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Zanzibar – Part I

May 22, 2011

It has been almost a year since my trip to Zanzibar and I finally got my photos together to post.  Many tourists go to Zanzibar for some R & R after their travel to Tanzania and Kenya.  And that’s why we decided to make it our last destination before heading back home – to relax after our profuse amounts of safari excursions.

Although Zanzibar is a region of the Republic of Tanzania, it is quite independent from Tanzania as well.  They have their own government and culture.  What’s fascinating to me is that nearly 100% of the population follow a religion – 90% of the population is Muslim and 10% is mainly Christian or Hindu/Sikh.  The main language is Swahili although most of the locals speak english, some even speak Portuguese because of the Portuguese empire.  The diversity is amazing because many people know how to speak atleast 3 languages.

Zanzibar is mainly known for their beautiful sandy beaches, jade green waters and spices.  But it’s also known for its tumultuous history of slave trading.  Historically, Zanzibar’s two largest trades were spices and slaves.  Over half a million Africans were traded/sold in Zanzibar between 1830 and 1873.  I was left speechless when I learned how the slaves were treated during those times.  Wars and revolutions were frequent in Zanzibar.  Poverty persists there since it never recovered from it’s dark history and it was obvious when we were driving from the airport to the hotel.

Nonetheless, beauty exists on this magical island.  The local people are trustworthy and friendly.  They are happy and united – well, most of the time until there is an election (they are passionate about their politics).  Then there may be some violence.  I was told by a local that during the election period people are not allowed on the island and existing tourists are told to stay in their hotels.  Apparently, most of the crimes that exists there are from the people who come in on the ferries from Tanzania. 

Many of my photos are of the vegetation in our spice farm tour.  It was amazing to see how our fruits and vegetables and spices grow so I have to share it with you but I will put it on a second post.  The rest of the photos are of Stone town (Zanzibar City) and the Cathedral/Former Slave Market. 

We stayed at Mapenzi Beach Club – a 3.5 star all-inclusive resort.  Well, it’s not “all” inclusive.  The food is, but only the lower end liquor is included.  The higher-end liquor (and it’s not even higher-end) is extra.  I was told by the locals that most of the hires in hotels are from Tanzania because they are willing to work for a lot less than the Zanzibarians.  Good thing he explained it because it would have painted a bad picture of the locals.  I say this because the service was horrible at the hotel.  If we had good service, it was because it was from a Zanzibarian.  I kid you not. 

If you can afford it, go to another resort.  Mapenzi Beach is fairly big, but so are the other resorts.  There wasn’t much activity there like the other hotels.  The beach area isn’t as nice as the others.  And the service, especially the women at front desk and cashier, was below par.

We really enjoyed our 2 days of tours while in Zanzibar.  We met a Zanzibarian, named Khator, who was our tour guide for those 2 days.  He was fantastic during those 2 days – happy, greatful, super informative and knowledgeable He speaks a gagillion languages – English, a form of Swahili, Italian, and maybe Portuguese and I swear he spoke some Japanese.   And his hospitality was fantastic.  Thanks to him, I know so much more about the history and current event of Zanzibar.

Zanzibar is definitely a place to go.  There are quite a few things to do here but be sure to stay atleast 4 full days (a few days of site-seeing and alteast 1 day of R & R at the beach).  I recommend contacting Khator if you want to hire a guide.  I found him to be super hospitable and honest.  He charged us $80 US total for 2 days – included Spice Farm, Market, Stone Town, Slave Market, House of Wonders tours.  We paid for our own entrance fee where applicable but it was so nominal.  Their fee also included a driver and van.  We probably could have talked him down a bit more but we felt he deserved that amount.  I definitely recommend doing the Spice Tour, but be very careful when buying spices while at the farm.  Most of the spices that are packaged aren’t from those farms and they’re bought wholesale from factories.  Look for a trustworthy spice store in Stone Town. 

When travelling in Zanzibar, be sure not to wear short clothing as it is predominately a Muslim community.  Also, be careful when photographing locals.  They don’t like it.  If you are going to, make sure you ask first.

If you wish to contact Khator for tours feel free to email him at khator.khator@yahoo.com or call him at 255.777.426.204.    I do recommend him.  Just make sure you tell him I sent you and he’ll be sure to give you a better rate.  He did recommend other attractions and they were as follows: Dolphin tour, Big Forest to see Colobus Monkeys, Sea Tortoises up North, Prison Island, Village Tour to see the Zanzibarians local activities and the Safari Blue day trip (includes lunch).

Als, Lukmaan Restaurant’s phone number: 0713.359.955.

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