It started to get a little embarrassing, I’ve been in Tanzania for 4½ months and I hadn’t been to Zanzibar yet - at least it felt like it, as whenever it came up in conversation, I had to say no. It is not like that it is difficult or expensive (at least as a Tanzanian resident) to get there and I hadn’t just been anywhere in Tanzania, but on the gateway to the island. Dar is connected with several ferries and flights a day, but somehow there just hadn’t been time yet.
Now there was no excuse, as the ‘Sauti za Busara’ festival (in English ‘Sounds of Wisdom’) was on in Stonetown, the capital of Zanzibar. It’s a big five-day open-air music festival in the Old Fort in the heart of the historic town centre attracting visitors from all over the world - and a fare bunch of VSO volunteers and pretty much the entire ex-pat population of Dar.
I left the office a little earlier on Friday afternoon and caught the last ferry at 4pm together with Michelle and Sara. It wasn’t as packed as we had feared, but still pretty full (Sara got an evil stare from an old
Zanzibari in Muslim caftan for the whole two-hour journey, as she apparently took his seat). Though I had heard many bad stories about rough crossings with everyone throwing up, we were lucky and the sea was calm. I even managed to nap for half an hour or so. Though Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, it is a semi-autonomous entity with it’s own government and border control. With our residents’ permits, Sara and myself walked straight through, but Michelle had to queue up together with all the tourists, fill out a landing card and get her passport stamped.
Fighting our way through the crowd of touts (they are pretty annoying around the port in Dar as well, especially when trying to buy tickets) we fought our way through in direction of the old town. The first impression was really good, Stonetown feels totally different to the mainland. There is a much stronger Arab/Muslim influence and it is more laid back, breathier and less dusty. With lots of old Vespas whirling around and the architecture, there is reminiscence of Italy or Croatian coast. We had to ask a few times for the way, as our hostel was right in the midst of
the labyrinth of the old town. After dropping off our bags, we didn’t loose much time and headed straight back out again to get some dinner. We had one of the Italian places near the waterfront in mind. We found them, but when we saw a row of about a hundred chefs along the seafront, all with chef’s hats and various kinds of foods on long tables in front of them, we quickly changed our mind and couldn’t resist trying their fares instead. There was something called Zanzibari Pizza, which is a flat dough pan fried and filled (in the veggie version) with onions, tomatoes and cheese and then fried on top as well.
Stuffed from this delicious meal we ventured on to the Old Fort to catch some of the festival. The location was breathtaking: a medieval castle, atmospheric lit in various colours, a pleasant evening climate and a friendly crowd. As it was already past 9pm, we had missed a lot of good acts. Nevertheless we had a splendid time meeting many VSOs, other friends and even saw my boss.
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