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April 25, 2011

Tanzania – First stop, Zanzibar

Zanzibar - Indian Ocean at high tideJambo! I finally made it to East Africa!

Since I read the comment “you visit East Africa for the animals and West Africa for the people”, I have been yearning to visit the eastern shore of the continent. Ghana has its own charms, but the only large animals native to the country are elephants at the Mole National Park which is in the North of the country, a two-day trip from Accra. I also heard much about Eastern Africa and how different it was. I really felt that my time in Africa would be incomplete if I did not sample as much of its diverse culture as I could.

The trip was indeed incredible. We packed as much as possible into a two-week stay. We overnighted in Ethiopia, then made a brief stop in Mombasa, Kenya before arriving in Zanzibar, a group of islands off the Tanzanian mainland and the semi-autonomous “Zan” in Tan-zan-ia. Although the island is a well-known tourist destination, it appeared surprisingly untouched. The roads are lined with farms and small houses. Electricity supply is unstable.

Zanzibar Scenes - rice fields
Rice fields
Zanzibar Scenes - Petrol Pump
Petrol Pump

Zanzibar Scenes
Public Transportation

Ninety-eight percent of the island’s population is Muslim, a legacy from the people of Oman who controlled the islands in the 18th and 19th centuries. The historic capital, Stone Town is marked by stone buildings sporting beautiful Arabic architecture. I was really happy that we had a guide as I am sure we would have become lost in the narrow maze of streets, which can only be traversed on foot or bicycle. Some of the houses have beautifully decorated doors with big brass studs – the more studs the wealthier the builder. As we walked around, we saw Omani fortresses and sultan palaces, albeit very much worn by the passage of time. One reoccurring thought was that so much could easily be done to restore the town.
Zanzibar Door
Zanzibar Door with brass studs

Despite the predominantly Muslim influence, one of the major attractions in Stone Town is the Anglican cathedral which was built on the spot that hosted the world’s last standing slave market to mark the end of slavery.

Monument to Slavery
Monument to Slavery

While on Zanzibar we had the opportunity to dip our feet into the Indian Ocean. The beaches are beautiful and well-kept. Let’s just say that I felt very much at home!

Zanzibar - Indian Ocean at low tide
Zanzibar – Indian Ocean at low tide

Zanzibar - Indian Ocean at high tide
Zanzibar – Indian Ocean at high tide

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