Zanzibar.!!!! Who has not heard this word once in his ears? A name often usurped to baptize bars around the world. But many would be barely be able to describe the country or rather the island behind the name as mysterious as amusing. A trip to Zanzibar will reveal to the traveler the soul of this unsuspected land off the coast of Tanzania. This island facing the east coast of Tanzania is full of nostalgia, dreams and many myths.
It’s a country of African music, Indian scents, and European culture where happiness mixes with melancholy. Zanzibar Island was approached by Persian and Arab sailors, Indians, various explorers and some European writers (Jules Verne, Rimbaud …). All were inspired by the language which suggests the mix of cultures.
Zanzibar is at first sight a lagoon of crystal blue waters, bordered by palm trees, spice plantations and tropical trees. Zanzibar before being a dream destination was a slave market and an ivory and gum Arabic trading post.
You will see the remains an ancient Portuguese fort, colonial mansions, residence of an Arab Sultan, Indian shops, mosques with carved minarets, and a monument memorizing slavery …
The mix of many different cultures has created a music genre called taarab (influenced by the musical traditions of the African Great Lakes, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent) . You can listen to this enigmatic music at the amphitheatre of the Stone Town Arab Fort. The musicians play on old instruments but also violin, accordion, guitar and harmonium.
For adventure seekers, Zanzibar can offer you many activities: fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling are commonly practiced near the hotels of Zanzibar. The Zanzibarites are shocked by neglected outfits for both men (shorts and longshoremen) and women (mini-skirts, shorts, short shorts and spaghetti t-shirts). On the beaches, naturism and monokini are forbidden.
The best way to travel to Zanzibar is by sea, just like sailors and explorers used to do in the ancient times. But today the hovercraft or the ferries diminish somewhat the charm. Zanzibar is also reached in a 45mn flight from Dar es Salaam. In the country, dalas dalas, (small taxis) are common. They serve the main villages but are overloaded and the trips are long. Buses are a little faster but rarer.
Many historical and cultural sites to discover:
• The Arab Fort (oldest building in the city),
• The Darajani Market, the historic center of Zanzibar
• The narrow streets with carved doors and the Forodhani Gardens
• The former residence of the Sultan (today museum), the Palace Museum which traces the history of the Sultanate of Zanzibar
• The House of Wonders (or Palace of Wonders), ceremonial palace built in 1883 emblematic of Stone Town, has three levels of iron balconies and is also a historic museum
Ngoma Dance punctuated by drums or traditional percussions is practiced everywhere. If you prefer a plush atmosphere, you must go to the Dharma Lounge and listen to Indian inspired music. If you love reggae music, you should go to the Starehe Club facing the sea. But the reference among all is the Garage Club which is the best nightclub in the country.
Urojo: It is a very rich soup, made with potatoes, pieces of meat, pepper, mango, ginger, tamarind, cassava chips, lime, red onions salad and tomato.
Zanzibar Pizza: This is the dish you absolutely must taste in Zanzibar (you choose your own toppings: Minced meat, chicken, peppers, onions, carrots, egg,) – It’s up to you to combine them to create the perfect pizza. And it is also served as a dessert with bananas and chocolate.
Sorpotel: It is a dish of Portuguese origin, consisting of a mixture of boiled meat including the tongue, the liver and the heart which are long cooked with a mixture of spices.
Pweza wa Nazi (which means “octopus and coconut” in Swahili): It is octopus boiled with coconut milk, curry, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, garlic and lemon juice. This dish is usually accompanied by rice
Mkate Wa Ufuta: The mkate wa ufuta, a must-have for Zanzibari cuisine, is a flat sesame bread that is usually accompanied by halva, an Oman-inspired elastic jelly made from sugar, sesame seeds wit orange flower extracts
Ugali: It is a common African meal. Ugali is usually made from corn flour and cracked corn.
Baobab sweets: It is very colorful candies of flashy pink color. As surprising as it may be, they are made with grilled baobab seeds ,sugar, vanilla, cinnamon or other spices.
Dawa Cocktail: Its name means “medicine” or “magic potion” in Swahili, because it is supposed to cure all evils. It is made with vodka, lime and honey.