14/10/17 – 16/10/17: Zanzibar
We leave the big truck and switch to mini vans when we get off the ferry. Our first stop in Zanzibar is Stonetown. I’ve heard great things about this place so I’m excited to have a look around. Our hotel (I’m relieved to say goodbye to putting up and taking down tents every day!) is right in the centre of the old town. We weave through crooked, tightly packed streets of shadows and soft light. Each turn reveals mischievous kids giggling and shouting “Mambo!” at us. Lots of the buildings have heavy ornate double doors and we sneak glimpses into the cool dark rooms. The Arabic influence is strong here and there are beautiful mosques everywhere. It’s easy to forget that we’re still in Africa.
Zanzibar was a slave trade hub for over a hundred years and we visit the local museum. The move to stop the slave trade in the Indian ocean was, ironically, led by Britain. Britain had dominated the slave trade from the mid-16th century for 200 years. Christian missionaries came to East Africa in the 19th century, primarily to spread the Christian message but were overwhelmed by the slaves’ suffering and raised awareness in Britain to help end the horror. Britain used diplomatic pressure on the sultan to put a stop to the trade through a series of treaties, decrees and regulations from 1822. Officially, the trade was abolished in 1873 in East Africa but it persisted illegally in Zanzibar until 1909.This terrible history, however, caused an influx of people in Zanzibar – their customs created the vibrancy and varied culture that we see today. It made something beautiful out of something so unimaginably awful.
David Livingstone is particularly important to the people of East and Central Africa. Everywhere I say my surname, I’m asked if I’m his descendant. I might just start saying yes to see what happens! Livingstone was celebrated for his adventures as an explorer, for inspiring Christian missionaries to come to the region, and for giving significant momentum to the abolitionist movement. Conversely, however, he drew criticism for his poor leadership skills in his expeditions (he never actually found the source of the Nile), and through his expeditions, can be held at least partially responsible for the European colonisation and exploitation of Africa.Stonetown has lots to offer. We visit the markets, see Freddie Mercury’s childhood home, take tours around a communal spice farm and learn more about the old town. I’d like to stay longer but we leave the next day after a night of exploring the night market and dancing to African music with stars twinkling overhead. We move North to the beach resort of Kendwa. I’m here for two nights of scuba-diving, volleyball, cocktails on the beach around a massive firepit, and watching the sunsets. Pure relaxation.
I leave the Absolute Africa overland group the next morning – they are all staying for an extra night but I feel ready to go out on my own now. It’s been a great introduction to Africa so I hope that the new few weeks go as smoothly!