African shoestrings – Tanzania Day One Hundred and Eleven Zanzibar

After that sad little story (see the last post) we went further into depression and visited the Anglican Cathedral, site of the slave market. Apparently a group of missionaries came out to Africa to oppose the slave trade. They eventually found their way to Zanzibar and after its abolition of the slave trade, built a cathedral on the very site, removing almost any remnants of this ugly meat market. The altar stood at the same point as a post that was used for whipping the slaves stood. The floor was a symbolic red marble to depict the blood spilt to show potential buyers the strength or weaknesses of each slave and therefore justify the asking price.

Next door at the St Monica’s hostel we were shown the original holding cells for the slaves. About 1 metre tall and not that much wider they looked extremely cramped for one not to mention the dozens that were crammed in at any one time.

Wherever you go in the world there’s always evidence of man’s inhuman treatment of his brothers usually because of the colour of his skin, the religion he practices or the country he was born in. It seems to me that there is no end in sight and we are forever damned to be cruel to each other. The only species that has a consciousness of itself has been unable to capitalise on this gift. If anything it has used it to carry out barbaric acts in the name of intolerance of racial or religious difference. At least animals attack and kill in the name of survival.

But that’s enough of that!……………..The Busaidi Omani Arabs built the Arab fort in the seventeenth century as a defense against rival Omani Arabs, the Mazrui and the Portuguese, who they had recently kicked out.

Since then it’s been used as a prison, a railway depot and (only the Poms would think of this one) a ladies tennis club. Nowadays it’s been restored and used as an open air theatre and restaurant.

We went to one of the traditional dance shows held in the fort that evening. The ‘tucker’ was good but the dancing was at first interesting, then mildly entertaining and finally boring! I can only concentrate for so long when all there is on offer is a slightly different dance to the same tune, time and time again.

In the nineteenth century Zanzibar created for itself a niche market (to use modern marketing jargon) in the growing and exporting of spices. In the twentieth and twenty first centuries another market has grown from this industry, the spice tour. No, nothing to do with the good looking girls that prance around singing and dancing making squillions but the real spices.

We had read in a borrowed Lonely Planet guide, that Mr Mitu ran the best value spice tour. So taking that advice at face value we booked with his company and turned up at the prearranged meeting place only to be picked up by Mr. Sulaman tours. Apparently if one particular tour company doesn’t have enough paying customers to justify leaving they shunt them on onto a rival company. So there’s always a chance that the poor unsuspecting tourist will go with a tour company they haven’t booked with and may have not wanted to use. Somehow, though, I think that they are all pretty much of muchness. Certainly we had no complaints except for the weather. It literally hammered it down. Aswan, our guide, attempted to tell us how the different spices grow, when they are picked and what uses they have. Meantime we were getting soaked and struggling to hear his voice above the din created by the rain pitter-pattering on to the umbrellas and jungle vegetation. Nonetheless we were impressed by the number of spices grown. Cloves, Cardamom, Cumin, Turmeric, Ginger, Mint, Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Coconut and Nutmeg, the latter I learnt to my amusement, is used as an aphrodisiac as well as for cooking.

We were transported around in a dala-dala; a small converted covered in Ute, with wooden benches either side, to a government farm where all these spices are grown. From there we were herded on to other attractions like the Kidichi Persian baths built by the Sultan Said for his Persian wife, Sherazade, 150 years ago and now occupied by a colony of bats; the Mangapwani coral cave which was about as interesting as the bat shit left by the Kidichi bats and Mangapwani beach for an extremely pleasant swim in warm tropical waters beneath the now dry but stormy clouds. In between all that we somehow managed to try Jackfruit, a sort of fleshy pineapple and Pamillo, a giant grapefruit and chew on the addictive sugary Zanzibar doughnuts. Not to mention sitting crossed legged on the floor of an open sided enclosure surrounded by banana trees, eating pilau rice and veggies in coconut sauce for lunch.

Its funny the sort of fellow travelers you meet. Once again we met with two Poms Deb and Andy, who had spent a few months in Perth and whose eyes watered over at just the mere mention of where we lived. I suppose to the rest of the world, we live in paradise; to us it’s just home. They were with a kiwi couple who were travelling around Africa with an 18 month year old baby. Now I’m all in favour in dragging kids around the world. When we took our kids, at the ages of eight and ten, out of school for a few weeks to go to Europe many years ago their teacher was fully supportive. “They will learn a lot more in those few weeks travelling than they will back in school”. But what possible experience will a child that age remember and the potential risk for disease is far higher for an 18 month old baby than a 8 year old. Still that was their choice.

We chatted with a Norwegian couple as well and later had dinner with them at Pychi’s (pronounced peaches). Pychi’s is a casual sort of place overlooking a small beach and, as is pretty normal in this climate, was virtually all alfresco. I find the Scandinavians fascinating people. Those that travel of course, because having never been to that part of the world these are the only ones I ever meet. They are one of the few races who can relate to the Aussie ironic sense of humour (provided they speak English well enough, which almost invariable they do). Stephan the Swede actually started to act like an Aussie after his 3 year stay in Oz. These guys (the Norwegians in case you got lost) were not as well traveled as Stephan but seemed just as able to appreciate our sense of humour as we all guzzled Calzone and pizza. Of course they could have been just polite and probably said after we parted “That was pretty boring! Strange sense of humour these Aussies have!”

Footnote:
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One of the many small streets in Zanzibar town, Tanzania

One of the many small streets in Zanzibar town, Tanzania

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