Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Eastern Zanzibar, Tanzania: July 11 and 12, 2021

The Rock Restaurant

Aboard the minibus we were driven east to the other side of the island for lunch at The Rock. Everything about this restaurant is memorable. It sits in the Indian Ocean off the eastern shore of Zanzibar. If you arrive during low tide, you can walk in. If you arrive during high tide a boat will deliver you to the steps. The food is imaginative and delicious. It is unique!

From The Rock we drove a little south but still on the eastern coast to the village of Paje where our last hotel, Kisiwa on the Beach Resort, would be our home for the last two days. Everything about the hotel was pleasing and beautiful from pervasive fragrance of lemongrass to the floral arrangements to the property itself. The beach sand was so white and fine it was like sifted flour. 

Another beautiful room
Kisiwa's Pool with the Beach beyond
A Maasai Vendor trolling the Beach
Instead of relaxing, Dan and I walked into the village of Paje once on the road and once down the beach. There were lots of places with signs in several languages that were selling stuff. There really wasn't much to see but we enjoyed exploring.

Along the beach people were taking kite foil lessons.

And a small herd of cattle looking for a way home somehow wandered onto the beach and seemed surprised by all the attention.

We did get our Covid-19 results in time, and the tour company made copies for us. At the Zanzibar airport our test results had to be hand stamped by a doctor hanging out in the airport for that purpose. Qatar Airlines looked at the results and handed them back. No other authority anywhere, not even in the USA, asked to see our results. Our fellow travelers who flew through Paris said they had to show their test results three times in the airport before flying their next segment.

All our flights to Tanzania and back home were on time which was quite remarkable given that flights were being canceled everywhere at that time.

It was a remarkable vacation in every way. We are so glad we jumped for the chance to take it. Our entire group was wonderful. Thanks to Ali and Nahid Khataw. Ali was generous with sharing his photographic expertise and Nahid was wonderful to converse with. She made sure everyone was happy and comfortable. Our fellow travelers Ali and Nahid, Farhan and Salva, Omar and Shadia, Dee and Winn, and Sharon and Dayna made traveling with a group easy.

Fair Trade Safaris - A Socially Responsible Luxury Travel Agency

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Zanzibar City, Zanzibar, Tanzania: July 9-10, 2021

Leaving the Serengeti, we flew from Kogatende Airstrip in a small plane to Seronara Airstrip to take an even smaller plane (no toilet and help yourself to a bottle of water) several hours to Zanzibar Island. We did have boxed lunches packed for us by Mara Under Canvas.

In my imaginings Zanzibar is a place of mystic, music, beaches, balmy weather, and a place to savor. I wasn't wrong.

For some context, Zanzibar united with Tanganyika in 1964. The official name of this union is the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania and is sometimes referred to as the African Hong Kong. Hope things work out better for the African Hong Kong than it has for the Chinese Hong Kong.

Zanzibar is 96% Muslim. The current president is Samia Suluhu Hassan, and she is a Zanzibari. Formerly she was the vice president under John Magufuli, aged 61, who died in April 2021. The official cause of death was a heart attack. The BBC reported that Magufuli "scoffed at the global warnings over coronavirus and downplayed its threat, refusing to allow Covid-19 vaccines into the country. At one point he announced that the virus had been defeated by prayer in Tanzania." Magufuli's government stopped reporting Covid statistics in May 2020.

In contrast, President Hassan wears a mask, appointed a committee of experts to advise her on the status of Covid, and has put in place necessary steps to keep people safe. Just this month Tanzania has begun to report Covid statistics to Africa Center for Disease Control. Also, President Hassan was vaccinated with a J&J vaccine this month.

After landing in Zanzibar we boarded a minibus to get to our hotel. Traffic was gridlocked because the president's motorcade was moving which caused everything else to stop. Our local guide suggested that we simply walk through Stone Town (the old part of Zanzibar City) and meet the minibus with our luggage later at our hotel. We grabbed cameras and strolled.

It was late afternoon and we saw several groups of men relaxing with board games. We walked through the fish market, herb markets, bread sellers, and in and out of streets too narrow for cars.

Young Men Playing Bao (the Swahili word for board) in Stone Town Zanzibar
Fish Market

Herbalist Shop
Bread sellers

Narrow streets and clusters of electrical wire hanging overhead

The reason this neighborhood is called Stone Town is because many of the buildings were constructed with coral stone from the coral reef surrounding the island. This is no longer the case, but you can see the evidence everywhere.

The Milkman

Freddie Mercury's House when he lived on Zanzibar
During high tide locals dive/jump from the stone pier. The less experienced divers use one side of the pier, but most of the audience is on the other side. 

We came back later in the evening to watch the better divers jump.

Not everyone who jumped from this side was a better diver. Dee, one of our fellow travelers, and a brave man, made everyone smile, laugh, and applaud with his dive. 

Dee had a hard time climbing up the wall so several of the other divers gave him advice and a hand. The other guys said he was the second white guy to ever make the jump.

As a group, one afternoon we took a sunset cruise on a dhow (a traditional sailing vessel with at least one mast). The trip was accompanied by musicians. 

A Dhow in Silhouette

We rounded out the Stone Town portion of our Zanzibar trip with the night market for street food.

Henna by smart phone flashlight
Cats roam the night market hoping for handouts and cleaning up after messy eaters.

We packed a lot of memories into the two days we had in Zanzibar City, plus we also had to get our Covid-19 tests in compliance with US requirements for our return to the USA. Results were promised to be delivered in 48 hours. Tomorrow we drive to the eastern side of Zanzibar Island for a little more R&R.

Stone Town Doubletree Hotel with its perfect location, comfortable rooms, a fine restaurant with a view, and competent staff.