Monday, May 7, 2012

Spice Tour and Stone Town.

Alarm @ 7, got dressed and had a quick breakfast in order to meet our guide, "Bacari" and driver "Omar".  We wanted to see the old part of the city, called "Stone Town", famous for it's old wooden doorways and infamous for horrific slave trade.  We also booked a spice plantation tour, which was our first stop.
Not so much a plantation, as we had imagined it, more like a grove of trees and weeds along a tiny dirt road!  We were introduced to another "Omar", a young man who was to be our guide for the tour.  Barefoot with low rise jeans he reminded me of Mogli from the Jungle Book, especially as he ran around in the trees to cut a piece of fruit for us, or to peel bark from a tree or crush leaves for us to smell.  He was very sweet and funny and it was pretty interesting to see where cinnamon grows and how vanilla beans are tied up.
The tour ended with a performance, a young man climbing a coconut tree while singing in the most incredible voice!  Fresh coconut milk, a shop tour and sampling of some yummy fruits...and then on to Stone Town.
The roads became more and more crowded with the "lanes" of traffic flow seemingly decided upon by how big your vehicle was!  Omar took us first to a bank, as we needed to get some cash.  I asked him, in this highly guarded parking lot, about the government of Zanzibar, which is governed separately from Tanzania though a part of that country.  He searched for words for a bit and finally said quietly, "I don't really like my government.  You see, they get richer and the people get poorer."  In Zanzibar the economics polarization was clear, big, new government buildings (including this bank) next to crumbled shacks of homes.
He drove us to one of the main sections of Old Stone Town and Bacari walked with us all around the old churches and courtyards that used to be the hub of slave trade.  We went into the basement of one of the buildings and saw the rooms they housed 100's of slave in, shackled and literally in piles, while awaiting slave auctions.  It was sad, really horrendous to imagine.
We toured narrow alleyways, filled with bikes and school kids and vendors...and then a "farmers market" with rows and rows of vendors selling everything from fresh fruits and veggies to whole alleyways of fish and meats.  How healthy people eat meats that have been sitting out all day on concrete slabs covered in flies is beyond my comprehension and some of those sights and smells were a little much for me!  Mid-afternoon he walked us into a newer, A/C cooled hotel and restaurant - a stark contrast from everything we had just seen.  It was an Indian-owned place - pretty yummy Indian food, not too spicy!
After lunch we walked more with Bacari, toured a museum (remember Lyle's comment earlier about museums, yep, we were in and out of that huge museum in about 10 minutes?!) and then made our way back to the vehicle.  The roads, mostly paved and plenty wide for two lanes of traffic were being widened in places, especially the busier villages and many of the buildings near the road had numbers on them in spray paint.  Bacari explained that they were going to be destroyed in order to widen the road and attract more tourism, and Omar elaborated later that the government had no plan to subsidize relocation for those people whose homes or shops would be destroyed.  I don't really like the Zanzibar government either, Omar!
We made it back to the hotel and freshened up and took a walk on the beach.  I checked in with Facebook and email - Ashley was headed home and doing well...I missed them!  Dinner was a bit rich for me that night...and I started craving a good PB&J!  A storm blew in that evening which blew the power, so sleeping was a little harder without our fan!  This place had a huge bed...two queen sized mattresses pushed together with a big canopy frame and mosquito was the best fort ever!  And, you couldn't beat the view...a stone's throw to the Indian Ocean!

Lipstick fruit!

Serenading us on his way to the top!

Getting us a really fresh coconut!

A steeple in Stone Town.

Stone Town is famous for it's beautiful and often intricate doors.

An artist representation of the slave trade.

The basement of the church...where slaves were literally stacked, awaiting an auction.

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