Mixed Influences in a Town Built of Stone
Trip Start May 04, 2011
110Trip End Feb 20, 2014
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Where I stayed
What I did
Tourist stuff, giant tortoise
In summary, my 3 nights in Stone Town were an experience in varying cultures and influences. An Arab Sultan ruled Zanzibar for most of the 1800’s and then the British, a bit of India and of course the African influence is evident. The Muslim prayer call siren and speakers woke me each morning at 730am. There are lots and lots of hagglers and sellers on the streets. So annoying. If one more person asks me where I am from, I will strangle them I think. You say Australia, and then their response every single freaking time is "ahhh, Kangaroo?". I have taken to making up identities. Sometimes I am a Scottish Mining Engineer named Ryan, other times I am an Accountant from New Zealand named William. It at least gives me humour while I vaguely listen to them try and sell me something I am not interested in or walk along the beach talking dribble and then before we part asking for money so he can supposedly feed his wife and 3 kids. I feel for these people, but I won’t give money on the street for free. They could at least sing, dance, play an instrument, or try sell me a souvenir. I think I’m an easy target for them since I am travelling alone. There were some genuine friendly and kind people I met tho and all were good enough to back away once you insisted no interest.
I did pretty much all the touristy things to do in Stone Town, except a Spice Tour
I found the Palace interesting. This got bombed by the British in the world’s shortest war (less than an hour). House of Wonders not so wondrous, but it did have an elevator installed in 1913 (couldn’t tell if it still functions and I was going to try) and a great view across town. The Old Fort was filled with market stalls and an intriguing place to visit and barter with people who weren’t overly pushy. I watched sunset from Africa House hotel where I met 2 Aussie girls here as medical students. We had some drinks at Mercury Bar, a pub/restaurant named after Freddie Mercury from Queen and decorated with some memorabilia – he was born in Zanzibar. Food here in Zanzibar is excellent and cheap even in the nicer places – 2 courses, 2 large beers for $20 AUD. [PS – I’ve downloaded the XE app for currency conversion and it has changed my life]. Only downside is the stray cats that hang about and try get your food if u eat in the public spaces etc
The streets of Stone Town remind me a lot of Venice (without the sewage smell). Great architecture, especially the wood carved doors. I got lost numerous times, but unlike when I was in Venice, I withheld my frustration and just laughed at my inability to read the map. At least I got to see a bit of normal Stone Town life outside the main tourist precinct because I got severely off track when trying to find the Slave Market Site until a young guy who spoke really good English stopped to help me. I was deep in local territory where the kids stared at the white guy in thongs and boardshorts with camera around neck; I’d say Jambo and keep walking through the maze of back-streets trying to find a landmark of any recognition. When I did finally find the slave area, it was quite compelling. Zanzibar used to be the biggest slave trade market where slaves would be brought here, shackled, stored in horrible cave conditions, and then sold and put on a boat to Europe or elsewhere in the region. This continued up until the mid to late 1800s.
Before transferring up to Nungwi for my beach time, I had one final morning in Stone Town to roam the streets and buy a painting that I had spotted on day 1. The painting and a pen sketch of a wood carved door cost me 200,000 Tanzanian Shillings = $125 US = $119 AUD. Loving the Aussie dollar right now.