Tanzania part 2: Zanzibar

After our safari adventure, Randy and I flew to Dar es Salaam, where we spent a day seeing the sights before taking the ferry to Zanzibar the next morning. Dar paled in comparison to Zanzibar so I’ll just skip it and get right to the good stuff.

The photo above is the view of Stone Town harbor after the hour and a half-long ferry ride.

Upon disembarking the ferry, we were immediately met by a driver from our hotel in the sleepy town of Matemwe, on the northeastern coast about an hour from Stone Town. The weather was blustery when we arrived, but even gusty and gray Zanzibar is pretty spectacular.

It was late in the day, and we went for a walk along the beach as the sun was going down.

What looks like an impressionist painting in one direction, and a forest fire in the other, is just your average Zanzibar sunset.

By early the next afternoon, the weather had turned bright and clear, and we headed to one of the beachside resorts a stone’s throw from our own slightly less fancy beachside resort, for lunch and views.

Then we went back to our own hotel and alternated between lying on the beach, lying by the pool, and lying on the porch. In theory, this is what is known as living the life, but I have to admit I got kind of bored after a few hours of it. I’m not so great at relaxing, as has been well documented – or at least I’m not great at relaxing by sitting still.

So it’s a good thing we got moving the next morning. First, we had reservations at a restaurant an hour south along the east coast in Pingwe.

The Rock is one of those bucket list places. Perched on a rock outcropping in the Indian Ocean, it’s accessible by foot during low tide…

…but only by boat during high tide, when the ocean swallows up the shoreline.

Luckily, the tides shift pretty frequently, so we got to experience it both ways, as well as to watch the ocean rise around us over the course of our lunch.

And then it was back to Stone Town for a very short visit in what I have decided is one of the world’s most magical places.

It was like Swahili East Africa meets Old Havana meets Marrakesh, all with a gauzy 1001 Arabian Nights overlay.

It’s hard to convey in photos since everything is so densely packed and the streets are so narrow.

Randy was staying in town a little longer than me, so she didn’t join me as I ran around like a crazy person trying to see as many of Stone Town’s streets as was humanly possible in the hour before dinner.

After actually covering lots of ground (which will happen when you get hopelessly lost and just keep wandering instead of asking for directions), I joined her at the rooftop “tea house” of the Emerson Spice Hotel.

Before I ever took a bite of the (extremely delicious) food, the scent of cinnamon sugar wafting from the open kitchen, coupled with the view over the rooftops at sunset, did me in.

It was as lovely as its reputation promised.

Zanzibar’s winding alleyways are so impossible for non-locals to navigate that a guide had to walk us back to our hotel, which was in a hundred-something-year-old mansion similar to Emerson’s.

Here’s the beautiful interior:

A few buildings spotted on the morning / afternoon walk around town the next day:

A defunct cinema in my favorite style.

And a building with beautiful gingerbread-like decoration but in a more Moorish style.

We also spent a very sobering hour or so in the slavery memorial and museum on the site of the old slave market, and had lunch at the opulent Serena Hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean. Both highly recommended.

And then I said goodbye to Randy, took the day’s last ferry back to Dar, and headed for the airport. Off to South Africa…

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