Just the name "Zanzibar" sounds exotic, doesn't it

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Thursday, October 5, 2006

He Said:

We started out a few days ago with a short flight south from Mombasa to the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. The island was a major hub for the Indian Ocean trade in gold, ivory, spices, and other goods as early as the 1300's. In the darkest part of its history, it was a major port to sell slaves to Arabia and Persia in the mid-1800's. The slave trade was ended in the late 1800's when the Sultan of Oman ruled the region, and the commerce through the island was so economically important that he actually moved the capital of Oman from Muscat to Zanzibar. The old town (known as Stone Town) is a really interesting mix of historic buildings (in varying states of repair) arranged around labyrinthine pedestrian streets. Actually, it reminded me a lot of the historic marketplaces in many Moroccan cities. The people are a laid-back and friendly mélange of predominantly Africans, with a lot of Arabs and Indians mixed in. Since the island is predominantly Muslim and it being Ramadan, most restaurants were closed until sundown. We chose to hit a museum in the old royal palace and then spent the rest of the day sitting on our balcony watching life unfold in the streets below.

On our second day on Zanzibar, we headed to the northern side of the island to spend the rest of our time at the beach village of Nungwi. The drive here was quite interesting. I think this was the first time it really struck both of us that we were "in Africa". Imagine roads lined with people on bicycles laden down with reed baskets of vegetables, men driving bullock or donkey pulled carts overflowing with crates of fruit, and groups of women wearing outfits in a rainbow of colors casually walking with arms at their sides all the while toting impossibly huge loads on their heads. Most of the houses we passed on the street were traditionally constructed, framed with sticks then filled with coral rocks, plastered over with whitewashed mud, and topped with a palm thatch roof. During the very potholed inland drive we caught an occasional peek through the lush vegetation at the turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean lining the coast, hinting at what awaited us! After bumping our way along the rutted, trash-strewn access road for way too long, we finally arrived at what must be pretty close to paradise.

This place is dazzling! Our guesthouse sits on the edge of a powdery white sand beach lined with rough coral walls. Along the shoreline there are a number of small restaurants and shopkeepers catering to the tourists who make it this far. Dhows (traditional wooden sailing boats) anchor just offshore and fishermen in dugout outrigger canoes cast their nets in the shallows pulling up the catch of the day that is sold both to locals and to diners like us in the waterfront cafés. In Nungwi, tourism and "real-life" seem to exist harmoniously side-by-side. Typically when we go to beaches our time is consumed by reading and dozing off, but this place is so beautiful that I find it difficult to concentrate on a page when there is such a sublime view to be taken in by just looking up. Other than the usual beach walks, swimming etc, about all we've done during our days here is taking a daytrip to snorkel at a nearby island, complete with a beach barbeque. The lunch was prepared from a silvery three-foot long whole tuna fish that our cook toted on board with him...yum! Zanzibar is one of the loveliest places I've ever seen, and certainly has the most dazzling beaches I've been to. I didn't think water could be this shade of blue!

The Tanzanian people we have encountered thus far are universally humble and soft-spoken while at the same time very friendly and sincere. It is difficult to imagine a Tanzanian being angry or aggressive; that just doesn't seem to fit the genuinely affable demeanor of anyone we've come across. Virtually everyone you pass on the street or beach greets you with a warm smile and friendly salutation. All those news media images of misery-plagued masses just don't match up with anything we have experienced thus far in Kenya or Tanzania. I truly hope that in the next few months as we progress further into the continent those words will not come back to haunt me...but for the time being we are in perfect bliss here on the idyllic beach of Nungwi.

On Saturday we are off to the island nation of Seychelles. Internet access will probably be very scarce so our next update might not be posted for a week or two.

She Said:

Every time we step outside here, it is like looking at a Ralph Lauren Paints color palette. I keep imagining rooms decorated with these blues, greens and whites, what the accent colors would be, and the one color that would be sprinkled in to give the room a little punch. We are on the west coast of the island, so the sunsets happen right over the ocean. Every night the colors are so bright and vivid with so many shades of orange and pink that it seems fake (see attached pic). I can tell that we have been away from home for quite sometime, because I am daydreaming of home improvement projects and color schemes for party decorations.

A few days ago, we spotted a lizard walking along a fence near the beach. Only this was no ordinary lizard... it was dancing and walking with robotic movements. Quite bizarre, and definitely worth checking out the attached video (if it uploads on this dial-up internet). We were thinking that the Hokey Pokey would be a good sound track!

There are many men here in traditional tribal dress, which at first looks like a cross between Halloween costume and a really bizarre combination of accessories. The red-and-black-checkered knee-length cloth tied around the waist and draped over one shoulder is the centerpiece of the outfit, and is what provides the most coverage. To accent this, a silver mesh/chain sash with little medallions hanging from it is also draped across the chest and around the waist. Sweatbands (not really, but it is the best way I can think to describe the shape) made of white beads are around each ankle and look like white athletic socks from a distance. Shoes are literally car tire treads carved and shaped in to a sole and fastened to the leg with leather cord. Several clunky silver bangles are worn on each arm, and a wooden club and a machete in a silver sheath hands from a waistband. Hair is long, straight, and in several braids down the back in a ponytail, with the bottom 3 inches of the scalp shaved. Aviator sunglasses top off the outfit. What?? Well, it is really bright here. The look is growing on me, and I am trying to convince Todd to shave the back of his scalp and to let me braid his hair... he's not in to it.

Anyhoo, yesterday on our snorkeling trip the one thing that I have been WAITING for on this trip to so many beach destinations finally happened!! I couldn't believe it and actually almost made a fool of myself on the tiny little wooden boat. The guy sitting next to us pulled out a tube of sunscreen and applied it. But it was AVEENO® CONTINUOUS PROTECTION(tm) SPF 30 for the Face!! My little baby, all the way in Zanzibar!! I couldn't believe it made it here in someone else's bag! Oh, the excitement.
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