fence panels, made from banana leaves. A most creative use of available natural products. Martin told us that the thatch roofs have to be replaced every three years.

The women on Zanzibar all wear beautiful clothes, except for the more strict Muslim women who dress in full black burkas, with only eyes showing. All women here wear long skirts or dresses and cover their heads. We were told to have shoulders and knees covered in Stone Town, but at Nungwi, it was a bit more lax, given that this was after all a beach resort. However all the local women we saw at Nungwi were covered, even in the water.


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