Zanzibar is famous for its spices!
We learn all about the various types of spices and the creative looking shapes they come in. I am perplexed by whoever decided to try using these leaves, roots and bark in such a complicated way; transforming the raw into powders. Others are cracked similar to how walnuts are. There were nuts too: macadamia. Perhaps my favourite!
Fruit that you will only find in the tropics, of all colours and shapes hung from the trees. Jack fruit, Star fruit, and something sounding like Apple Blossoms (?) that you eat like an apple. It has a similar texture to apples and when you bite into it you can hear it crunch and taste refreshing juice. You also cannot (or should not) eat the core.
(We were all given local spice-jewelry. Check out the Spice Watch and Spice Ring. I was also given a necklace and sunglasses. The men received ties and hats.)
Flowers of all sorts, some of which are processed into a liquid, as oils and perfumes fill the air! At the end of the tour we are encouraged to purchase a Channel #9 of sorts, as it is made with the same ingredients. Tempted, an awesome souvenir this would make, both Danika and I resolve to leave it here and search for it in Stone Town’s local market before flying back to Nairobi.
Thirty minutes later we are in a farmer’s field. Its cliffs drop down to a beautiful cavern-filled coastline where you can walk out until you are neck-deep in the crystal clear water. Crossing the field we find the secret entrance we are looking for and descend into a gigantic cave. The only light that exists is that which comes in from the entrance. There is fresh water pooling from underground in a tiny basin to one side. We gather in this cave (much larger than it once was due to erosion caused by the rains) and they tell us the history of this place.
Zanzibar was not only known for trading spices but for slaves as well. When it became illegal to sell slaves secret markets took their place. Some were literally underground. This cave was one of them. Used as an auction and storage place of the purchaser’s cargo, the slaves would have to stay in this cave; men, women and children. Here they would stay crammed together like sardines. Then, once a month and at night, when the tide was at its lowest point, they would be forced to walk through a series of tunnels until they were outdoors, taking their last steps on Zanzibari sand before being loaded into the boats and shipped off around the world. Unfortunately this underground slave market flourished for years after the slave trade was abolished. When the farmer who owned the land eventually died, it ended.
We are told how greatly the local communities, whose villages were pillaged for their people, had their culture changed during this time. Certain communities adopted facial markings. This had dual purposes; enabling them to locate each other when captive, and making them worth less – a disincentive for capture. We are also told that this was the time Ethiopian women, the Mursi who were taken captive for their beauty, began inserting lip plates to make them less attractive. Both these practices are still done until today. (I have looked into this much since, but I would like to. It’s quite interesting.)
We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and climbing the rocks and coral along the shore which resembled scenes from the films Pirates of the Caribbean and The Count of Monte Cristo. It was fun and so peaceful.
We head north toward Nungwi and decide to stay in Kendwa. We are there Saturday night – perfect timing for the Full Moon Party! I won’t mention that there was no full moon that night as we were one week early, because you barely noticed amongst everything that was going on. There was food, entertainment, dancing, the beach, lots of new people to meet from all over the world… (This finally includes North America! Most people I meet in this region are here from Europe.) …and to top it all off, our accommodation reminded me of a tree house! It was great. We had a blast!
Sunday we laze on the beach watching storm clouds until heading back to Stone Town for the Eid ul-Adha, a Muslim holiday known as the “Festival of Sacrifice” or “Greater Eid.” It remembers the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead.
Stone Town is full of life! It is dark and yet the intricate pathways across the town are lit and full of people everywhere dressed in their very best; women covered head to toe in flowing sequined garments. Children are still up, playing in the streets with parents watching nearby. Little girls’ have their hair in braids with colourful ribbons and bows. Families drive by, piled high on their motorbikes; their youngest boys waving and calling out to us. We pass a carnival for the children and continue on our way to Forodhani Gardens for our final dinner in Zanzibar.
The place is swarming with people. Everywhere you look there is somebody. We eventually make it to the vendors and find all the seafood we were hoping for and more. The vibe filling Forodhani Gardens is that of a pure exuberant passion for life. I hear laughter and chatter everywhere. Everyone seems to be sincerely happy. Children aren’t tired; their eyes wide with excitement and smiles spread cheek to cheek across their faces. We enjoy a moment of not being catered to as muzungus. Here the attention is entirely on those celebrating. We select our food – delicious once you flick off the bugs and sit down to enjoy it with the famous sugarcane, ginger and lime juice!
The busiest night Forodhani Gardens has had in a long time, with vendors spending countless hours in preparation, we can barely make our way through the crowd at anything but a sloth-like pace, and we not only manage to find our friends, but we also discover others among the crowd whom we had met in Kendwa the evening before. I suppose island life is a small world after all, but there is something about it that is intricately beautiful.
We spend the morning having coffee and spiced tea in the emptied out Forodhani Gardens reliving the excitement and adventures of the weekend. Joined by friends we wander the labyrinth of Stone Town, enjoy a local lunch, select a souvenir, and before we are ready, find ourselves heading to the airport where I realized my days of being called Angelina Jolie were coming to an end.
Kwaheri Zanzibar! I will forever miss you. Stone Town is definitely on my list of places to return one day.