Monday, April 29, 2013

Stone Town, Zanzibar in 48 Photos

Ah, the exotic Island of Zanzibar awaits us. The name comes from the old Persian language for "Coast of Blacks", and is also referred to as The Spice Islands. All we have to do is make it through the two hour ferry ride covering about thirty  miles of the Indian Ocean. Heave Ho and Off WE GO!
Kilimanjaro II Ferry pulls out of Dar Es Salaam

With us safely on board!
Friday afternoon on our Dar Es Salaam city tour we had seen the fish market. It was late in the day, and not much activity going on. This morning things were banging, to say the least.
Quick cruise past the fish market, then out to sea in the Indian Ocean for two hours.
The ferry ride is interesting and uneventful. After passing a few smaller, outlying islands, Zanzibar and Stone Town come into view!


First glimpse of Stone Town
 “It is a city of brilliant sunshine and purple shadows; of dark entries and latticed windows; of mysterious stairways, and massive doors in grey walls which conceal one does not know what; of sun-streaked courtyards and glimpses of green gardens; of barred windows and ruined walls on which peacocks preen. It is a town of rich merchants and busy streets; of thronged market-places and clustered mansions. Over all there is the din of barter, of shouts from the harbour; the glamour of the sun, the magic of the sea and the rich savour of Eastern spice. This is Zanzibar!”

(Major FB Pearce, 1919) 

Ferry Pier. Welcome to Zanzibar in Swahili
Our hotel Maru Maru is located only 800 meters from the Ferry Pier, so we head on down the road. On the way we encounter a local (of course) who volunteers to escort us to our hotel. For free. Conversation runs as it does and he discovers we want to rent a boat to go to Prison Island for the day and snorkel. NO PROBLEM. He knows a guy. . . 

Negotiate a good price for the day-hire of the boat and a cooler full of ice and beer. His name was Eddie. We called him "Fast Eddie". But within 45 minutes of landing on Zanzibar we were on a Dhow out to Prison Island. With beer.
Palace Museum and House of Wonders

Old Fort up ahead. Our directions are to turn left there. . .We have already hired a boat to take us out to Prison (Changuu) Island for the day. We work fast!
 

From inside our hotel's open air walkways. Looked interesting. . . 

Maru Maru Hotel

Old British Consulate, then Doctor Livingstone's house. Now a bar. More on that later. You can just see our cooler of beer being carried to the boat.

Off we GO!

Sailing sloop out sharing the waters

Destination straight ahead

Pool at the hotel on the island. We are in search of lunch, the tortoise farm and then back on the boat for some snorkeling!

Restaurant is on the old Prison Grounds. I'm herding the boys into jail.

Inside the walls

Not a bad view!


Some other tourist bought a monkey. Smart. 
After a delicious and necessary lunch, we headed off to see the tortoises. They were donated to Zanzibar from the Seychelle Islands. These tortoises used to be indigenous to all Indian Ocean Islands, but with the harvesting of their shells, have been wiped out in many places. These are protected, bred, and raised here in order to preserve their species. Most have numbers on their backs indicating their age.

Bath time

This little guy is just the right size today for this, but won't be able to do it much longer. Without getting stuck!

Second biggest dude we saw. Had 128 on his back.

This guy had 132. The Big Daddy
The tortoises are cool, but it's time to get on to the main event - getting out of the heat and into the water! Our snorkel gear is ready, and the boat is taking us off shore to a small reef for a peek at life underwater.

The beach that disappeared a few hours later when the tide came crashing in.

Us and Stone Town in the background

Off to snorkel! Pretty good diving, nice reefs, beautiful water, great visibility. Donated a snorkel to the reef. Bummer.

Back in town in time for a shower and a sunset on our rooftop terrace (an awesome selling point of the Maru Maru hotel!)

And a "few" drinks

Then off to Dr. Livingstone's Bar for dinner and a few more. .  . on the sand.  On the beach.

View down to the courtyard of the hotel from the third floor
Woke up to some scattered thunder showers. Sat on the roof and drank coffee and ate our breakfast and waited until the weather resumed it's normal sauna-like conditions before grabbing a map and venturing out.


Next morning was a self-guided tour around the city. 

Old fort

Old city gate

FREDDY MERCURY'S house! Well, his parents house.
The doors of Zanzibar are a sight-seeing treat in themselves. They have become an emblem of Swahili culture up and down the Eastern Coast of Africa. Many are carved from Burmese Teak brought over on the ancient spice routes from Southeast Asia. Some are adorned with brass spikes, said to keep marauding elephants from busting down the doors. This, however, is just a carry-over from the craftsmanship of similar Indian doors and used solely for decoration. Not many marauding elephants to be found here in Zanzibar.

Mambo!
There are about 800 doors, though. Even on some of the most dilapidated building you can find examples of these magnificent artworks.
Typical Zanzibar Door

Beauty all around!

Had a little sprinkle, so water not as pretty today. We will deal.

Narrow walkways and Sunday traffic through the Mkunazini
Due to it's vast history of rulers, including the Arabs and the Omani's, Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim country. I had read reports of female tourists being verbally abused here, but encountered nothing of the sort. Only fine, friendly people. 

Until 49 years ago, when Tanzania and Zanzibar merged, it had been ruled by Arabs, Portuguese, and the British. This is a remainder of the Portuguese Arch.

City Hall betting a make-over
Much of Stone Town is currently under renovation, as it was declared a UNESCO site in 2000. There is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of able bodied people willing to do the work. It appears to be going at a rather slow pace, however. Not sure where all the funding is coming from, but when things are completed, Stone Town will have an entirely different look. 
Random buidlings

And "yards"
The average Zanzibarian makes $250/year. The average hotel room on Zanzibar costs about $400 (when you include the resorts outside of Stone Town). Obviously, there is much disparity of income. Despite this, it remains a fairly safe place with extremely welcoming and helpful people. Most are trying to make a buck somehow, but are not pushy or irritating. A simple no thank you (maybe repeated) is usually enough to send them on their way. Or hire one. They are full of knowledge about this interesting town!

Back through the mazes of the twisty, turny alleys

A little Sunday laundry

We needed to be at the ferry pier at 2:30, unfortunately. Sad to have to go back to Dar Es Salaam after visiting this incredible place. Although, the heat is pretty tough, I could have spent days out in a dhow in the Ocean swimming in the 80 degree water.



The Palace Museum

Inside the walls of the Old Fort. Complete with souvenir stands and a bar. Had a drink and some lunch

Right in front of the amphitheater. 
We were close, but did not make it to the Old Slave Market or the Spice Market. Mainly because it was sooooo hot and humid all we wanted to do was sit in the shade and sip on cold beverages. Go ahead and call us lazy. We don't care. 

Fantastic to be able to experience a little tiny bit of the Island of Zanzibar, it's food, the wonderful people and the interesting culture. Excellent way to end our trip to Tanzania.

3 comments:

Bill H. said...

Really nice looking place, to bad you didn't have more time available to explore a bit more.

Vanessa said...

Great photos! I haven't been to Zanzibar before, but I've been to northern Malawi, quite close to the Tanzanian border, and it's a beautiful area.

Rachelle Stout said...

I hope someday to have the opportunity to see way more than 36 hours allowed. So many beaches, so little time. . .