Zanzibar here we come.
With its white sand beaches and crystal blue water, Zanzibar was to be a four day respite after a vigorous week long safari in Tanzania. Four days of R&R, a place to rest and relax before the 30 hour flight home.
But, Zanzibar was way more. It opened its arms and welcomed me, each day wrapping me a little tighter in its embrace.
Day One: Sunset in Stone Town.
Stone Town is an old historic centre dating back many centuries and bearing the influences of the many civilizations that have played a role in Zanzibar’s colorful history – Arabian, Persian, Asian, Indian, African. Stone Town has now been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protected and preserved.
It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at our hotel in Stone Town. After quickly settling in, we were eager to make our way to the famous Zanzibar beach. A broad, stone promenade runs along the ocean front, high above the beach and water. It is Saturday afternoon and the promenade is lively with families and locals. The Islamic culture is evident, an exotic mix of brilliant colors and modesty.
I am drawn to the water. Crystal clear and brilliant turquoise blue. The water below is dotted with boats, simple hand-crafted fishing boats bobbing on the water.
Down a rugged set of steps we make our way to the beach, a long, curving expanse of fine white sand. We pick our way over mooring lines from the fishing boats where children run and play. The sand is fine and soft and the crystal clear water laps at the shore. As we slowly wander along the beach the sunlight ebbs, casting its late afternoon glow over the beach. It is breathtaking.
As the sun sets the sky glows reds, purples, gold. Making our way back toward the centre we wander into Livingstone’s, a beachside restaurant where we sit, sipping cold wine on the beach, as the sun sets.
The exhaustion of the past week begins to ebb and Zanzibar begins to work its way into my heart.
Day Two: Exploring Stone Town.
We are met at our hotel by our guide for a walking tour of the historic old town. Zanzibar, we are told, is a combination of two words – ZAN, meaning Black, and Bar, meaning land – so named by early explorers upon discovering the native black inhabitants.
The original settlers of Zanzibar were Bantu-speaking Africans. In the 10th century the Persians arrived, followed by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the Arabs who set up trade colonies in the 1800’s. In fact, Zanzibar became the capital of the independent sultanate of the Omani sultan in 1832. In 1890 Zanzibar became a British protectorate, then gaining its independence in 1963 and becoming part of Tanzania.
With such a colorful history, the touches of all these influences are evident in its architecture, one being its famous Zanzibar doors.
These heavy, wooden doors are intricately carved with motifs reflecting African, Arab, Indian or European influences.
We wander through the ancient, winding streets, too narrow for cars. Tall houses line the narrow streets. Much is unchanged in the past 200 years, save for the motorcycles that zip by in the alleyways.
Come With Me as we wander the streets of Old Stone Town and learn more about this exotic, colorful centre.
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