Spices, historical slavery and views from Heaven

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1st of January found us travelling. To: Doha, Qatar. For out final destination, Zanzibar we had to wait for another 24hours. We choose to stay one night in transit in Doha from financial reasons (in doing so, we bought the plane tickets 50% cheaper 😉 as compared to the non-transit option) but also with a huge desire to see Doha.

We have reached Zanzibar by sunset, just the right moment to be impressed by the beauty of this place. Our first accommodation was Season’s Lodge Zanzibar, on Pongwe Beach, a resort with individual bungalows that we loved from the first second we have arrived. This is how I envision that it must have looked the little house in which Hemingway wrote his book, “The old man and the sea” J  In the evening, we had “local” music: the waves were hitting the shore and the wild animals were screaming. It was so wild and beautiful, it simply blew my mind.

We started exploring from the first day. The first stop was to Jozani Forest Reservation where we saw the Red Columbus Monkeys and took a long walk in the park – jungle, with vegetation specific to Zanzibar. The next stop: Paje. This is one of the most visited beaches by kite surfers. Is so hype and cool, filled with clubs and bars. We took a walk on the beach and since it was low tide we walked for some miles.

In January, in Zanzibar the difference between low and high tide is huge, about 6 hours: at each 6 hours the ocean flees and comes back around 15.00 in the afternoon. It is really impressive to see small fish, star fish and a lot of other sea creatures that remain stuck in the tiny water holes.

The second day we had a longer adventure: we took a trip to a spice farm, to Stone Town and in the evening we headed to the Rock, the famous local restaurant.

The spice farm was so interesting! Zanzibar is also name Spice Island because you can find here all the spices on the planet. The people on the island made this small “farms” for touristic purposes. For only 10 dollars you can see how vanilla, cocoa, curcuma and many other spices grow. For me it was truly a revelation to discover how pepper grows J It is a high, climbing plant. Also, it was cool to see the vanilla pods. It takes 6 months for just one pod to open! And I also had no idea is so hard to cultivate cocoa.

After this culinary adventure, we went for long walks around the most important landmarks in Stone Town. As you can imagine, by far, the most impressive was the Slave Market. I had read about the fact that Zanzibar was a slavery market but seeing it .. it has a far greater impact than any book your read. We even went inside the small rooms where hundreds of people were crawled and chained before the big sell took place. When the high tide came, they were left to drown. Is simply unbelievable that humans can do that one to another …  Those that manage to survive the high tide were considered able for sale so the auction began. White people pinched them, checked their teeth, treated them as cattle which they bought for their plantations.

The shocking fact is that slavery was stopped in Zanzibar in the ‘70s! Officially, slavery was considered illegal in 1890 but the trafficking of humans continued until the ‘70s.  Can you imagine? We are talking about only 40+ years of freedom.

After this visit, we went to see the fruit and fish market, very smelly I must say J, the old Portuguese fort, that also functioned as a pirates’ shield. We also stopped at the first hotel on the island, a true architectural gem where we enjoyed a beer looking over the ocean. On the way back to the bus, we found some small shops. I wanted to buy a T-shirt and the negotiation started.  A girl about my age, who continuously laughed and told me how pretty I am, tried to sell a T-shirt at Tommy Hilfiger prices. I bought it for 15 dollars, thinking that those money probably mean more to my “soul friend” than to me.

After the walk, we went to The Rock, the star-restaurant of the island: a cottage in the middle of the ocean. But to enjoy a glass of wine here, I have booked a table in August! That’s what busy it is. But I must say, we were not disappointed: the view, the good food and the place itself has a special charm.

Zanzibar is a place of contrasts: the island is outrageously beautiful and people are so generous, yet its history is so painful. But it definitely deserves a place on your travel bucket list.

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