Stone Town.

Zanzibar Travel Blog

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Dublin, London, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Having landed in Dar armed to the teeth with the Lonely Planet Guide for Africa on Shoestring we stepped out from the airport into the 35 degree sunshine. Like months to a flame the taxi men came. Virgin backpackers we fled following the Lonely Planet’s guide for intrepid explorers to the far side of the airport road. Here we were to alight upon a bus bound for down town. The bus arrived; let’s just say you’d have to be a contortionist to get on the bus. The sardine city can disappeared in a haze of dust much to my relief. A taxi cab stopped and after bargaining through paranoia far beyond the reaches of a local price we set off to test our credit cards on the nearest bank prior to embarking on the good ship “Sea Express” to Zanzibar. Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Having docked in Zanzibar we became suspects or so it seemed for the Immigration Police. I have to commend them on the thoroughness of their searches. They are the zealots of their field. It was fascinating if a little frustrating that they took so long, I later came to realise that they were trying to limit the growing problem of papaasi and drugs. Having been set free a welcoming and ingratiating taxi man informed us that the youth hostel we choose was in a very bad part of town -“very dangerous area” - would you believe he knew a much better hostel! The worldly wise travellers will know this line all too well. I wish I told him “I’d be at home in the bad part of town”. Wet behind the ears we followed his advice to the Florida Inn. A real estate agent on a good day couldn’t make this place sound appealing, but the breakfast made up for everything - I like my food! It was evening and we began to find our bearings. The architecture of Stone Town is a colonial arabic infusion. Slaves and spices were traded here in their spades and the ethnic mix of Black African, Arabic and Indian peoples are found in the beauty of the peoples’ faces. For me Stone Town began to live as evening approached. Tourch lights were lit around the city and I dreamt of how it must been in its heyday as the capital of the Arab Empire in East Africa. The last Sultan fell in the revolution of 1964. From a hotel called African House you can enjoy a drink and watch the sunset while soaking in the atmosphere. The characters of African House are made up of backpackers, locals and more. A drink at the bar can turn into an odyssey - a lady of the night seated at the bar cocked her head licked her lips and asked with a smile if I wanted anything to go with my drink. She was working too but not for the hotel. I smiled and turned towards the terrace. The smell of the food market drifts on the wind to the drinks terrace enticing you to make that five minute walk. You’ll want to leave the cackle of the bar and the laughter of the children playing soccer on the beach below because you’re hungry and it smells too good. The sun is starting to set and you can feel the blood in veins surge to the rhythm of the waves below. You’ll wait because you know this is a time to remember, to cherish and then someone makes you laugh and you’re carried along in the moment. The fish is fresh and the night is young and you feel as though your one of the locals. You want to buy souvenirs but you don’t want to weigh down your backpack. Before you leave you know you’ll regret not having more time to talk to the people of Stone Town. You’ll want to walk the beaches one more time, to swim and see the dolphins smile and all too quickly its time for you to say “goodbye”. Tips: Go visit the plantations, talk to everyone. The diving I did was disappointing but that was only because of the visibility. Palace Museum and the Old Fort are worth a visit. I didn’t go to the Fuji Beach Disco but in hindsight I wish I had.
steph-a-knee says:
I completely understand the complete shock of Dars 35 degree sunshine. The humidity is shocking. Even 40 days in Arusha prior to my trip to Dar did not prepare me for that heat. I cannot say I enjoyed my 3 days in Dar, but I guess it just has to be endured in order to get to Zanzibar, which definately makes it worth it!
Posted on: Jan 27, 2009
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photo by: tirsomaldonado