Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Word About Zanzibar!

So yesterday we got back from Zanzibar, a tiny island off the coast of Tanzania that sits in the beautiful teal water of the Indian Ocean. We got there on Sunday afternoon, flew in on a little plane that left from Arusha. It was amazing to look out the window of the airplane at waves crashing on green coral reefs, seeing really old little boats touring around the island, minarets from old mosques forming the skyline...ridiculous!

From the airport we took a taxi to a little hotel/hostel called the Mancha Lodge, which was kind of in the middle of Stonetown, the main island city. Stonetown was wonderful! It was built ages ago, during the heat of the slave and spice trade that ran from East Africa through the Indian Ocean. So many of the streets are narrow, too narrow for cars to pass. And the buildings are mostly concrete, with beautiful Arab-styled architecture. The windows, the roofs- all beautiful. Zanzibar is well known for its doors, strangely enough. The doors are all carved from this great heavy dark wood, and are very very ornate- be sure to check out our pictures of them when we can post them. Some have spikes coming straight out from the planks, this style was taken from the Indian style where the spikes are used to keep elephants from ramming into the door! Lucky for them, there are no elephants in Zanzibar. Lots of cats, though.

97% of the Zanzibar locals are Muslim, so five times a day we would hear the calls to prayer rising over the streets. The women there dress so beautifully, in all bright colors and bangles and sequins, it's really great. Even some of the more conservative women who wore burqas in addition to the ever-present headscarf- these were very ornate burqas.

We ate very well in Zanzibar- lots of fresh fish cooked with the wonderful local spices. Also, they had some of the best tea we've had since we were here. Our last day in Stonetown we took a half-day spice tour. We got picked up in a dalla dalla along with some other tourists and drove North up the island to a place where there was a good concentration of many of the different spices that used to be grown in abundance. We walked around this big garden/orchard where a guide showed us how the different spices are grown. We learned a lot-- turns out vanilla beans grow on parasitic vines that wrap around trees. Black pepper, red pepper, and white pepper all come from the same pepper tree. The pepper corns are originally green, and you get the different colors depending on what you do with the corn. Harvest them early and let them dry, you get black pepper. Take the husk off before you dry them, you get white pepper. Harvest the corns later, red pepper. Neat! We got to try a lot of different local fruits- jackfruit, cocoa pod, five different kinds of oranges, we smelled cardamon leaves and cinnamon bark, it was wonderful!

That last night we ate food from the street market- so fun! We got lobster and fish kebobs drank delicious sugar cane juice. It was such a different place, different from home but different also from the other places in Tanzania- such a wonderful experience!

Love you all, thanks for keeping up with us via this blog, and I can't wait to see you all back home!


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