28.09.2005 31 °C
After 2 weeks of roughing it between Kili and being on safari, some R&R was well due, so after a long bus ride to Dar, I caught the ferry across to Zanzibar, the Spice isle.
Having never been to the West coast of Australia (disgraceful, I know), this was my first trip to the Indian Ocean, and not a bad introduction to say the least. Upon disembarkation from the ferry, I arrived in Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, and its cultural heart - a little piece of Arabia off the East African coast.
For the past few thousand years, Zanzibar has been an important stop on the trade routes of the Arabs, Portuguese, and Indians, and was part of Oman until the 1960s. The Omani influence is obvious with the town's minarets rising above the whitewashed
medina, women dressed head to toe in their traditional "bui bui", ornately Arab carved doors at every turn through the winding medina, and the early morning call to prayer every day. Peak tourist season was equally apparent with throngs of mzungus (white people) meandering about the centre in their kaftans and funky jewellery, being haplessley preyed upon by the local
"papasi" (Swahili for "ticks"), the horribly obnoxious touts that just don't go away!
After visiting the House of Wonders (the former palace of a Zanzibari Sultan), the Palace museum and the old fort, I took a spice tour of the nearby villages to learn a little about the sorts of spices cultivated in Zanzibar and their ongoing importance to the island's economy. It was also a good opportunity to taste a load of different spicy food, local fruits (manky papaya, coconut, jackfruits, pineapple, passionfruit) and watch crazy Mr Coconut climb up a palm tree whilst singing and dancing a tres tacky song (Jambo...Jambo bwana.....habari....mzuri...yadda yadda yadda).
Unable to bear the papasi any longer, I took a matatu down to Jambiani to chill on the beach for a few days. Aside from the kid who so boldly demanded "Give me your shoes", it was blissfully peaceful, with little to do but lie on the shaded (of course mum) deck-chairs, read books, walk along the white sandy beach, and swim in the impossibly turquoise ocean. A
little bored of the whole relaxing thing, I took a dhow (local boat) out a little way and did some snorkelling, and also visited the nearby Jozani forest, to see the red colobus monkeys - very cool and endemic to Zanzibar.
From here it was back to Stone Town and all my papasi buddies (I learnt that if you call someone "papasi sana", i.e. big tick, they get very annoyed!). I went to a big posh hotel to listen to Taarab music (the local Zanzibar style) on the sea front, and also did some scuba diving, before finishing up my time in Zanzibar at the Forodhani gardens night market.
And then to Uganda......and tomorrow Rwanda, hopefully to see some mountain gorillas!