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Published: January 7th 2010
Zanzibar Stone Town
For some reason it took 8 hours for the last 3 paragraphs of our last entry to load. We wished you all "Happy Holidays" at the end in case you read it before it finished loading. A New Year, already! Wow. . .
You last heard from us after arriving in Dar Es Salaam. This entry contains 2 pages of pics so be sure to click over to page 2 at the bottom.
There are 6 ferries that travel between mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar Island. It's about a 2 hour trip on the fast ferry. The ferry holds about 200 people, really nice and new, couple of TV screens showing a movie during the trip. But. . . during the night a storm had blown in from the ocean with wind and rain. So the sea was rough that day. As soon as the ferry pulled away from the dock, the ferry conductor started handing out sea sick bags. Within 40 minutes we were surrounded by people losing their breakfast. I looked at Aaron and he had sweat rolling down his face, then he turned and looked across the aisle and there was a lady sitting there eating
House of Wonders-Zanzibar-The first building in east africa with electricity.
deep fried "day old chicks" (a delicacy in many countries). He turned back to the front and just stared at the TV screen, then an attendant came and placed a waste basket in the aisle, right beside his seat, and people started chunking their used sick bags in it. I looked at him and he was actually a shade of green . He saidd to me, "I'm not gonna make it". I told him to just close his eyes and breath deep. He made it , he was okay, but what a trip! I made sure I didn't eat much that morning, so I was okay.
We were so excited to get to Zanzibar, this is where we came for our first anniversary. It is so cool here. We're staying in Stone Town which has been an operating port city dating back to the 11th century. There is so much history here and a really cool mix of Arab, Indian, and African cultures. It's 90% Muslim, and the people here are wonderful. The women wrapped in their veils really are beautiful and mysterious. Their hands and feet covered with cool henna tattos and long nails and cool jewelry. The
buildings here are made from coral blocks and the streets are very narrow, since there were no autos when the city was built. Lots of bicycles and scooters. There is a huge city park called Forodhani Gardens, beautiful grass, flowering shrubs, palm trees, fountains. Every night at dusk a huge market is set up in the center court of the park with vendors selling any and every kind of fresh seafood you could want. You choose the pieces you want from their table and they cook it up for you right there on their grills. There's also fresh breads, soups, salads, fruit vendors and cane juice vendors. One of the most refreshing beverages ever: they run a stalk of sugar cane through a hand cranked press along with a hunk of fresh ginger root and fresh limes. The juices from all these run over ice and down into a glass, absolutely delicious!
Once you leave Stone Town, you enter Zanzibar town with open air markets and your regular city streets and traffic.
We took our Proziquantil for the Bilharzia the next morning after our arrival. It's a 2 day course of medicine based on your bodyweight. This knocked us
House of Wonders-Zanzibar
out of commission for those 2 days. The cure is as bad as the disease!
We really enjoyed Stone Town and all it's good restaurants (even found a vegetarian Indian place that was fantastic, I got Aaron in there 6 times) and museums and took the Spice Tour and the Slave Cave tour, then headed out to the beach. We did the old Slave Market tour on our first trip here. The holes where they held people are still there and a church has been built on the location. The altar of the church is the exact spot where they would chain and display who was up for bid. It's such a sobering experience. This time around we did the Slave Cave. England outlawed slavery, worldwide in 1879, but slavery was such a big business that slave smuggling continued until 1923. The cave is a giant natural cavern in a bed of coral. It has a fresh water spring at one end. A passageway led from a local village, underground, to the cave. The captives would be held there until the ship pulled into the cove, then they would be put on the ship in the middle of the
Zanzibar is famous for its doors and they are protected making it illegal to remove them from the island.
night. The cave was really deep and dark, I did not like it at all. The steep stairway leading down into it was covered with the biggest, fattest millipedes I'd ever seen. Some of them over a foot long. Yuck!
The Spice Tour was really fun. We visited a plantation and a couple of local farms and saw what all the spices look like naturally, and tasted them. Then they followed it up with a lunch of local dishes made with all the fresh spices. The Jack Fruit, in one of our attached pictures, is really good. They're the size of watermelons, and you cut it open like a melon. It's light yellow inside and tastes like a mix of pineapple and banana, it's really tasty. We spent one week in Stone Town then headed out to Nungwei Beach.
Incidentally, if any of you are Queen fans, like us. Freddie Mercury was born here in Stone Town. We went to the house he grew up in and there is a restaurant called "Mercury's" dedicated to his music and memorabilia, very cool. He was born Farook Basara and lived here until he was 19, then moved to London. He was
Elephant Spikes on Zanzibari Door are a feature from the indian influence. In India the spikes were used to keep elephants from knocking down the door.
born & raised a Muslim, but obviously he didn't grow up to be a practicing one.
We spent two weeks out at the beach, so nice. When we were here 5 years ago, we could walk down the beach for almost a mile without seeing anything but jungle and white sand beach. Now it's one resort after another. They butt up against each other in some spots, but you can't walk the beach anymore. You're pretty much confined to the beach area in front of the place you're staying. We still had a really nice time there. We swam several times a day, and were such gluttons. The seafood there is so wonderful. I was having tubes and tentacle at least once a day. The water is so clear and warm. It was so hot between 1pm to 4pm we'd usually go back to the room or sit under the palapa and read. Quite a few Masai people here. The men work as security guards at the resorts here. Masai warriors are known for their ferocity and nobody messes with them. They're easy to spot by their dress and hair and jewelry. Very interesting to watch. Zanzibar is known
for pythons. We had a mother cat with 3 kittens staying out behind our room. Early one evening we were headed back to the room and one of the kittens went streaking across the path, it's hair all standing on end, being pursued by a pretty good sized python. He had a little burst of speed then just went on his way. We had a pretty relaxing couple of weeks on the beach just eating, swimming, looking at local craft markets. We enjoyed being in one spot for a little while.
We stayed a night at another eco-lodge on a nearby island, Chumbe Island Coral National Park. Another island where only 14 guests at a time are allowed. Really cool eco-bungalows, gourmet meals, and the highlight of snorkeling off the coral reef. So amazing and beautiful. This island is the only place to find the coconut crab, highly endangered. They are huge and they like to climb coconut trees. You can't eat them, they're really like a giant hermit crab. About the size of a small dog and are a dark purple and orange in color. They actually live with the thousands of hermit crabs that inhabit the island until
they outgrow them. Them and hermit crabs don't like saltwater, only fresh. So the water run-off from each bungalow is partially run out onto the ground outside your bungalow and all the crabs close by will come and drink. They were really pretty cool to watch.
After leaving the beach we spent one more week in Stone Town. We ate at our favorite places and investigated more little streets with shops that sell everything you can imagine, but mostly arts and crafts. There are roadside businesses here where you can rent a donkey and cart or an ox and cart. I couldn't talk Aaron into renting a donkey and cart. He said I would just spend the day petting and feeding it. Well, yeah!
Whether your in town or out on the beach, every night right before sunset, two shows start. They're free for the watching and so cool. One of them is the local fishermen. After they come in and anchor their dhows or fishing boats for the night, they gather on the beach for a soccer match. Two teams, depending on the night, each team would have anywhere from 9 to 16 players. They really get after it,
it was so much fun to watch. The other live show was gymnastics. This was done mostly by boys ages 12 - 20. We've never seen Olympic gymnastics this amazing. They take turns doing flips of every imaginable kind. Forwards, backwards, round-offs, to the side. Once the get warmed up they'll do whole routines. We saw one guy do 6 perfect front flips, the last 2 with no hands, then finish off with 2 back flips, with no hands. The soccer teams and the gymnasts finish up at the same time, then they do push-ups, crunches and finish off with a swim. It was very cool to watch. In Stone Town, if you're eating at the park, the young men there have diving contests. They do diving tricks off the pier into the sea. They are also very fun to watch. They can only do it when the tide is high though.
We've had a few relaxing weeks hanging out on the island. Now it's time to head back out. We'll be flying from Zanzibar to Nairobi, Kenya.
Let us hear from you. Did anybody make any New Year's Resolutions?
Carolyn & Aaron
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