• 白川

Small Wonders No.3 Zanzibar

Kei Fujimoto


 Hi there my dear friend, how’s everything going? I have not talked to you for a while and thought I would fill you in about what is going on half the world away:-)

📷 I just had a one-week vacation in Zanzibar; Tanzania is a united republic comprised of Tanganyika, the mainland of the present Tanzania and Zanzibar. I had heard that Zanzibar was quite different from the mainland Tanzania, and now I do know that it IS completely different! I could not help feeling as if I had popped into one of the Arab countries. One of the people I met in Zanzibar gave me a short lecture on the history of the island. So there you go. In 19th century the Omanis took over the island for the sake of the richness in spices. Indeed there are so many different kinds of spices. You will read about them a bit later. They even moved its capital there from the mainland Oman. It became the important trading point using the dhows between the island of Zanzibar and Middle Eastern countries, India and French Indian Ocean possessions. The main trading goods, as you know already, were the slaves from African continent. Do you remember my story about the small town called Bagamoyo, which is about an hour drive to the north from Dar? 📷Bagamoyo was the last place on the mainland where the slaves were taken before getting shipped to Zanzibar, where the slave masters put them up for auction to send them to Arab countries mainly to work on the dates plantations. There is an Anglican Church in Stone Town, the main sightseeing part of Zanzibar, which has been registered as one of the World Heritage Sites. You see a small circle for the priests or deans to stand for the service, and this exact point used to be the whipping point at the slave auctions. They were literally whipped, chained at this point, and the price went up when they tolerated the killing pains and did not cry. If they did cry, the price went down and the slave masters could not earn much money. This church was built there soon after the slave market was finally banned. There are still two small chambers where the slaves were kept, all chained, women and men separated, right next to the auction spot. It was very heavy... It is said that in total there were approximately fifteen million slaves who were taken all over the world, but even five times as many as those who survived the long voyage the whole world over died on the way onboard of the ships or even in those chambers because of the worst hygiene you can imagine.

 The thing I liked the most in Zanzibar was the fresh sugar cane juice. There were so many juice stands at parks, in the narrow alley, on the side of the main street... Basically everywhere in Stone Town. They use this wheel-looking machine to extract the sweet juice from sugar canes. While they are turning the wheel, the fresh juice comes down to a small slope they have made under the wheel, then into a bucket full of ice. 📷Just before finishing the squeeze, they put a piece of lime in between the folded canes for the repeated squeeze, and put it once more between the wheels so that it adds the refreshing, sweet, sour flavor of the lime. Doesn't this sound so good! It tastes just wonderful. And just imagine them doing this for the whole day! Their fingers and arms, even their bodies must taste so sweet all the time because the fresh juice splashes all over:-)

 The doors in Zanzibar are delicately, beautifully carved. See the attached photo? You can see the influence of Arabs here as well. I was thinking while trying to take a good photo of them that you would be thrilled to be here, surrounded by its beauty. There are so many designs on each door, and you can see them everywhere in Stone Town. And once you start walking there, you cannot go back to the same place! I am not kidding even though I am extremely bad with directions… It is just a labyrinth of narrow, winding alleys where the sun makes amazing contrast of the lights and shadows. You will love this place.

📷 One day I participated in a tour called the Spice Tour together with other tourists. We visited many plantations for spices and fruits, and were just amazed by the wide variety of spices and fruits all over the plantation. A few kinds of peppers, cloves, coriander, cinnamon, vanillas, cardamoms, curry, jack fruits, durian the king of fruits as they say, star fruits, different kinds of lemons and oranges, coffee beans, tea leaves... The guide showed us how each of them grew, and crushed many of them for us to smell the freshest scent of the spices! We finished our visit to the plantations with pilau, the Tanzanian version of pilaf cooked with lots of local spices! Towards the end of our tour we went to a nearby beach. On the way down to the beach, the daladala, the small bus, had to go through a narrow dirt road, and was hitting the leaves in between it was driving. I loved the smell of it. How can I explain? They smelled very green and earthy. The smell that freshly cut leaves will have...

📷 I hope you will get some time to visit me so you will see what I have told you here with your own eyes! I am sending you a few photos of the beautiful beaches as well. Enjoy!

Love, -Kei

 (June 2005)

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