Zanzibar, island paradise?

Trip Start Dec 19, 2008
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Trip End Dec 19, 2009


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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday 9th August. We are up and pack a small daypack for the next 4 days and take taxis to the ferry and cross to the city on the 5 minute ferry across the harbour. It is 9am and already steamy hot. At the main ferry we pay 60 dollars US return each and are on the ferry at 10.30 am for the steamy 2 hour trip across to Zanzibar. The ocean is blue and turquoise in areas and the islands many uninhabited are very pretty with white sandy beaches and palm trees on them. We arrive at the port town of Stonetown around 1pm and pass through immigration and have our passports stamped. Although Tanzania is a republic and Zanzibar part of it, Zanzibar would prefer to be separate and so operates separately and therefore our passports are stamped from the mainland and into Zanzibar without cost thankfully. Stonetown and indeed Zanzibar is the spice island of Africa and was settled by African and Arabs and the races mixed along with Indian traders back in the 19th century. It has been ruled by African then the Arab Ottoman sultans and the British so has an amazing history as a trading port and sadly it was a centre for slave trade to the mainland of Africa and the middle East. The slave trade was stopped in 1873 under the urgings of Dr Livingstone ( I presume!) who pleaded with the British to intervene and they did after 20 years of Livingstone beginning his pleas. Not before thousands of tribal Africans , men ,women and children were traded if they didn't die of starvation, disease or suffocation in the process of being shipped and caged in despicable conditions especially in Stonetown where we saw one of the remaining slave dungeons now in the grounds of a church built on the site of the slave market. The town is a mixture of Arabic mosques and Arabian architecture with buildings made from crushed coral made into lime and beautiful carved doorways traced from the Indian traders who migrated there. There is also British colonial buildings along with ugly buildings built after independence. Most of the town is crumbling and decaying in the tropical conditions and so it has a wonderful decrepit historical feel but teeming with people and market stalls all squashed into the very narrow alley ways of the myriad little section of historic Stonetown. We found a hotel for the night and soon came to realise tourism is big here and the prices reflect this and nothing is cheap. We paid 40 US for a room with a bathroom and it was clean but no frills .Quickly we booked onto a tour to visit a spice farm and left by 3 pm after a spicy rice and meat lunch and off in the minivan with Kim, Mercedes and Angel. It was a great tour by a Rasta man (Rastafarians came from Africa-Somalia actually). We saw the local villages spice farm and were shown ginger, cloves, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, henna, coconuts, tapioca and others all growing and we tasted some and were fully informed of their uses in cooking, health and remedies and how the plants grow. We were given woven baskets made as we walked by a boy and collected the spice samples to put into our little palm leaf woven baskets. A well worthwhile tour that I loved as I had studied horticulture but never seen some of these wonderful plants. Back at the town we went to the seafront fish market and bought some food and retreated to a ritzy hotel for drinks ( this being a Muslim town so only hotels sell alcohol behind their doors) and sat on the balcony taking it all in.
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