Day 7: Stone Town

Zanzibar is a world away from Tanzania and it’s wildlife.  There has obviously been huge Arabic influence on the architecture of Zanzibar and it was the Arabs from Oman in the 19th century who drove the slave trade here……

We were surprised as to how un-humid Tanzania was, it was a dry heat and in fact quite cool down in the Ngorongoro crater to the extent we needed to wear light sweaters.  Zanzibar on the other hand is hot and humid, temperatures are in the 30s and frequent showers are needed.

Mr and Mrs L met with Zamir from Easy Travel as planned at 9am this morning. He wanted to ensure we were happy with the hotel and our room – we are; he confirmed the time for Mtoo to collect us on Monday and take us to Nungwi – 9.30am; he wanted our flight details for next Saturday so he could confirm our flights for us – what amazing personal service; and then he wanted to know if he could arrange any excursions for us – we are off to the Jozani Forest in the morning with pick-up from here at 9am.  No lie-in for Mr and Mrs L this Sunday!!  Whilst chatting Zamir also informed us that Zanzibar is 95% Muslim, 4% Christian and 1% Hindu; again very different to Tanzania.  The main language is still Swahili with English as the second language, and 35% of the population also speak Arabic.

Mr and Mrs L then stepped forth to explore Stone Town with Mr L and his Rough Guide as tour guide for Mrs L.  Mr L was soon lost in the many narrow streets of Stone Town – his tour guide career was short-lived……..hakuna matata!  We managed to wander to the very edge of Stone Town up by the hospital and Creek Road – the opposite side of town to where we are staying.  Creek Road was once water and separated Stone Town from the rest of Zanzibar, the creek was reclaimed by the British during their colonisation of the region.

There were very few, if any, other tourists to be seen on most of our exploration…….  We visited the local market which Mr L described as like Walthamstow Market but with better weather! We then finally found the Anglican Cathedral which had been our primary aim but caused us great difficulty to locate.  The Anglican Cathedral occupies the site of Africa’s last slave market which was finally closed in 1873 by a reluctant Sultan Bargash under pressure from the British (good to see that some of our interference in other countries business is to good effect).  We visited the remaining slave chambers that each housed up to 75 slaves at a time; there were 3 small slits in one wall to provide ventilation and the toilet was a pit running through the centre which was flushed out only when sea water levels rose and entered the underground chamber.  Many died in the chambers before even getting to the market above.  The slave market was held twice a week and slaves were brought here and then whipped, the strong ones who did not cry out when they were whipped got the highest prices……children were not sold as slaves but were given as gifts to slave owners.  The Anglican Cathedral was built on this site to replace the inhumanity of the slave trade with the salvation of God.  The foundation stone of the cathedral was laid on Christmas Day 1873, the year the slave market closed, and construction proceeded under the supervision of Bishop Edward Steere who was the 3rd Anglican bishop of Zanzibar.  We had an excellent tour with our guide, David, but horrific in its tale of past wrongs people have inflicted on fellow people.

The Old Dispensary faces the ferry terminal on the waterfront and is a grand 4 storey building.  There was a small artisan market on the ground floor selling goods made by a women’s collective with all monies from goods sold going back to the collective.  Mrs L bought herself a lovely oval ebony bowl painted in her ‘flat’ red – will be perfect as a nibbles dish.

Many of the narrow streets we walked down were predominantly Muslim with most women wearing a hijab and many wearing a burqa.  Even very young children, male and female, were clothed in traditional Muslim dress.  Everyone was very polite and gave us no cause for concern but it did feel that as tourists we were wandering through their everyday lives as they were going about their business and that we were somehow invading their personal space and privacy.  Feels voyeuristic I suppose…..something to ponder on.

Overall, Stone Town reminds us very much of Kathmandu with a touch of Goa thrown in, possibly something to do with the many cats……..Miss A – does that sound familiar? Several of the streets are unpaved; there are little shops all over the place which are also people’s homes; narrow streets with cars parked either side and still 2-way traffic trying to make its way through…..together with scooters and bicycles everywhere; no pavements for pedestrians who have to then compete with the traffic to get through to where they are going, and the cars do not slow down!  Less noisy than Kathmandu but this place brings back many memories – good memories.

Mrs L spent her afternoon getting her blog posts posted now that she has internet again, Mr L had a little siesta……time then for a couple of hours by the pool before an evening in Stone Town.

Mr L Floating in the Dhow Palace Pool!

Mr L Floating in the Dhow Palace Pool!

Cocktails at the Sunset Bar of the African House Hotel is the place to watch the Zanzibar sun set over the Indian Ocean.  The Africa House Hotel is an impressive building which used to be the British colonials’ club.  We got their in good time and ordered our cocktails which where konyagi with ginger and ice.  Konyagi is a Tanzanian spirit which is clear, 35% proof, and most comparable to gin – no doubt a heritage from former British colonisation.  When said cocktails arrived they were ‘shooters’ i.e not a drink we were expecting…….Mr L was dispatched to sort this as Mrs L declared hers undrinkable (Mr L did agree).  Tonic water added made the drink very nice.  The sunset was good too!  The iPhone photo does do the sunset justice but the best I can do at the moment.


Pre-sunset at Sunset Bar

Sun-setting over Indian Ocean

Sun-setting over Indian Ocean

Dinner was at the excellent House of Spice restaurant on the other side of town.  We enquired as to whether we could get a taxi there as there was no way we could find our way across town through narrow streets that all look similar, many unlit, without getting lost.  We got ourselves a ‘walking taxi’, a licensed guide called Masta, who got us there at breakneck speed!  He agreed to be back later to get us home again – he was.

There are few photos today as we were very cautious about having cameras and phones on show……Stone Town does have an edgy feel to it.


2 thoughts on “Day 7: Stone Town

  1. Sounds like you’re having an absolutely amazing time, I’m very jealous. Stone town sounds like it would remind me of Damascus, I don’t remember there being that many cats in Kathmandu… Look forward to seeing photos in a few weeks time x

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