Sunday, January 29, 2012

Zanzibar Part 2: Stone Town and Kendwa Beach

"I feel like I've spent a week in a story book, or a history book to be more exact. The island of Zanzibar was more than what I could have expected from its mysterious name, and even more mysterious history. Although I was sad to spend my first Christmas away from my family, I had an amazing experience tasting, learning, and experiencing my way through East Africa's most popular island."

After the rocky journey to Dar Es Salam and a two-hour wait at the bus stop, a friend and former Harvard classmate came to pick us up, and so 2 AM December 26 marked the real start of our Tanzania adventure. We got a night tour of some spots of Dar, seeing areas that had flooded just days earlier, causing the death of 21 people. The next day, some of my classmate's friends came to visit from Kenya, and we spent the evening at the 8th Level (bar) at The Kilimanjaro, a Hyatt-Regency hotel and premier spot in Dar. The night ended with a one-hour commute to a beautiful beach house, just a minutes walk away from the ocean.

Getting ready for the long ride.

Christmas dinner at a 15-minute bus stop.

Me and the best host ever in Dar!

Dar by day.

Dar by night.

The Kilimani lounge.
Beach house!

The view from the beach house.

Fisherman working together on the beach. 

After a long walk on the beach, watching fisherman nearby, my friend and I eventually made my way to Azam Marine Ferry, supposedly the best boat to Zanzibar. They started us with air-conditioning and a free meal of burger, "pizza," fries, and samosa, and so naturally I decided I loved the company. We wiggled our way to the front of the boarding line and sat on the top level with a beautiful view of our surroundings. An hour and a half later, we arrived on the island and began a magical week.


The ferry from the beach house back to the mainland.


Waiting for the ferry to Zanzibar.

Almost there!

Chaos as we get off the ferry.

Welcome to Zanzibar!

The best part of the Zanzibar trip was that we didn't have to plan it, thanks to Lion Dog African Safaris. Our first two days were spent at Hotel Kiponda, a quaint accommodation located in the heart of Stone Town. The room was open, bright, and clean (minus these little insects that are all over the island), and the staff were really helpful. We went on a private city tour organized by Eco+Culture Tours, and spent hours exploring the rich history of Zanzibar. We spent our evenings in the food market, feasting our eyes and taste buds on some of Zanzibat's most unique delicetassans.

Hotel Kiponda was a hidden gem.

The food market, one of my favorite parts of Stone Town.

The view at breakfast! Amazing!

A friend of our tour guide, who taught me a few Swahili words.
For example, hapana =  no. :)

Estella Market, named after the wife of the first Minister.

Daladala, an interesting take on a bus, named after the fact
that the original ones were green like dollars.

Zanzibar is known for its role in the slave trade.

One of the slave chambers, estimated to have
held 75 people.

Slave monument, said to use the original slave chains.
The church behind it was built on the open space
where slave sales used to take place.

The streets of Zanzibar.

My friend Emma, Mike Donavan of our tour company, and me.

Old Fort, home to one of the shortest wars in history,
made from limestone and dead coral. 

Beautiful art that the artist was kind enough
to let me photograph.

The House of Wonders: first house to have
electricity, running water, and a lift.
It was bombed during the war and rebuilt,
eventually becoming a museum.

Enjoying the view from the top of the house.

The fort and the town. 

An ad for Kanga, a lightweight, multipurpose material
with beautiful patterns.

A dhow boat.

Beautiful silk! 

Me and my new buddy, a spice vendor.

The streets of Zanzibar. 

Enjoying a cocktail at sunset.

The remaining five days were spent at Sunset Bungalows in Kendwa Beach, home to breathtaking  views of the Indian Ocean. Hours were spent lounging on the beach and bartering with local vendors selling all sorts of souvenirs. We walked along the coast to Nungwi, the main tourist town, and enjoyed a drink at the local spot before eating one of the best meals of my life just nearby.

Village life, on the way. 

Ocean in view!

Local market.

Our home away from home.

I love the beach!

Our dreamy room, complete with a patio.

Emma and I with our friend, a jewelry vendor that I bought far
too many earrings from at the local hot spot.

A jukebox!! I want one!

A group of locals practice flipping off a tire for fun.
It was awesome!

My Masai friend Michael, who shared that he (and others) are
hired from Arusha to hang out in Zanzibar during tourist season.

What a view!! (turns out the food was amazing too). 

Beautiful shells from the Indian Ocean.

I'm amazed by his balance. 

Local kids playing with a homemade toy.

Sunset on New Years Eve!

The highlights of the week were the pre-New Years Eve and New Years Eve parties thrown at our  beach residence. Following a New Years Eve dinner, we enjoyed a show of child acrobats performing some of the most daring acts I've yet to see. A dance party of young and old alike followed; African beats mixed with Top 40 and awful Euro-techno-pop, creating a memorable fusion to ring in the new year. We spent the evening chatting and dancing with the hotel managers (one of whom retired at age 30!), gaining some insight to the "high life" of Zanzibar's elite. 

Pre-New Year's Eve party. 

New Years Eve!

New Years Eve entertainment.

Yes, there is real fire on this poor child's head. They actually
left it there long enough to cook a real egg!

They didn't fall!

A final evening of beach lounging, buying jewelry and paintings, and tasting sushi on the African continent for the first time completed my New Years Day. I have no doubt that 2012 is going to be a good year...