87 – Zanzibar (the places just gets more and more exotic!)

Sun 21st Feb, Haven Guesthouse, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar, the name brings to mind other similarly mythical sounding places like Timbuktu (that exists too!). The island however, was just a four hour boat ride away now. In ancient times, the Zanzibar kingdom was ruled by the Omani king, who shifted his capital here. It was also on the dhow trading route along the Indian Ocean, from Madagascar to Arabia, to India, to Indonesia and around peninsula Malaysia, all the way up to China. They traded everything from spices, slaves and   jewellery.

Upon boarding the Flying Horse, i was ushered to the VIP section. Not bad, all foreigners by default get sent here, where you get to sit in armchairs, as opposed to the regimented seats down below. Unfortunately, they must have forgotten to turn up the aircon, so the VIPs basically were trying not to suffocate throughout. It was also crowded, locals got themselves comfortable and lay down on every bit of available floor.

We reached Stone Town’s harbour at around 4pm, and it was completely different from mainland. The streets of Stone Town were narrow cobblestoned alleyways. Zanzibar town is built for tourism, but it retains an old world charm. I made my way to the guest houses south of stone town. The Haven Guesthouse was 18000 TSH, pretty costly, as per all hotels in Tanzania i’ve noticed. Also, there was no electricity on the whole island. Three months ago, the underground cable was cut and they only expected it to be fully repaired in maybe a week’s time. Hence, any place without their own generator (like my hotel) would be in complete darkness at night. I was a bit silly and should have gone for a slightly more expensive place with electricity, but it all worked out, because i could leave my luggage at the hotel the next day for 8 hrs for no charge.

The Stone Town itself wasn’t exactly a large place. It was evening so i just made my way to Forodhani gardens, a open air park by the sea. Locals and tourists alike were there, soaking in the atmosphere and the windy surrounds. Stalls were set up selling everything from BBQ barracuda, zanzibar pizza, sugar cane. I must have taken too much sugar cane, for i ended up with a mild case of the runs. Immodium is the best single piece of medication. It was pretty much relaxation at its best, youths were jumping 2m into the sea,

After dinner, i made my way back to the hotel. There wasn’t much to do without electricity, so i just figured it would be better to sleep early and then wake up early. Malaria’s a risk here at the coast, so i hid underneath my mosquito net all night. It was terribly hot though, since the ceiling fan was not working. I tried everything, i woke up in the middle of the night, took a shower, stuck a wet towel atop my head, all useless until i just left the window open to let in some fresh air, and in the process probably dozens of mosquitoes as well.

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