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Published: March 23rd 2017
After a relatively short trip sunning ourselves on the deck, our boat docked into the harbour in Stone Town at about mid morning, and in a blaze of sunshine we disembarked and went through customs. In spite of Zanzibar being part of Tanzania, immigration and customs are mandatory for any visitors. The group from our safari trip were staying for a few nights in Zanzibar and were staying in another hotel in town- we were staying for 6 nights and had a hotel booked on the other side of the island, so we left our luggage in their place and took off to explore this ancient and fascinating town. Like a lot of African towns, Stone town juxtaposes wealth and poverty perfectly, with large, ornate, opulent buildings emerging from crumbling ruins which quite often is someone home. Poverty is immense there, and there was, in spite of it's loveliness, a feeling of unease in this town.
Stone Town was chaotic and noisy- people approached us on the street to try and sell us things and didn't take too kindly to us saying no- one got very abusive towards 'us tourists coming over here to take advantage'. Streets were littered with
home wares and souvenirs for sale, and these, combined with the traffic, made navigating this peculiar city a little difficult. Still, we persevered and ventured into the honey coloured labyrinth of winding streets. One of the most striking and attractive attributes of Stone Town was its intricately carved indian and arabic doorways, all are different absolutely stunning- one could easily spend a day walking around photographing these. How there have survived the years of neglect and wood worm, sand and weather is a miracle! Large, beautiful white shuttered buildings were found sandwiched between decaying, dilapidated buildings,punctuated by an occasional a church, temple or mosque. Its location on the seafront meant that Stone Town has a pleasant harbour to walk along, and in some parts, small beaches where tatty fishing boats could be found moored and beached on the sand.
We had arrived in Zanzibar in the middle of Ramadan, and considering that the country is 95% Muslim,it was right, as with any country, to respect their customs, so knees and shoulders were covered, and our guide had advised us prior to arriving to not eat or drink on the streets- in this heat! We decided to have some lunch
(and most importantly, some water) so went into a lavish, palatial hotel where we were asked if we wanted to eat on the roof- of course we said yes, so we were then escorted through some tiny windy cobbled streets to another imposing hotel and whisked through the plush grandeur to a beautiful rooftop restaurant which afforded us the most beautiful panoramic views of the town below-for what seemed like miles, minarets and temple steeples peeked through and expanse of rusty tin roofs, stopped only by the sea. The food... of yes the food- let's just say if there is something Zanzibar does extremely well it is seafood! Undoubtedly the best we have ever had!
Moving on from there, we meandered further through the maze of streets to see some of the many incredible if heartbreaking points of interest. We got lost en route, but eventually found Freddie Mercury's birthplace, a sad, shabby, decaying memorial to such an icon! From there, we visited the slave market, which was absolutely heartbreaking, it is incomprehensible that human beings could treat other human beings in such a way. Breaking our tradition, we actually got a tour guide for this and he provided
a very informative summary of the events that took place in Zanzibar at that time. This concluded with a visit to the church and a replica of the slave pit, which serves as a solemn reminder of the struggles that people encountered in that time. We visited the local market, which was actually quite chilled out compared to other African markets I have visited, and took a stroll on the seafront. We met back up with those who were on out Safari truck for some cocktails (they had visited the spice farm- in spite of it being the spice islands we have visited a few elsewhere and it wasn't our cup of tea). We then took a taxi across the island to our hotel.
Be had booked into a small boutique hotel, and checked in quite late so all that was an early night, but not before indulging in an enormous platter of garlic prawns! Heaven! The following day- and subsequent days, were earmarked as much needed chill out days to recover from the long days on safari. We explored our local beach which was deserted, peaceful and stunning! We literally had the entire beach to ourselves! We spent
the day swimming in the crystal waters of the Indian ocean, sipping cocktails and strolling up and down the beach. At dusk, we noticed a few locals has come down to the beach to collect seafood and draw in some fishing news, which was lovely to see. The following day we visited Cheetah Roach- a wonderful sanctuary ran by a lady who rescues animals from hotels and circuses, as well as animals that are going to be destroyed in zoos. These animals are often tame as a result of their lives and cannot be released into the wild, but she offers them an amazing home, and I checked it thoroughly- very ethical. She only allows a few visitors on certain days of the week, so be sure to book ahead. This place was fantastic as we had to opportunity to interact so closely with these animals which is a once in a lifetime experience.
Activity days were sandwiched with chill out days enjoying the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar- they are really something of immense beauty. One of he days we visited Jozani Chwaka Bay national park to see the Red and Blue Colobus Monkeys. These rare monkeys were a
bit troublesome to spot, but after spending quite some time walking though the pretty forest, we found some, and they were adorable! We also visited the mangrove swamp which was interesting and beautiful! From there, we went for food at the famous 'Rock' restaurant. Now, to back track to several years ago while doing my PhD I read an article about must visit restaurants in the world, and saw this place and fell in love. Fast-forward a few years and the day we booked our trip to Zanzibar is the day I booked a table at this unbelievable restaurant. This eatery is located on a small rock just off of the breathtaking Michanwi Pingwe beach, what was formerly home to a fishermans lookout. We had a random encounter along the beach with two of our group (Melissa and Greg) and had a drink in the bar with them, and then the pair of us got a small paddle boat out to the island (when the tide is out you can paddle out to it).
The restaurant was tiny, and we were ushered out onto a rear 'terrace' which jutted out into the indian ocean, and all that could be
seen was the crystal clear blue sky melting into the crystal blue ocean. Incredible. We had a couple of drinks out here before we were shown to our table. The menu was exquisite, and we both chose the most incredible seafood starters and main courses. Then, after the main course, my (now) husband announced he wanted to go out for a cigarette, then called me out to the terrace. It was dark by this stage and the sky was magical. Then, overlooking the Indian ocean and under a sea of shimmering stars, James got down on one knee and asked me....nothing!!! Poor man was so nervous he couldn't get his words out! Still, when he finally asked the question, of course it was a yes! In the most perfect of places! The evening was spent in celebration (and we later ran into Melissa and Greg again, who joined us to toast our happy news). It could not have been more amazing.
The following couple of days were spent in a flurry of happiness, in the most beautiful of places, and we just enjoyed the beautiful local beach and local restaurants some more, until it came to home time. Zanzibar
was and is beautiful, and incredible island with such beauty, but I am glad out time spent there was a short as it was. A fabulous place but very small, and if flopping on a beach is what you love, Zanzibar is for you, if incredible proposals are for you, Zanzibar is definitely for you. It was an absolute pleasure and a place I will hold close to my heart forever. Until next time x
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