Monday, February 6, 2012


I arrive in Dar Es Salaam after midnight, find a cheap hostel, and wake up early to board the ferry to Zanzibar. I perch myself cross-legged on a box atop the deck and happily gaze at the bright blue horizon for the two hours it takes for Zanzibar to display herself.

I fight my way off the boat and through the crowd of vendors, tour guides and taxi drivers. The sight is immediately stunning: turquoise water, wooden dhows (traditional boats) and a mixture of women and men dressed in both modern clothes and traditional Swahili coast dress.

Streets of Stowntown

Traditional Style Door, Stonetown
Stone town, the capital of Zanzibar is a labrynth of narrow, twisty pedestrian streets. I get lost immediately and finally pay a taxi driver to walk me to my hostel. I’m pleasantly surprised with the hostel after the YWCA in Dar. Named for it’s incredibly steep steps, ‘Pyramids’ is very reasonable but has some real Zanzibar charm.


Zanzibar Bed - Pyramids

I drop off my things in the room that my friends Elsa and Holly are already occupying. It has 3 zanzibar style beds, and an old Arab-style chandelier.

Too excited to stay put, I set out for a meander around town and am enchanted by the beautiful colours, smells and architecture. I have never seen a place like this before! I barely mind the constant hassling as vendors, tour operators and beach boys call ‘Jambo’ at me and try to engage me in conversation so that they can then make their sales pitch.

I head back to the hostel after a few hours of exploring and meet Holly and Elsa. These two wonderful Canadian women, (a gender specialist and nutritionist respectively) also volunteer in Lilongwe and kindly agreed to let me tag along with them on their holiday adventure.

We enjoy a sundowner at a nearby hotel and set off in the morning with a group of Canadian volunteers for the beach house we rented on Jambiani, on the South-East coast of Zanzibar.

Fairytale Beach house, Jambiani

Jambiani Beach
Canadian Crew at the Beach House
Sunrise Over Jambiani Beach

We spend the next few days in beach paradise, overindulging in delicious food and drink and enjoying the beautiful scenery. After 2 days, I leave them to do a spice tour (Zanzibar is the spice capital of the world and the tour takes you through a spice farm – showing you different spices as they appear in the jungle) and visit a cave where slaves used to be hidden before being shipped north to Arabia. 
Spice Tour

Spice Tour

Spice Tour

Spice Tour

A fascinating but exhausting day, I head back to Stone Town by myself. I wasn’t yet ready to stop exploring and wanted to soak up as much of this mystical place as possible before starting the next leg of our journey. 

I shower, get dressed up and take myself out for dinner. I stop first at a delicious vegetarian restaurant for a glass of wine and appetizer before continuing to one of the most ornate and decadent Indian restaurants that I have ever been to. Everyone is exceptionally friendly and the waiter comes frequently to the table to check how I am and chat. I savour my meal and surroundings as one can only do when dining alone. When a warm bubbling starts in my chest, I can’t help but allow it to push upwards as a broad, dorky smile stretches across my face. I also can’t help but indulge my craziness by writing a short ode to my meal:

Dear spiced coconut vegetable curry
Thank you for the lingering heat that you have imparted –
On the slug-like expanse that is my tongue and
The shingled roof of my palate

I then continue to a beach side bar and words pour out of my pen and into my notebook as I sip on a rum and coke and listen to the waves lapping against the shore.
I enjoy a conversation with an eclectic group of locals before going home. 
In the moments before I fall asleep, there is no where that I would rather be on earth.

As I drift off I reflect on how Zanzibar is a strikingly obvious mélange of worlds joined by an ocean-
An unmistakably bantu Africa base, flavoured with Indian and infused by Arabic influences.
Where some of the deepest hues of culture are found - a perfectly spiced recipe
Stirred in the warm, salty and vastly expansive bowl that is the Indian Ocean.  

1 comment:

  1. That poem is absolutely delightful. You are such a lovely poet. XOXO