Busy, Buzzing Zanzibar and the Happiest Drummer Ever!


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Africa » Tanzania » Zanzibar » Zanzibar City
September 19th 2018
Published: September 19th 2018
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Arusha airport is bigger than Kegoma, but not a lot, just the one scanner but a few desks plus some market stalls selling local trinkets and souvenirs. We were taken there by my new Instagram buddy, who I will be helping to improve his Hekima House Safari website, as they have a lot of competition from travel companies abroad.

We'd been worried about paying extra fees at the airport due to a lack of communication from various people regarding bookings. It wasn't our fault as Glyn had done everything required but we'd been told via email we had to pay an extra $130, which we didn't have in cash and they don't take cards. However, bad communication worked in our favour at the airport as no one knew what we were talking about and we checked in fine with no extra costs.

At 12.20 everyone was allowed through the gate where we stood under a corrugated iron shelter by the planes, some of which were extremely small. Announcements were made by shouting over the various engines getting ready to go. By comparison, our Precision Airline Plane is huge, being four seats across, but thankfully had a loo at the back.

Climbing out of Arusha, I saw Mount Meru (5th largest mountain in Africa) and could see the straight, solitary road to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. It took 1hr 10 mins to get to Zanzibar and it was a bit cloudy as we arrived.

A short taxi drive took us to the end of Stone Town (the centre of Zanzibar town) where our accommodation was. The area reminded me of New Orleans - not that I have been there but I have seen it on the Sims Holiday Expansion Pack! There's a lot of ornate dark wood balconies and filigree metal work, coloured glass in the windows and decorations. Paintwork was often deep and rich colours. A lot of it is very tatty with peeling paint, cracked plaster and wooden shutters swinging loose from dirty windows. Our hotel has narrow corridors with a dark wooden staircase winding up the many floors passing ornately carved furniture studding with brass decorations. Our bed is about waist height (for me, not Glyn!) with a mosquito net. The room is small but clean. Like a lot of places here, the dining area is a covered space on the roof.

Walking through
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nearby Victoria Park, I was happy to see it was full of cats. No one was fussing them but no one was shooing them either. It was full of people relaxing and socialising, in fact people all over town seem to be doing that, maybe it's a holiday? We were told yesterday that kids were off school for two weeks currently. The majority of the women are covered up with only their faces and hands showing, some not even their faces. The men are in various states of dress. It's very different to everywhere else we have visited in Tanzania, it seems less Central African and more Arab.

Stone Town also reminds me of medinas in Morocco. The warren like alleyways that are impossible for newcomers not to get lost in, lined with stands and shops. Except this has the wooden balconies and a colonial feel. Thankfully, not many people tried to sell us anything. We found a place to change some cash and then pay in advance for the ferry tickets to Dar on Saturday as is required.

We ate at the House of Spices, on the roof of course and were the only customers. The food was nice and they had a tortoiseshell cat outside enticing me in - it was the spices that enticed Glyn.

Walking around, occasionally meeting more cats, we eventually found the shore and Forodhani Gardens that was a hub of activity. There were locals, tourists and cats milling about, with plenty of food stands and outdoor cafes. It was good to see all these cats after the shortage on the mainland. At the nearby beach, lads were practicing acrobatic tumbles, some were good, others ended up in pain! Many people were swimming and a lot in their clothes. We photographed the sunset with fishing and tourist boats bobbing in the foreground.

A lad convinced us to go to Dhow Countries Music Academy tonight to watch Kirundo Group - traditional music, although no one has said which tradition! Not surprisingly it was Tanzanian and in Swahili. When we arrived at the Old Customs House, the only other people there were one Brit, a guy from Switzerland and a lady from Iran. I was worried it might be a case of the band being bigger than the audience. A couple from Palestine arrived and we all started to chat, the guy
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from Palestine was amused to have been referred to as white whilst in Zanzibar - this hasn't happened to him before and he wasn't sure what to think! The Brit asked the Iranian if he would be able to visit Iran as he said that Britain had become enemies of many countries, but she and the Swiss guys didn't seem to think so. And yes, he can visit Iran.

The Brit also told us that the drummer of the band had already been in to tune the drums by lighting a fire underneath. The heat changes the tension of the hide and the Palestinian guy told me they do this in his country too. Maybe they do in mine, I've never tuned a drum, so I wouldn't know!

The band turned up, all wearing traditional garb except the old guy on drums and he was the happiest drummer, no musician, I think I've ever seen! He was very animated and had such a wide smile that both Glyn and I were fixated on him for the first half. It turns out that he's a cultural expert and music teacher at the Academy. I noticed that the room was
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full, when did all those other people arrive?

The rest of the group played percussion and sang, except one who played a variety of traditional instruments and electric guitar. At times members of the group danced with a lot of twisting and stamping. I really enjoyed it, despite brief concern when they grabbed various audience members to join in the dancing. No way I was getting up; Teresa May has already set the bar low for Brits trying to do African dancing, there's no need to add petrol to the fire.

We walked back following the coastline as much as it was possible and completely surprised ourselves by finding our hotel without looking at a map or getting lost. I don't know who we are anymore!


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cat in Stone Town

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Zanzibar, Tanzania


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