East Africa Day 6 – Zanzibar

Saturday.  Woke up and decided to go back to Stone Town – I needed to get my camera battery anyway.  I took a packed minivan and passed village scenes on the way.  Men pushing ancient bicycles, women carrying bundles of sticks on their heads, children running around, slightly older children driving ox-carts which trundled in the streets, girls in brightly coloured Islamic kanga playing….the stuff I’d seen on TV or in the movies I was now seeing with my own eyes, which is a million times better than being a passive TV traveler.

I got back to Manch Lodge, checked in again, and they gave me my battery.  I was delighted!  I then walked to Garden café for some pumpkin soup and Earl Grey tea, watching street scenes unfold before my eyes.  After this, I took a stroll to the House of Wonders ( Beit El Ajaib), a fascinating museum detailing the history of Zanzibar.  I learnt a lot from an hour in here….about their struggle for independence, about how they came to be so multi-cultural and tolerant towards other cultures, how the dhows were made, where they sailed to in the Indian Ocean and what they carried and traded, about traditions, beliefs, fashions and hairstyles of the local people.  It was educational and informative.  On the 3rd floor was a balcony overlooking the sea to one side, and Stone Town on the other sides.

After this, I met Cathy at her salon, and we went for coffee – a cappuccino – and a grilled mozzarella, pepper and onion Panini.  Then Liz phoned, my good friend from my time living in Japan, who had kindly arranged a contact for my safari.  Because of her, I had a guide and an itinerary planned for my Tanzania safari experience.  I was looking forward to those 4 days immensely.  We had a chat, then I got back to my coffee.  I went with Cathy to a local sandal shop, as I was in desperate need of some sandals, as mine had been stolen from outside my room in Nungwi the night before, along with my swimming shorts.  I needed replacements of both anyway.

I went back to Manch, showered, changed, then out for sunset outside Hotel New Africa.  As I sat, a few young people took turns coming to talk to me, big African or Persian smiles, including one who wanted to know how to improve his English.  I slipped easily into teacher mode, and gave him some excellent advice.  I went to Stone Town café for a cup of their famous spiced coffee – not bad.  Met Cathy as I fancied someone to join me for dinner.  Went to Monsoon, a fancy restaurant overlooking Forodhani Gardens, for lovely grilled King Prawn and King Fish with 5 spice rice in coconut sauce.  Absolutely delicious.  About 60,000 TZ Shillings for 2 – 30 quid, including a nice bottle of South African white wine and fruits.  Good.  Kids were playing around in a building behind the romantic, leafy, candle-lit ambience of the restaurant.  Cathy told me an orphanage was above the restaurant.  I lost my appetite.  What a horrible contrast.  Poor orphans being looked after my caring helpers, neither party of whom could ever afford a meal like the one I’d just eaten.  I felt somehow guilty.  It’s the same scene in all the restaurants here.  Full of rich whites.  If you see an African, they are always in the company of a white.  Mind you, it’s the same story in places like Cambodia and India and other places of poverty I’ve visited too.  Africa is full of such contrasts, that serve to leave a bad taste in my mouth, though of course, rich whites are needed to dine in such a places to keep the economy ticking.  I wonder if one day whites will be the ones looking up to the Chinese or the Africans and serving them.  I somehow doubt it.

I paid the 60,000 TZSh bill, more than most people here see in a month, and walked with Cathy to Mercury’s, where a local band was playing some classic African hits.  Had a bit of a boogie on the dancefloor.  The place had a good mix of locals, tourists, and expats.  Then it was in a taxi and on to Wa Wan, a huge 2-floor club.  We went upstairs, ad it was a huge concrete open-air area set around a swimming pool, and deep one at that.  It was drained though, as someone had slipped in drunk and drowned a few years ago.  The place had a bit of a gangsta feel about it, and the music was booming afro rnb.  This place made those ‘gangsta’ clubs of Huddersfield feel like tame youth club discos.  We had a beer between us, then moved on to Dharma Lounge, just a simple Lounge Bar, but here in Stone Town, it’s the coolest place to be.  God, it must get so boring with the limited variety on offer.  Had a Bacardi breezer, then went back to Manch, which is just around the corner, at 3am.  A good last day, and an excellent evening.

Author: Neil

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