Zanzibar – Tanzania – The Spice Island

Lying off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean just south of the equator, the historic island of Zanzibar lies like jewel in the sun. The spice island: cumin, cinnamon, lemon grass, clove (especially clove!), nutmeg, ylang-ylang, vanila and black pepper. The name conjures up pictures of exotic dhows sailing the Indian ocean to India with spice and back laden with silks and trade goods of old.

The actual picture is a bit more touristed, a bit more jaded and a bit more crowded, especially Stone Town – almost impossible to photograph, yet an interesting warren of narrow cobbled streets, shops and sellers. Somehow the picture I  had of “Stone Town” did not do justice to the reality.

It’s also true that Stone Town is difficult to photograph for whatever reasons: tight quarters, shy people (I don’t jam cameras in people’s faces), bad angles, rain (which we had in plenty in the House of Wonders) or take your pick.

While there on the island, going to the wonderful outdoor barbecue in Forodhani Gardens (park on the water) one of the two nights we were there, a very strange scam was attempted on your blogger. It went like this:

  1. Imagine a nice, warm evening and a park of maybe 5 acres/2 hectares covered with open air barbecue stands, vendors of all sorts of wonderful smelling food.
  2. One goes up to one of the barbecue stands and orders, squid-kebab, chicken in spicy sauce on a skewer and many sorts of goodies on a stick.
  3. You don’t have a drink and the food isn’t quite ready yet and a helpful person standing at the end of the grill says he will “bring your food right over” and would you like a something to drink.
  4. Sure, you’re thirsty and haven’t given any money to anyone yet.
  5. Pick a bench in the warm summer breezes on this island of spice and voila! here comes your food and a drink.
  6. You pay the drink/food bringer guy some Tanzanian Shillings and all is well until…
  7. The food vendor in white chef hat walks over and asks you for the money for the meal! Ooops! Well, you go through the whole explanation and eventually the sneaky drink vendor is identified in the crowd of maybe 1000 people.
  8. The sneaky drink vendor INSISTS ON BEING PAID FOR THE DRINKS.
  9. Well, ok, at least I, er the unwary tourist didn’t pay twice for the kebabs and all is seemingly well except I still don’t understand the scam.

We drove (when I say we, I mean the entire Africa in Focus crowd minus Ebron and Will who stay in Dar es Salam with Benji, the truck). At Nungwi we dive a couple times, hang out on the beach, take a sunset cruise (hokey, okay, but kinda fun) on a dhow, the lateen rigged sail craft with these guys who wind up dancing on the top of the cabin and some slightly inebriated tourists who do the same. Very relaxing place.

We get the “spice tour” with the guy climbing the coconut palm tree while singing the most overplayed tourist song on the island. I think there’s a picture of him waaaay up in the tree just before he bombs us with some loose coconuts. We see all sorts of spices in the raw (there are definitely pictures of them). Back to Stone Town and the attempted scam and back on the ferry to Dar es Salam (capital of Tanzania)  and a really, really, really long day in Benji up to Arusha, Tanzania and the end of the Africa in Focus tour.

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4 Responses to “Zanzibar – Tanzania – The Spice Island”

  1. 1 Marjorie Ratner
    September 13, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Fine photography, Terry. Zanzibar! I kept playing with the map to enlarge, locate, shrink, etc., to get a real fix on the place. Your photos are beautiful–rock walls behind people, wonderful people too, plants, markets. Thank you!
    Enjoy the next journey, you and Chimeye, be well!

    • September 14, 2010 at 8:53 am

      The google maps are amazing. Switch from satellite to map to terrain, zoom in/out, the new “earth view” is really neat. Drive it north/south wherever you like. Marjorie, you have a sense of play that is so rewarding personally and which I appreciate a great deal – it’s really rewarding for a humble blogger. Thanks! Stay tuned for more travels.

  2. 3 Barbara
    September 13, 2010 at 3:29 am

    I always thought of Zanzibar as depicted in the street scenes. I never realized that the water was so clear and the fruit so abundant! Lovely photos, Terry.

    • September 13, 2010 at 5:16 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Barb! The Indian Ocean is supposed to have some of the top diving sites in the world along with the Red Sea and much further east in Malaysia. Saw more sea horses than ever before in my 80 or so dives. The coral is nice but not up to Caribbean standards. Will eventually make it to the Great Barrier Reef some day and try that as well as the top Malaysian sites, I hope.
      Beautiful deep blue water and gorgeous light makes Zanzibar a treat for photographers. Love the shape of the ancient dhows against the sun – reeks with atmosphere. 😉

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