Stonetown, Zanzibar

Trip Start Mar 24, 2005
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Trip End Jun 23, 2005


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Friday, May 27, 2005

The ferry over to Zanzibar was fairly traditionally working on African time - it was due to leave at 12, we left at 1.30. Was due to take two and a half hours and took four and a half hours - especially once the captain (generous term) took about 20 minutes to do a bit of an Austin Powers style manoeuvre to dock at the quayside in Stonetown...!

Anyway, I quite liked Stonetown - it had a good atmosphere, although it was bit rough around the edges in places. I'm sure no where near as polished as other so called 'exotic' type destinations (although to be fair I haven't been to too many of those!), but the people were friendly enough & the food was great. It was a good mix of east & west and not difficult to see the influences from its heyday as the spice islands with Asian, Arab & African influences all really visible.

The thing I struggled with is certain parts of the culture... For many people out here, women don't really exist. To the extent that we really didn't meet any local women at all - literally the only women we saw once off the ferry were in a bit of a 'local' bar, where they were sadly on the look out for male tourists - who I'd imagine were expected to pay for their services. As we were a couple, the bloke who would generally arrange that kind of thing went for trying to sell us drugs instead - lovely... We'd also be walking down the road and hawkers would completely cut me up so they could speak to Herdy, so I had to either stop walking or step beside them ... As most people who know me could imagine, that really didn't go down very well with me! The last observation (and I really did enjoy the place despite these slightly narrow minded observations!) was not enjoying a culture where women are expected to cover their shoulders & legs (even on the beach near villages), but where men can wander around pretty much as they like ... Not fair when you're trying to catch some sun !

Anyway, apart from that we had a great time! We chilled out around Stonetown for 2-3 days first - going on a spice tour for a day during that. Our guide was really good, gave us a good insight into the way the island has developed and the different spices & crops which are being produced on the island - saw loads of stuff, from vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon to pepper, lemongrass and cumin amongst many others.
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