Friday, February 19, 2016

Zabardast Zanzibar

When I was living in Oman there was a tribe of locals there who were addressed as Zanzibaris; that time I knew Zanzibar was in Africa but had wrongly presumed it to be some forlorn deserted island, but It was only after coming to Tanzania that I became aware of the place and its strategic importance (I will not bore any hapless soul reading this by elaborating history, all information is available by just few clicks on Google). So when last week I had made up my mind that come what may I will visit Zanzibar for the weekend, immediately after lunch on Saturday I left office and went straight to port to catch the afternoon ferry

For first timers, my advice would be to book ferry tickets in advance to get a better deal and also to avoid the touts who abound around the ticket booth. I was not so lucky as I reached the port just sometime before departure and was immediately accosted by the local touts. Since tickets had almost sold out so I ended up paying lot more than I had planned or anticipated and ended up worrying on the ferry if the remaining funds I had would suffice for my stay; thankfully, inspite of my mind being occupied with the number of notes remaining in my wallet, I did not miss out on the beautiful sights or the splendid lush sea, thanks to my open seat on the top deck

Upon arrival in Zanzibar the first thing to hit is the old world charm of the place. Visiting this island is like visiting grandparents in some old town of India, with the same narrow dingy lanes, old wooden houses, tall walls and inhabitants enjoying their cramped existence with gaiety unknown to big city dwellers. Thankfully some good soul from my workplace who was currently posted there had offered me his place for the night so I was saved from hotel cost and also had good company for the evening

One of the most amazing things about Zanzibar, apart from the pristine beaches, is the amazing seafood as I discovered on the night of my arrival. For anyone visiting the place, missing out on seafood is a crime and almost every night there is an open street food market by the sea with almost all varieties of seafood available. And when it comes to street food, I have to admit Zanzibar Mix is the most awesome street food I have tasted. Period. When it was recommended to me the first time I thought it to be some down market variety served in plastic bowls with eggs and pakoras floating in browny liquid but it took only few bites for me to start gorging on it. The lobster sticks I ate later easily paled in comparison

The same night I also took a walk around town and must say for an island in Africa, Zanzibar is reasonably safe. Being a tourist spot there are enclaves where tourists can roam around freely and with a fresh sea breeze blowing almost all the time, a late night walk is not a bad idea at all
The next morning I was up early and after devouring maggi for breakfast, I left to see the sights of this amazing place. Since I was alone for the day, I decided to take the help of a scout who gleefully took me around town explaining the history around the crowded streets. The spice market, Indian temples, slave market, old palace did make for some splendid sightseeing after which with time available I decided upon another famous attraction, the prison island. The island is some distance away and getting a good bargain on the boat cost can be tricky but upon reaching there, the sparkling blue water by the beach instantly took my breath away. The island has some old turtles and some of them are indeed gigantic, at first I thought them to be stone replicas till I noticed some movement. The best sight I witnessed that day was turtles having sex, which made up my Valentines Day!

Few things about Zanzibar stand out remarkably. First is the gora crowd seen almost everywhere; this place seems to be a cleaner version of Goa. Second is the variety of restaurants around town, however eating out can be very expensive, so better stick to street food only. And lastly to move around, walking is not a bad option, as I found out. If time and dough are scarce, the two feet given by Almighty can work wonders although the temptation of visiting the alluring beaches located far away by taxi can be hard to resist

For me this was indeed a welcome break, as my time in this country is limited and there is so much to explore around. On the ferry back to Dar es Salaam, before dozing off, I could happily imagine ticking off a major item from my to do list


  1. I don't like to be off-topic, but I have a problem which I hope you can help me. My problem is when I have Blogger on my computer. (All other areas seem to be fine) Whenever I press the "new post" button it seems to take *forever* to get to to the proper screen. It just says "loading..." at the top. It does eventually get to the proper screen, but this is after 45 minutes or more. Have you had this problem, and what did you do to solve it? My computer is a HP Chromebook 14. Thank you very much.

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