When my bestie moved ‘next door’, I no longer had an excuse not to visit Zanzibar.
Why was there an excuse before?
- Cost of the flight
- Cost of accommodation
- I didn’t really know what to do in Zanzibar
- The Kenyan coast is beautiful so was there a need….?
I have always had in my mind that Zanzibar is the ‘romantic place to go to’ (though I thought that about Paris…), yet I didn’t feel/ see what I was expecting. I tried not to go with expectations, and it’s hard not to make comparisons to other places.
Zanzibar is widely publicized as a ‘go to’ destination. Many proposals, weddings and honeymoons take place there. In the plane on the way there were two couples who I think were on their honeymoon and my friend told me she watched a proposal happen not so long ago. So perhaps, the ‘beach side’ of Zanzibar is romantic after all? Stone Town- a little different.
So, what were my thoughts? (Stone Town)
Stone Town reminded me of where I stayed in Montmarte in Paris. The buildings are derelict and dirty- yet it fits in and is ‘normal’. Wires are loose and muddled on the outside walls of buildings (making it look like a fire is bound to occur), and paint is peeling off most of the buildings. Despite all of this, it doesn’t feel like you are being short changed. It feels like time has stood still- in a good way. It looks a bit like Old Town Mombasa. I think that this is what the charm is. It’s rustic. It’s different. It’s…. quirky?
“Zanzibar’s Swahili culture is the result of a fusion of African, Asian and European influences meeting here. Historically Zanzibar was an important staging post for explorers and traders, and a key trading centre for spices and a centre for the slave trade” [https://www.expertafrica.com/cultural-experiences/zanzibar].
Islam is the dominant religion on the Island. It is not necessary to cover up, however it is more ‘expected'(?) to in Stone Town. Although a hijab is not necessary, it is respectful to cover up your shoulders and don’t show too much under your arms. It would also be recommended to not wear too short a dress/skirt/shorts. Although on the busy streets the tourists I noticed didn’t really abide to this, I would recommend it.
Having grown up in Nairobi, Kenya, I wouldn’t walk around the streets at night. Even during the day there are certain places that I wouldn’t walk. So when we did this one evening I was a little uneasy. It’s so quiet I thought as we meandered our way in and out of the alleys. Is this safe? But the friend I was with, who lives and works in Stone Town, was at ease. The more we did it, the more relaxed I became- though I was always aware of my surroundings.
The people are very friendly and welcoming and hearing the call to prayer at sundown was quite an experience. The sound followed you everywhere you turned. Walking past the men praying- I felt like I was invading this ritual. One place that we went to- a favourite and a gem which I will write about- was opposite one. It felt so out of place, but so pleasantly weird that two different places are in such peace and acceptance with each other.
We went to numerous places (all to eat and drink at)- which I will give their own blog post to.
Zanzibar in general
I can’t remember exactly where we went… it was in the South!
The beaches are lovely, and the places we went to quaint. Not what I am used to, but lovely nonetheless.
I didn’t realise how big the island was and how far it actually takes to get from one part of the island to the next- it’s nothing like Diani Beach (Kenya South Coast) where everything is next door to each other.
The experience that I had was different. I was a tourist, yes. But I didn’t feel like one (well… apart from the one touristy street where everyone was speaking to me in Swahili and wanting me to buy curios!). My friend has immersed herself in this new place, in this new culture. She is getting to know the ins and outs and I feel like I did, and will experience Zanzibar as a ‘local’.
My best friend is ‘around the corner’ and will be for two years. I know that I will be going back multiple times and I hope that each time will show me something new.
Thank you my friend for being an excellent host!