For the Fourth of July weekend, I packed my backpack and ventured off to Zanzibar, Tanzania. You may be wondering why with a stint of only 10 weeks in Uganda, I am leaving the country. Well, I am a beach babe at heart, an island mama if you will, and have you seen what Zanzibar looks like?
I have been to Zanzibar once before with my Bagamoyo crew over four years ago. Yet as my taxi wove in between the narrow streets of Stone Town, all the memories quickly surfaced. Zanzibar is a place the mind can’t easily forget. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. The island is rich in history and Stone Town’s architecture is as unique as this past. Stone Town is best known as a historic trade center that connected the worlds of the Middle East and Africa. As a result a fusion of Islamic and Swahili influences fill the island air. There is no doubt why UNESCO named it a World Heritage site in 2000. One can easily lose themselves in the narrow windy cobbled streets of this small port city. The rest of the island is filled with tourists on the beaches and locals in the villages and spice farms filled with cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg to name a few. Zanzibar is sometimes referred to as “Spice Island” for this reason. There is a clear contrast between the resorts of the travelers passing through and the residents of Zanzibar. It is a juxtaposition that is all too common in these types of beach destinations.
For me, my trip coincided with Ramadan so life during the day was a little less bustling than usual. Many shops and restaurants were closed in observation of the sunrise to sunset fasting. But even with this slight absence, you can get a sense for the life that lives within the narrow streets. I spent the first night at the Emerson on Hurumizi and upon my arrival was immediately transported into an Arabian dream. The room makes you feel like some sort of Arabian princess with deep purples and golds and rich wooden décor filling the room. Outside the balcony opens up to the House of Wonder, mosques, temples, and the vastness of the Indian Ocean. Sounds of prayers and chants echo through the open aired wooden walls. An addition to this gloriousness was the marble green bathtub in the corner of the room. (Note: if you are sharing a room with an acquaintance, I’d opt for a different arrangement. Otherwise you better get comfortable in the nude quick!) It was absolute perfection!
I opted in for the dinner at the rooftop terrace of the Emerson and the magical hotel experience continued. Luck have it, there was live traditional music and dance that night. It is also great to have some entertainment when you are dining alone. The food and service were impeccable which lead me to writing a review on TripAdvisor for them…something I rarely do. All the food, entertainment, drank, and view rang in around $25. I posted the menu for all the foodies out there.
After dinner I debated exploring the night market but felt a little uneasy about navigating the back streets alone at night. I spoke with my waiter about it and he assured someone from the hotel would accompany me. It felt a little like I was paying for friends to come to a birthday party/very awkward date but nonetheless I had some company to wander the food stalls. Some of you out there may be thinking, didn’t you just have a three-course meal? And yes, yes I did. But I love to check out the different night markets in the places I come through. This was especially important since its Ramadan and most locals can break their fasts once it’s dark. And so with my “friend” in tow, we wandered and explored and shared a Zanzibar dessert pizza. Back to the hotel I was in for my first hot shower in weeks and a night’s rest fit for a princess under the mosquito net…which clearly had some holes as I woke up with bites all over my right ear…
After Stone Town, it was off to the beaches! There is not much to say here about the Zanzibar beaches. The pictures don’t even do it justice. But with no other medium to use to attempt to share this beauty with you, I’ll post some photos anyways.