Stone Town, Tanzania
6° 9' S 39° 11' E
Sep 01, 2007 03:47
Distance 3759km

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Text written in: English

Water, White Sand and Rest

Saturday, Sunday, Monday Tuesday to September 3 Stone Town and Zanzibar  Slept Friday night at the Cape Town airport as I had an early morning (7 AM) flight to Jo-burg.  Thought it would be a new adventure to sleep on an airport bench.  Worked out, subject to the fact that the janitors were up all night and chatting loudly.  Got about 3 hours of rest/sleep and first in line for check in. A little dodgy, as some of the folks in the airport looked unique and one is told regularly to avoid everything and everywhere in Cape Town and Jo-burg because of  thieves and violence.  My view is you use your head, don’t look rich or successful (easy for me, I look like a vagabond), avoid deserted places, keep moving and don’t look the tough ones in the face.  Survived and $100 ahead.  Flew Cape Town to Jo-burg changed planes, flew to Nairobi (Kenya), change planes again and onwards to Stone Town on Zanzibar Island (Tanzania).  Got there around 8 PM.  Zanzibar Island has a population of about 1 Million and is about 100 K off the coast of Tanzania.  It has a black/Arab population which is almost entirely (95%) Muslim.  The island was famous earlier for its role in the African slave trade.  Arab slave traders took blacks from eastern Africa and sold them into slavery in Asia.  Slave to North America came from the west coast of Africa.  Slave trading prospered in Zanzibar until about 1850.  The island is also famous for spices, and is sometimes called the Spice Island.  The island is also known for its white sand beaches.  For me, this was my first chance to chill out in 10 weeks, I needed a rest.  Chill out means do laundry and collect it when it is dry (rather than move on when it is still damp), not move for at least 3 nights and have a functioning (non-long drop) toilet, warm water and a real bed.  My creature comfort levels are a lot simpler now, don’t need such luxury regularly, once every few weeks to get most of these privileges is a real treat.  Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.  The population of all of Tanzania is 33 million.  Tanzania gained independence in 1963 from Great Britain.    Its first president was Julius Nyerere, who ruled Tanzania until the 1990’s.  Nyerere was a devoted socialist who governed Tanzania honestly and earnestly, but socialized everything.  Because of the government’s economic policies the country has a very low per capita income (of $170/per year, half that of Kenya, its neighbor to the north) and only early signed of economic development.  Since the mid 90’s economic policy and development has started to happen, with mixed results.  Democratically it has a multi-party system, though the ideas of democracy are not well understood.  Corruption at the government and private level appears to be widespread (based on comments from locals and what you read in the press here) but measures to control it are starting to happen and take hold/bite.   The problems of corruption, limited democracy (it was not until the 1990’s that the first change in elected head occurred without a violent uprising or coup),  insider/family/tribe favoritism, concentration of wealth in limited hands, poor policing, immature banking system, lack of the rules of law, absence of legal ownership of land so difficult to have collateral for loans are common to all 53 African countries other than South Africa.  The challenges and obstacles to development are only now being addressed by some of the more progressive evolving states in Africa. Why do I know this, because I have read three books on the socio-economic situation of Africa in the past 6 weeks as I have and had lots of time on buses to read. I know almost as much about the socio-economics of Africa as I do about mammals (of which I am an “expert”, having read several times and highlighted portions of “Mammals of Southern Africa”.  Whenever a larger mammal (not bird) was in sight I would quote or mention interesting aspects of the animal to my mates.  Sometimes the guide and I would battle it out in terms of trivia on the mammal, especially elephants, rhinos, hippos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, buffalos, zebras, giraffes.)  Also of note, the movie Lion King had the song “Hakuna Matata”, which is Swahili for “no worry”.  Swahili is the native language of Kenya and Tanzania.  The other word you hear all the time is “jambo” or hello.  You hear this all the time, which usually is an attempt by the local to engage you in a sells transaction, though some of the time it was sincere.   On the first day in Zanzibar did a walking tour of Stone Town.  This town was started around 1100 AD as part of the slave trade.  It is an interesting town, as it the first almost entirely Muslim place I have visited since 1984 (another life, pilgrimage and time).  The streets are very narrow and other than straight, the women are covered from head to toe, the men in white robes, pathways crowded with people, bikes, dogs and whatever, curry smells in the air, pushy merchants everywhere, markets full of strange smells, foods; overall a total experience and sensation to be in.  The local guide (Eddy) was helpful, so easy to get lost in the confusion and chaos.  Eddy was also misleading.  He claimed he found a room on the north end of the island and stated it would cost $50 per night.  Once he had the business the price quickly went to $100.  Sold transfers to the hotel at many times what one could have gotten with a little investigation.  Made him a richer man for sure.  

Second day did a “Dolphin Swim”.  I was imaging swimming with dolphins like in Mexico, but this was not the case.  What is actually was, was over ten boats each with about 5 guests terrorizing the dolphins.  Each time a group of dolphins surfaced all the boats rushed to get there, people jumping off to view then as they swam by, normally 10 plus feet below you.  If everyone had cooperated, all would have had an excellent sightings; cooperation is a new concept to Africans, something they really don’t get, yet.  It was interesting to swim with the dolphins below. Such graceful animals (mammals).  On the way back saw some red monkeys, an animal unique to Zanzibar.


On the third day did a tour of a spice farm.  Zanzibar is and was famous for its spices.  Our guide showed us how various spices are grown and harvested, ranging from cinnamon, cloves (much of the worlds cloves come from here), nutmeg, peppers, curry and you name it.  The farming methods are organic, low intensity and use limited (if any) fertilizers.  This is causing Zanzibar to lose market share and revenues to other developing/third world countries (especially Indonesia) as they are using more modern and intensity agricultural practises.  The reality is that globalization and competition from other less mature economies (not the West) is undermining the economy of the island (and generally Africa; Africa’s GNP has declined by 20% over the past 30 years, with much of the loss becoming the gain of other emerging markets).  Africa has to decide whether it wants to cling to its traditional practises and fall behind in economic develop or change with the times.  Like in nature, life isn’t always easy or comfortable, whether it is survival of the finest animal or country.  From the three books I read on socio-economic issues affecting Africa, all suggested that the continent has the resources to be prosperous but it must have the personal/national resolve to step up to the plate and quit blaming the West, colonization, slavery, the World Bank, foreign aid or others for their difficult situation.


Stayed in a nice resort outside of Stone Town, felt like I was in the Mayan Riviera, except the beach was a tidal mud flat.  The pool was nice however