Christmas in Zanzibar!
Zanzibar… The land of mystery and exoticism, well in my mind anyway! We arrive in Dar after a very long bus journey from Moshi. Dar is hot and sweaty, feels like we have just stepped into a dusty, noisy sauna. The opposite of relaxing. The guidebook confidently states that there is little sightseeing to be done in Dar although it is good for souvenir shopping. We are excited about visiting a large bookshop which has excellent reviews but after walking around for what seems like a sweaty eternity, we find a building site. A passer-by duly informs us that that used to be the bookshop! Oh well… The kids spot a Kentucky Fried Chicken or was it a Burger King and we drag them away amongst cries of “it’s not fair” and “we are hungry”. We tell them we did not come to Tanzania to eat junk food, what does that mean anyway? I now feel that perhaps we ought to have let them have their fill of “Westernised” junk. They do not have the same appreciation for the local food, well, can’t say that I do either and secretly maybe I wanted a bit of junk food too…
Anyway, after a boat ride, we finally arrive in Stone Town. Getting on the boat proves to be yet another sweaty endeavour. People jostle to pass through the narrow passage that leads onto the boat and there is no personal space or polite “excuse me”. We decide to come back VIP instead of economy. A decision which will prove to be rather pleasant on our return.
Stone Town’s inner city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 and is a most unique and city. It is a blend of Moorish, Middle Eastern, Indian, and African traditions and architectures. We spend quite a few hours winding through Stone Town’s labyrinthine alleys. The atmosphere is amazing, it feels old, full of history. In the alleyways there are children playing, women cooking, bicycles and motorbikes occasionally mean that you have to squish against the wall and there are hundreds of cats everywhere!
For some history on Stone Town: http:/whc.unesco.org/en/list/173, also has some good photos of Stone Town.
I also recommend a very good book, The Last Slave Market by Alastair Hazell.
Finally it was time to make our way to Jambiani to see what all the fuss is about the beaches in Zanzibar. Well, we were not disappointed! We stayed in Stone House, a lovely house right on the beach and run by a most delightful couple, Peter and Eva. Peter is originally from Zanzibar and Eva is Swedish and they were the perfect hosts, not only that but they love reggae so not only was I on a beautiful beach, I also had good reggae playing to help me sway with the coconut trees. Sometimes, life is pretty good… Jambiani is a long (very long) beach behind which is a long (very long) village. The beach is used by the villagers to grow seaweed, to bury coconut shells, fishing and playing. It is a lively and friendly place and it makes you feel like you could stay there forever. A typical day includes breakfast looking out to sea, walks on the beach, a swim or two, lunch, sleep, walk, swim, dinner. All this interspersed with the odd chat with the locals and a play with the local kids. One of the most beautiful things was waiting for the tide to go out and then wade through the seaweed farms up to the beautiful, clear, blue pools where we would lie down and stare into the blue sky and blue sea. Whilst lazing in one of these pools, I saw something floating, it was the most beautiful blue colour and for some bizarre reason I felt the need to pick it up. It turned out to be a blue bottle jellyfish, a small one at that but nonetheless bloody painful. So, children, do not pick anything that you see. Although, sadly, I have not yet learnt this lesson as there are always many fascinating bugs and things I want to pick up!
Whilst in Jambiani, we went to the Blue Lagoon where we snorkelled with hundreds of fish and visited other parts of the island. Zanzibar is relatively small and we were able to go north and south where we saw forests, butterflies and more beautiful beaches. On the 31st December, we watched the annual Dhow boat race in Jambiani. The beach was teeming with people, women in colourful clothes, music and dancing and a very relaxed and festive atmosphere. Being in Jambiani made me feel glad to be in Africa and I feel I could easily have stayed there for a long time. We managed to eventually frag ourselves away back to Moshi. Back to work. Back to what is now our routine.
Since then we have acquired 7 chicks and one cat and we are waiting for the ducklings to hatch so we can being them home. I feel like I am in the throws of starting an animal sanctuary of some sort and it seems like a marvellous idea. Work remains elusive despite a promising job interview (I am still waiting to hear 3 weeks later!). Maybe animals will fill the gap… Geoff is happy, Joshua loved it and Marianne misses the shops in England! I have a love/hate relationship with the place. Some days are wonderful and the place is so beautiful and others everything feels like it is rubbing me up the wrong way. A bit like England, I suppose…. Except I am never cold! Oh and the smell of the frangipani trees is truly amazing, and I miss my good friends like crazy!
I wonder what next….