My Island Retreat
Welcome to Zanzibar
After spending time traveling throughout Kenya, time had come to move on. Next stop on our list was Zanzibar. Zanzibar is an island in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Tanzania, Africa. It was about an hour and a half flight from Nairobi. Upon arrival at the Zanzibar airport, we were instructed to fill out applications for Tanzanian Visas. I watched as others went through and paid $50. I was prepared with a new $50 bill. You may remember from a previous post when I entered into Kenya, my Visa application was denied because my money was too old. When it was my turn at the booth, I was greeted with a "Welcome to Zanzibar". I thought to myself that maybe these guys like Americans better than the Kenyans do. I presented my passport, my yellow fever card, visa app and my new $50 bill. the man looked at my passport and smiled as he said, "Oh, you're from U.S.A. It'll be $100 for you." Much to my surprise I responded with a quick argument. After bouts of laughter from the men in the booth as I accused them of discriminating against me, they explained that when travelers from other countries enter Zanzibar they pay $50 each time they enter. They then told that Mr. Obama has an agreement with their country that Americans pay $100 but can enter as often as they like for up to 12 months. I understood but since I would not be entering this country again, I wanted the $50 plan. then once again there was laughter and a denial. After paying an additional $50, these men asked if I brought my husband. I said I have no husband and all three of them offered to be my tour guide. This time I laughed and denied them. Finally I was allowed into Zanzibar and we were on our way to the city of Stone Town.
The first stop on our Zanzibar vacation was in Stone Town. This is a historical town with many stone buildings. The buildings are built very close together. There are narrow walkways in between. I was not real comfortable in this area for several reasons. One reason I was uncomfortable was because this area was 98% Muslim. I am not racist nor do I discriminate against any race or religion. However, being one of the very few Christians in this Muslim town and having disapproving stares made me extremely uncomfortable. I tried to be respectful of their religion and beliefs but my own personal beliefs made me want to leave this area. My friends talked me into staying and going on the tours to see if I could feel better about this location. We went to our hotel to drop our luggage, rather than helping their case to keep me here, the hotel somewhat hurt their case. It was a very old building with very small rooms. There was no air conditioning, and the guests all share a restroom. I knew at some point I would be moving to a different hotel but I would try to be optimistic.
The Slave Chambers
The first part of our tour of Stone Town was the salve chambers. This was difficult for me. It was very interesting to hear the history but heartbreaking to learn of the horrible things they had to endure. The very old building is now a restaurant and art gallery but the slave chambers still remain underneath the building. We walked through and I must say it was extremely creepy. Outside of the building stood a jujube tree. It's where the slaves were tied and beaten, also known as the whipping post. We also saw memorial of stone figures of slaves with one of the actual chains used during that time. I was glad to leave this part of the tour as soon as I could.
After visiting the slave chambers, we walked next door to the historical Cathedral. It was one of only 2 Christian cathedrals in this town that has 52 Mosques. This particular cathedral is only in use for a historical tourist attraction. It was a very beautiful building with breathtaking designs of architecture. It was soothing to me to sit and relax in this peaceful room.
After resting a bit we went in to do a spice tour. The Island is also known as Spice Island because of the abundance of spices they grow and produce. The tour of the Spice farm was amazing. We sampled pretty much every spice I've ever heard of and more. We learned how to plant and harvest them and what dishes to use them with. They also made bracelets, rings, hats among other things out of banana palms. We drank from fresh coconuts hand picked while we watched. This was truly an awesome experience. We then proceeded to tour the market where they sold spices along with other produce and meats. I felt a little sick to see the conditions of the market. It's all outdoors in the heat. There are a lot of insects crawling on the foods. The thing that got to me most was to see raw chicken uncovered in the heat with bugs on it. This was the main reason along with no phone or internet service that I decided to take a taxi to the coast and find a Hilton Resort.
I finally had enough of Stone Town and I really craved the ocean breeze and salt water. I found a taxi driver that agreed to drive me 45 miles to the coast where I reserved a room at the Hilton Resort. As soon as I stepped into the resort I knew I was where I wanted to be. My friends reluctantly came along. I explained that as a single, working mom, I have no free time. When I'm on vacation I need to relax and have a little me time. I understand that they have no children and their vacations consist of exploration and I insisted they continue to fulfill that need as I would sit on a beach chair and sip cocktails for the next couple of days. The problem I quickly realized was that I had forgotten to pack a swimsuit. No problem, I thought. I would just buy one. I'm in a beach resort, surely they'd have swimsuits in the gift shop. Nope! I was wrong. I was in a Muslim country. There were no swimsuits to be found. I did see other people wearing them but apparently they had brought them from home. I would just have to improvise. Who would possibly know the difference between matching panties and bra and a swimsuit? My friends insisted I was going to hell for my sin. All I knew is that I was about to soak up some rays and take a dip in the Indian Ocean. For the most part, I spent the next two days on the beach, in the pool, carving heads out of coconuts, and enjoying everything the resort had to offer. However, I did venture out a little. I visited a restaurant called "The Rock". It was located on a big rock in the ocean. At low tide you could walk to it but at high tide it was surrounded by water and you had to boat out to it. It was a neat experience. I met some truly awesome people from around the world and some locals that I'm still in contact with today. This was by far the highlight of my trip. Rest, relaxation and beautiful scenery made it unforgettable. But with all good things, it too had to come to an end way too soon. Before I knew it, I was in the Zanzibar airport arguing, once again with the customs guys because they wanted $48 in departure taxes. It was sad to leave but I was excited to be headed to my next location in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.