Greetings from Zanzibar. Yes, Zanzibar is as exotic as its name suggests. One could become intoxicated on the smell of the sea mingled with the smell of spices, flowers and coffee. We are staying in Stone Town, a very old Arabic town with tiny streets (most of them are only walkways) that wind around like a maze. After dark, there are very few lights, but still safe to walk through Stone Town. We got lost walking back to our hotel after dinner on the first night and even my husband stopped to ask for directions. I don’t want to say this is a first, but very rare indeed. Also, I don’t think we were the first visitors to get a little confused in the maze.
Our hotel, The Zanzibar Palace, is in the middle of Stone Town, owned by a Belgian couple who moved to Zanzibar a couple of years ago. In fact, many of the buildings are hotels in Stone Town. Our room was on the third floor (stairs) and our bathroom was on the roof of the building in the open air. This was so way cool. We had a toilet, shower, tub and private sun deck on the roof with walls that were about 5 feet high. We got a great sea view and light breeze up there and could see lots of stars at night.
Zanzibar is 95% Muslim, so we could hear the call to prayer at various times of the day. The calls started in one part of the town and then moved like sections of an orchestra across the city. We felt very welcome in both Stone Town and in Zanzibar. We did try to dress respectfully as a visitor (no tank tops, bikini tops, short skirts etc); however, many Westerners either did not read the literature or just decided to ignore it. Very disappointing.
I will be returning with a Swahili cookbook. Swahili means “coast people” and the coast people know how to eat good food. They put coconut milk on fish and cloves in rice. I was introduced to fruits I had never seen before: custard apples, breadfruit, passion fruit, 15 different kinds of bananas, and a grapefruit the size of a small bowling ball.
We love Zanzibar and hope to return. I highly recommend it.