Daniel in Africa, Part Three: (almost) 24 Hours in Stone Town

After a very successful safari, about which those of you who have been following faithfully now know more than you ever could have wanted, Daniel and I returned to Arusha and promptly flew out to spend his last few days in Zanzibar.

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Zanzibar looks and feels like a different country than the rest of Tanzania, probably because it was one up until the mid-1960’s. In 1963, soon after Zanzibar had become independent from Great Britain, it joined with the also-recently-liberated mainland republic of Tanganyika to form what is now Tanzania. Zanzibar still has its own semi-autonomous government and has definitely maintained its own culture as well, with mix of European, African, Indian, and Arab influences.

We flew into Stone Town, the capital city (and the only real city on the island as far as I know) in the afternoon, and spent most of the evening enjoying the view and the sunset from the bar at our hotel.

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After dark, we snacked on coconut bread and plantains at a fish market before going out for Swahili food, which I think I would describe as Afrianized Indian food. Like many restaurants in Stone Town (which is 90-95% Muslim), the one that we went to did not serve any alcohol, but it more than made up for it with a delicious spiced coffee. It reminded me of the cardamom coffee at Hampton Chutney, which makes the surprisingly short list of Things I Really Miss About New York (People I Really Miss is a much longer list).

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The next morning, we visited the site of Zanzibar’s old slave market, which was the center of the slave trade in East Africa for at least 100 years. The site is now home to a church and a school, but parts of it have been maintained as a kind of museum.

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This tiny enclosure, which is half-underground and has barely any light or circulation, was used to hold around 50 slaves at a time who were awaiting auction or transport. The picture came out strangely because of the light, but I kind of love it — the place feels sad and surreal, and I think that the photo does as well.

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The inside of the church is full of tributes to David Livingstone, a British missionary who was instrumental in ending the slave trade in Zanzibar and elsewhere in East and Southern Africa, and of symbolism relating to the slave market. The gold circle in the middle of the main altar shows where the whipping post stood in the slave market.

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After seeing the slave market we had some time to wander around the city, which is beautiful, if a little run-down.

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The doors are particularly magnificent. Functional, too! — the metal adornments that you see on some of the doors and the separating bars in the middle were originally designed to keep elephants out.

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After a little less than 24 hours in Stone Town, we were on the move again, to the beaches on the northern tip of Zanzibar. Coming up in the next and last installment of Daniel in Africa: white sand, Indian Ocean, more ferries than we planned for, and paying our first bribe.

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4 thoughts on “Daniel in Africa, Part Three: (almost) 24 Hours in Stone Town

  1. How close to being caught up are we? Really enjoying living your African trip vicariously through you!

  2. Wow, I am amazed about the slave trade going on for one hundred years ! Love the commentary and the pictures; love to see you and Daniel in the pictures too !

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