Zanzibar: More than just sea and sun

Zanzibar is known as one of the most beautiful islands in Africa and a dream honeymoon destination. It is made up of two islands; Pemba and Ungujja, although there are also many other small islands.
A view of Zanzibar Resort Beach Hotel, located on the shores of the Indian Ocean .
A view of Zanzibar Resort Beach Hotel, located on the shores of the Indian Ocean .

Zanzibar is known as one of the most beautiful islands in Africa and a dream honeymoon destination. It is made up of two islands; Pemba and Ungujja, although there are also many other small islands.

On my recent visit to the island, I had very high expectations of this glamorous, romantic and fascinating island.

Indeed, I wasn’t disappointed but rather astonished at the ‘Zanzibarian’ way of life.

After checking in at Executive Hotel, my friends and I dropped our luggage and went straight to check out the Indian Ocean.

To say it was a breathtaking sight is an understatement. I literally was left agape by the blue water, white sand and sea shells of all shapes. The sea was incredibly calm - perfect for swimming.

The other side of the ocean is what really caught my attention. Save from the fact that locals resided there, they were auctioning fish! The highest bidder would then take the fish. The houses are really small and their beds, the ones I spied at least, were made out of reeds and sisal.

Besides fishing, they also have small shops where they sell oranges, bananas and a few necessities. Some of the people seemed to have nothing much to do besides sitting by the sea. In fact a friend of mine noted that the people there are so used to poverty that they are comfortable with a meager life.

What rubbed me the wrong way, however, was seeing precious cows in Zanzibar being used for ploughing, carrying heavy goods from the market with a cart tied behind them and other outrageous duties.

The sight of those cows carrying heavy loads awakened the “animal” activist in me, or so I felt, to ‘be their voice’ and save them.

These poor animals had what I can only assume were hunchbacks and I strongly believed that they are a result of carrying those bulky loads. I got so concerned and had to ask a few people why the cows were treated that way. 

One of them explained to me that the local breed of cows, which they have, is sturdy enough to do that kind of work and that they have exotic breeds which aren’t used for such activities. Well, I still didn’t like the whole idea but that’s their culture.

Zanzibar is largely a Muslim community with at least 99 per cent of the population Islamic. Almost all the women wear veils and dresses swinging at their feet, commonly known as sharias.

But behind the veils and sharias hides different characters, some of them quite shocking. For many, there’s the assumption that people who dress up this way are too religious but don’t be fooled by this ‘cover up’.

While seated at a bar and restaurant in Zanzibar, a group of ladies all dressed ‘too Muslim’ were seated at the table next to mine.  Their table caught my attention because it had every tribe of beer you could imagine and for a moment, I thought they were seated at the wrong table because there’s no way those beers were theirs, at least I thought.

It turned out that the beers actually were being guzzled by these ‘over religious’ women. They downed one after the other until every bottle lightened with emptiness and then ordered another round of beers that could break the table. As if I wasn’t shocked enough, they smoked like chimneys.

Other than that, I would pay a fortune just to have another visit or vacation at this magnificent island with extremely receptive people and a rich culture and history that I will not delve into today.

The people are kind, loving and welcoming. If you are gullible though, they can rip you off and charge you much more than they are supposed to, especially private taxis.

There are quite a number of hotels all around the island and you can get a decent one for about 30$-45$ a night.

There are lots of beautiful places to visit besides the beaches. Stone Town is a must. Stone Town has one of the most unique, open-air markets anywhere with fair prices, so you can shop till you drop. You can also get souvenirs as there’s lots of unique stuff like stone carvings, spices, Zanzibar fabric and handmade craft jewelry.

Forodhani Gardens is another place that will make your stay in Zanzibar worthwhile. You can enjoy sea food, pizza made the Zanzibarian way, coconut soup, tasty pancakes, mutton and all sorts of mouthwatering delicacies.

There’s also a Serena Hotel in Stone Town with a gorgeous view of the ocean, live music in the evenings and a cozy restaurant.

There are lots of great places in Zanzibar that I can guarantee will keep your credit card busy, but remember to save most of it for shopping because that is, by far, the most fulfilling thing in Zanzibar.

 

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