Nearby was a former palace that also has a museum inside but we never went inside
Stone Town is the old quarter of Zanzibar town characterized by narrow winding streets. Many of it's beautiful old buildings have seen better days but luckily people have become aware of their value and have started restoration projects to save them being replaced by modern structures. Most big projects are funded and done in cooperation with foreign organizations and governments.
Typical in Zanzibar are the massive old carved wooden doors. Many of them have large metal spikes, a strategy said to have been brought from India and meant to defend against elephants from pushing down the doors.
I often associated such architecture as seen in this photo as being typically Arab yet the guide books and museums claim that such intricate archways and façades are an Indian influence. The girl was shy to have her picture taken and disappeared as soon as she noticed my camera.
Yet on the street people were overly friendly, constantly greeting one with "Jambo" and "Habari" (how are you?). To ignore someone even if you didn't have time or were sure that they only wanted to sell you something was not an option. This was considered an insult, so one constantly had to claim that one didn't have time or else give a long explanation WHY you didn't want to buy something or hire someone as a guide. Yet, given a logical explanation, most people accepted it rather than just mindlessly further insisting - like I experienced in Indonesia for example. To the question, "how are you" the only acceptable answer is "azuri" (fine) even if you looked like you had just crawled out of a train wreck. Often I answered questions with questions of my own to avoid giving out information, like a kind of verbal judo using their own rules of conversation against them.
Many buildings had these great balconies but they didn't seems to be used. I guess family life was to be kept behind closed doors.
This is just a typical small backstreet. Even though many of the houses were not in great shape, they had a lot of character to them.
Crossing from Stone Town into the newer section of Zanzibar Town was immediately apparent. This is one of the better of many similar apartments there. It had some trees to add color but otherwise was a lifeless concrete box which probably looked run down by the time it was build and age will add nothing to it's charm or lack there of.
Late in the afternoon, boys meet on the main beach of Stone Town to play football and swim. A few girls also swam which was often done fully clothed anyway.
Some of the better cafes to relax and watch the people and the sunset were also located here.
We got to attend part of the Busara music festival held for 4 days in the old fort in Stone Town and an additional day on the north side of the island. Musicians from all over Africa and some from Europe and America participate each evening and one got in free if inside before 6 p.m. Only problem with the festival is that all of the affordable good hotels are fully booked well in advance. We had to stay a few nights at the Riverman which is mentioned in the German guide books but it is over-priced, run down and the owner cuts corners to save money at every opportunity. Otherwise we can recommend the clean Flamingo hotel. Rooms were on the small size but the rooftop terrace for breakfast was great and the workers were trustworthy and helpful.
One of the most interesting performers was a Zanzibarian woman Bi Kidudi who smokes and drinks and still performs although she is over 100 years old. She is now a national icon and they showed a long video about her life. Her behavior was considered an afront to Muslim sensitivities but she is so small and old that everyone seems charmed by her. Guess when you get that old you can say and do what you want.
Zanzibar is over 95% Muslim. Not only the woman and girls are covered but the men and boys also often wear traditional Muslim dress at least when going to the mosque or madrasah (Muslim school). We were once invited into a madrasah and sat there for around 30 minutes and saw how the boys and girls learned the Koran by singing it in verse. Afterwards we saw that this madrasah was financed by the Saudis which are known for their fundamentalism the teacher went out of his way to show friendship.
There are at least 2 large churches from colonial times in Stone Town. Next to the Anglican church is an area where a slave market once existed. Usually one has to pay to go by the church but we went on Sunday and refused to pay to go into the church to attend the service. There had been an English service earlier but we found the Swahili version more interesting. We spoke to the pastor afterwards. He said that the communities live basically in peace but the Government gives preference to the Muslims in Zanzibar and for example had appropriated church land. And like in most Muslim lands, they were happy when someone became Muslim but to convert from Muslim to another religion was big trouble. The person who converted and his family were at great risk. Despite this, we felt personally safer in Zanzibar even at night on the street than in other parts of Tanzania. There seemed to be a sense of national pride that Tanzanians are not thieves and an especially strong social pressure in Zanzibar that such behaviour is religiously unacceptable.
The scene in this series of photos was both typical of Stone Town with many girls and boys wearing their "Muslim" outfits yet almost unique that I had a good angle to photograph the people as they passed by without them really noticing. I got a dozen or so great shots and couldn't narrow my choice down further.
One could see that many of the Zanzibarians are of mixed blood; Africans, mingled with Arabs, Indians and Europeans. The local culture is also a mixture of these traditions but with the religion and the fact that 25 % of Swahili words come from Arabic, the Arabs obviously were the most important foreign influence. Swahili is the predominant language in Tanzania and much of Eastern Africa although it is the second language for many groups on the mainland.
It is claimed that slavery always existed in some form in Africa but it was the Arab traders that made it into a commercial business. Not to excuse the evil done by slavery in America but it was not like whites were running through the jungles of Africa capturing black slaves. Blacks did this to each other and sold the slaves to the Arabs. Whites later bought from the established slave markets. I read almost exclusively about white guilt concerning the slave trade yet it was primarily facilitated by blacks and Arabs. And it was the influence of white Christians under the colonial powers that finally stopped the trade. This raises a question I have never heard discussed, "how could a supposedly peaceful religion like Islam condone slavery?". Can being fixated on a religious text blind one to humanity? As was pointed out to me by a Muslim from Zanzibar, the whites brought Christianity here but when they built a church somewhere they also built a school and a hospital. Over zealous Christians annoy me but this attitude of helping people rather than just preaching to them has my full respect.
The main market of Stone Town marked the border to the newer part of Zanzibar town and was the main place for food, cloths and catching transportation.
Another place we visited on Zanzibar east from Stone Town was the Jozani Forest which was about a 45 minute ride in a dalla-dalla like seen in these photos. Used for public transport these vans or trucks with benches inside, typically had 30 or 40 people crammed into the space for a dozen or so.
Most tourists visit this place in connection with a tour to see spice plantations but we did it independently. It's the last remaining large forest on the island and is known for it's population of monkeys although most of the monkeys the guide showed us were in the trees across from the entrance to the park itself. The entrance fee was about 10 dollars each and the guide slowly walked us along a circular path surrounded by big old trees yet we probably didn't cover more than 600 meters and it was finished in 30 minutes. The expert commentary went along the lines of "here is the forest, it's full of trees and plants where the animals live - under the sky which is sometimes blue and you can see the sun during the day". Sounded like it came out of a encyclopaedia for 3 graders. We walked back alone into the forest under the observation of the guide, so we got a bit more time yet only someone who had never seen a tropical forest would be satisfied with how limited this experience was.
Kwenda Beach and Nungwi.
After Stone Town we went to the north side of the Island to Kwenda. There are a dozen or so bungalow operations there. We stayed at the smallest place on the beach, Les Toits du Palme, which had a few ratty old thatched roofed basic bungalows (locally called bandas) without electricity or any security but for just a bit more ($ 30 US/night) we got the nice place shown in the photo. We could sit on our porch and look right down on the beach, surrounded by a terraced garden. With it's fine white sand and gentle water which was swimable except at the lowest of tides, this was a fantastic beach, the ideal of a dream beach on Africa's Swahili coast.
One often saw Maasai men strolling along the beach. Although they stick to their traditional dress, they have gone big time into selling souvenirs to tourists. And once they over flooded their local market for such things, they had the great idea to come to Zanzibar. A few local sellers mentioned that they found it rather strange that these cow herders from the north of Tanzania come to an island to sell.
There were long strings of simple huts on the beach where the Maasai sold their wares and lived in the back. One of them gave in that it was lonely to be away from home and that with so many sellers for the number of tourists, they barely got by rather than got rich as they had hoped. We bought some nice jewelry but I was horrified at their piles of paintings. They all had the same poorly done simple motif and were rumored to come from Kenya.
Not surprisingly, there were many fishermen along that part of the coast. The bigger local wooden sailing ships known as dhows were built and repaired a couple of kilometers away in the village of Nungwi. This canoe was pushed along by a pole rather than a paddle.
Here a guy launces his boat, passing another guy cleaning his fish by the water who then strolls down the beach with his catch.
We had dry weather but there were often clouds which in combination with the corals reefs, often created a sea mosaic of changing shades of green and blues.
On the northern end of Kwenda Beach towards Numgwi was an especially large Italian owned resort. They had a bridge out to a clusters of shops built above the water. It is said that all of the profits from such operations end up in the pockets of foreigners but at least they seemed to employ a lot of people to do their construction work.
The next few photos show groups of women who at extreme low tide, went out on the reefs to collected sea grass which is used in the cosmetic industry.
The boats in these photos were basically there for repair by the village of Nungwi. I was only there one afternoon as it is only reachable along the beach at low tide. Otherwise, it is know for it's nightlife amongst the tourists although the locals there are very conservative. Aside from the tourists resorts, I hardly saw any commerce in this large village other than a few small shops.
Here one of the dhows was being overhauled. In building them, the cracks between the wooded planks are sealed by jamming in a cotton like plant fiber which is soaked in an oil.
There were a couple dozen dhows being worked on when we visited.
Although most all of the locals in Kwenda were involved in tourism, the majority of the people in Nungwi were not really happy with seeing tourists scantily dressed on the beach. And one should certainly not wander around the town without having covered up appropriately.
As one sees, the local dress was very colorful rather than austere. I relaxed in the restaurant by our bungalows and would take photos of the people walking down the beach.