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Zanzibar Beach Holidays

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Kendwa Beach in Zanzibar IslandZanzibar, a part of the United Republic of Tanzania, is a series of many islands, the main ones being Unguja and Pemba. The more populated of the two main islands, Unguja, is better known as Zanzibar Island and is home to Stone Town (also known as Zanzibar Town or Zanzibar City), an historic, bustling city of narrow alleyways and stone coral buildings. In addition to the two main islands, there are many other islands and islets in the Zanzibar archipelago which stretches from the top of Pemba to the south point of Unguja.

Unguja is in the Indian Ocean about 40 km east of Bagamoyo on the Tanzanian mainland. The slightly hilly island itself is about 85 km long and between 20 – 30 km wide at its widest points. Most of the population lives in the more fertile regions of the north and west. The eastern part of the island is arid and covered in coral rag (rock made of coral)making it unattractive for farming, but the beaches and the reefs on the eastern coasts make them ideal for fishing villages, tourist guesthouses, and resorts
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Pemba, located about 50 Kms north of Unguja, is far less populated. Known also by its Arabic name, Al Khundra meaning Green Island, Pemba is covered in steep hills full of palms, clove and rubber trees, rice paddies and the Ngezi Forest in the north. There are many pure, beautiful beaches in and around the numerous inlets and coves. Tourism is not as developed on Pemba as it is on Unguja but resorts are being built and the infrastructure will undoubtedly improve as tourism increases.

People

Swahili Girl in ZanzibarThe people of Zanzibar are predominantly Muslim, about 95% of the population being followers of Islam. The remaining percentage is a mix of Christians, Hindus and followers of various other religions. Swahili is the official and national language of Tanzania but English is also spoken in Zanzibar, and a percentage of the population also has a working knowledge of Arabic.

The population consists of people from the following ancestries: African, Persian, Omani (and other Arab states), and Asian. The local economy is based on agriculture and fishing. The population of the archipelago is estimated at over 740,000 while the population of Unguja is estimated at almost 450,000, forty per cent of which live in Stone Town. The literacy rate in Zanzibar is very high.

Climate

Zanzibar is a few degrees south of the equator and enjoys a tropical climate that is largely dominated by the Indian Ocean monsoons. The kasikazi winds are from the north and occur in the winter months bringing the short rains. The long rains, known as mwaka, arrive in March and last until late May or June.

January through March is generally hot and dry with little rainfall.

April through June is wet because of the long rains which start to taper off in May.

July through October are ideal months for visiting Zanzibar because the average temperature is 25 C, the air is dry and breezy and there is little rainfall.

November and December are when the short rains appear.

Average rainfall in Zanzibar is about 165 cm (65 inches) and the average temperature is 26 C (79 F).

The name Zanzibar came from a combination of two Arabic words, 'Zinj', meaning black, and 'barr', being the Arabic word for land, the result meaning 'Land of the Blacks'.

History

Zanzibar Slave QuatersFor a small island in the southern waters of the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar has a long and unexpected history. Easily accessible for the people of the African mainland, the Zanzibar islands are believed to have been settled first by Africans, some three to four thousand years ago. Centuries later the island began a history of hosting foreigners from Egypt, Greece, Persia, Arabia, India, China and Europe.

The first recorded visit to Zanzibar is from about 60 AD and appears in a work titled "The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea", written by a Greek merchant who was living in Alexandria. Claudius Ptolemy, the famous Greek geographer living in Egypt, also made mention of Zanzibar in his work at about 150 AD, although the island was referred to under another name. Trade routes from Egypt, Roman Europe and the African coast, including Zanzibar, were, by the time of Ptolemy's writing, extending to Indo-Chinese ports.

Around the 4th century AD. By the 7th century AD, Islam had made its way to Zanzibar by way of It is believed that Bantu people (Africans speaking Bantu languages) settled in Zanzibar somewhere Arab and Persian immigrants who were fleeing political strife, war, and famine in their own lands.

The Arabs mixed with the local African population and along with trading goods, traded words as well, which eventually resulted in a language called Kiswahili today. The people referred to themselves and their culture as Swahili (thought to be named from the Arabic word sahil meaning coast) and thus the language was named as well.

For the following centuries the Arabs and Persians continued to trade with their homelands while marrying into local society in Zanzibar and along the East African coast. Typical cargoes bound for Persia or Arabia consisted of gold, animal pelts, tortoise shells, ivory, ebony, and slaves; return ships contained porcelains, beads, and cloth. The Swahili culture reached its peak in the 13th century and it prospered up until the arrival of the Europeans in the late 15th century.Chinese shipping logs show entries from junks having visited Zanzibar harbour as early as the 13th century.

The oldest trace of Islam on the island is in Kizimkazi, the southern-most village on Unguja, where there's a mosque with inscriptions dating back to 1107 AD. The mosque has been renovated several times but the old inscriptions are still there and available for viewing by tourists. Remember to remove shoes, keep shoulders and knees covered, speak quietly, and leave a donation. Women are allowed to enter this mosque.

By the 15th century, Zanzibar was its own Sultanate but this independence did not last. In 1498 Vasco da Gama's expedition from Portugal began a stronghold over the whole East African Coast that lasted for two centuries. During this time, Jesuits, Dominicans, and Augustinians built churches and tried to convert the local populace to Roman Catholicism, but were largely unsuccessful.

The Portuguese did not send enough men to protect their new territory and by the late 1600s they had lost their last East African holding by surrendering Mombasa on the now Kenyan coast. There is little evidence left that the Portuguese dominated Zanzibar for two hundred years although there are still bullfights on Pemba, some words left in Swahili that originated from Portuguese, and the patterns of the kanga (ubiquitous local cloth) are said to have originated from Portuguese handkerchiefs.

The Bullfights in Pemba, assumed to be a cultural holdover from the Portuguese era, do not result in the death of the animal. The bulls are Indian and not nearly as fat and fierce as those seen in bullfights in Europe.

The Sultans

After the Portuguese were beaten out of the region, the Omanis took control of Zanzibar despite protest from local African chiefs. The Omanis ruled Zanzibar in actuality and in theory up until the bloody revolution of 1963. During this period, about a dozen sultans of the Busaidi family took the throne and ruled the islands.

The most influential, successful, and possibly the most kind of these was "Said the Great" or Seyyid Said bin Sultan. Sultan Said introduced cloves to the island in the early 1800s and, together with the lucrative slave trade that ran out of Zanzibar, put his empire in riches. Things were going so well for the Sultan in Zanzibar that, around 1840, he decided to move the Sultanate capital from Muscat to Unguja.

By mid 19th century, Zanzibar was the world's leading clove exporter as well as a large exporter of slaves. A reported 25,000 slaves passed through Zanzibar every year. Slave trader Tipu Tip got so rich off the trade that he was able to afford over thirty concubines and their children in addition to his official wife and her two children.
In 1870 Cholera claimed the lives of over 10,000 people in Zanzibar.

After Sultan Said died in 1856 (on a boat while returning to Zanzibar from a placating visit to Oman), the royal family faced a series of near debilitating power struggles. Plagued by jealousy, intrigue, and the abolition of slavery, the sultans and their subjects faced a post- heyday slump during which the British were successful in wresting away from them much of the control of the island. The British had been trying to abolish the slave trade from the island since Sultan Said's rule but had only been successful in effecting quotas and intimidating traders of certain nationalities. After his death, the British succeeded in pressuring Said's successors to stop the slave trade on Zanzibar.

In 1873, Sultan Barghash signed a treaty agreeing to the end of the slave trade in his dominions but didn’t honor it. By 1890, Sultan Ali, the last of Sultan Said's successors, signed the third treaty of its kind promising an end to the slave trade in Zanzibar. This one stuck and all slaves to enter the area after that date were declared free and no more were sold. By this time, members of the Zanzibar Sultanate (having broken by this time from Oman) were reduced to powerless figureheads on a British salary.

At the time of Sultan Said's death he had one official wife and 75 concubine-cum-wives (called sarari). Only 36 of his over 100 children remained. Of these, 18 were male and 18 were female and all were born of sarari mothers.

On August 25, 1896, Sultan Hamed bin Thuwain (Grandson of Said the Great) died leaving the Sultanate's throne empty. Hamed's cousin, Khaled (the son of former Sultan Barghash,) claimed the throne by crawling through a window of the ceremonial palace, collecting supporters and then announcing that he was the new Sultan. During this time Zanzibar was a Protectorate under the British Government, and they were not about to release control of the island to an attempted palace coup.

On August 26th they sent an ultimatum to Khaled stating that the British would use force if he did not lower his flag by 9:00 a.m. the next day. On August 27th in the early morning hours, the European women were shuttled to a boat offshore to wait out the day. At 9:00 a.m., with Khaled's flag still flying, the British opened fire and in forty minutes managed to destroy the Palace, the Harem, the Sultan's ship, the Glasgow, and the lighthouse, leaving the House of Wonders only slightly damaged.

At 9:45 the war was over and Seyyid Hamoud bin Muhammed was proclaimed as the new, and British- approved, Sultan. The war lasted only forty-five minutes and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the shortest war in history. From 1902 to 1970 Zanzibar was home to at least fifty newspapers, most of which were published in English, Swahili and/or Gujarati, an Indian language.

The British Protectorate continued until, realizing that independence was looming for the islands, the British granted them independence in June of 1963. Constitutional independence was established on December 10th, 1963 and control of the islands was passed to the constitutional monarch.

The new monarchy didn't last long, however, because on January 1964, just a month later, a violent revolution resulted in the emergence of the People's Republic of Zanzibar led by President Karume, the leader of the Afro-Shirazi Party. The revolution was brief but brutal; over 17,000 Arabs and Indians were killed in a period of several days. Many of the remaining Asians and Arabs left the island and their possessions and land were nationalized.

On April 24, 1964 Zanzibar joined with Julius (Mwalimu – Swahili for 'teacher') Nyerere's Tanganyika to form modern day Tanzania. Zanzibar's autonomous state included a constitutional right to keep its own President, Chief Minister, Cabinet and House of Representatives. The union did not place Zanzibar at the feet of Tanzania and Karume managed to keep profits from the clove plantations on Pemba without having to give any over to the mainland.

During his rule he established relationships with socialist-based countries such as Cuba, the Soviet Union, China, East Germany, other Eastern Bloc and African and third world nations. Because of the absence of engineers that was created by the post-revolution Asian exodus, Karume was in need of help in order to develop roads, an airport, and other modern necessities; he received this help from socialist governments around the world.

In the late 1980s Zanzibar opened to the idea of free market and started to take advantage of its tourism potential. Zanzibar held its first multi-party elections in 1995.

Stone Town

Zanzibar's capital and largest town is Stone Town, located in the middle of the west coast of Unguja. The town was named for the coral stone buildings that were build there largely during the 19th century.

Modern - day Stone Town is home to 1,700 buildings and over 16,000 people.

Stone Town is known for its narrow alleyways, large carved doors and covered balconies. The doors, large wooden carved affairs with or without brass studs, are a part of the Swahili culture that were influenced by Arab and especially Indian motifs. The large brass studs became decoration after first having served as spike covers; the spikes having been protection from elephant raids during wars in India.

Doors with rounded tops, or lintels, reflect Indian influence while doors with flat lintels demonstrate a version popular with Omanis in Zanzibar. Many doors have Koranic inscriptions and some of the older doors found in town are much less ornate than the later ones. Different carvings to look for are chains around the edge meant to bring security, Lotus and rosettes in the center meant to represent prosperity, and fish at the bottom representing fertility.
Stone Town is home to 51 Mosques, 6 Hindu Temples and 2 Christian Churches.

On the waterfront, near the Old Dispensary, is an old tree known locally as the Big Tree. Some locals believe that Sultan Khalifa planted it in 1911 but others believe it was planted in 1944 as a bicentennial of Al Busaid. The Big Tree is quite visible from the harbor and is seen in many old photographs. The shaded area underneath it is currently used as a workshop for men building boats. It's a good place to find boat pilots to hire for a lift to Prison Island or Bawe Island.

Zanzibar as a cultural collage: The following things were introduced to Zanzibar by foreign lands; Rice from Malaysia, Cloves from Indonesia, Bullfighting from Portugal, Islam from Arabia, Cassava and Cashews from Brazil, Tomatoes and Corn from the Americas, Turmeric from India, and some types of Bananas and Coconuts possibly from Pacific islands or Southeast Asia.

The large, loud black birds seen in and around Zanzibar are Indian Crows. They were imported by Sir Gerald Portal who was hoping that the birds would help the sanitation effort by eating 'waste'.

Only 226 or about 13 per cent of Stone Town's buildings are considered to be in good condition – the remaining structures are either deteriorating or in ruins.
1998 marked the year of Zanzibar's first traffic light.

The second train in East Africa was completed in Zanzibar in 1905 and operated under the name of the Bububu line. It traveled from Bububu village to Stone Town, only 8 km away. It was used mostly for transporting people.

Henna Painting was originally done in order to cool ones hands and feet. Traditionally, Swahilis perform henna painting for brides and married women only. Various styles of henna painting are available in Zanzibar whose origins range from Sudan, India and Arabia.

Swahili had been written only in Arabic script, using Arabic letters to spell Swahili words phonetically, until the arrival of the first English- Swahili dictionary that spelled Swahili words in the Roman alphabet. Bishop Edward Steere – the same man who oversaw the building of the Anglican Cathedral over the site of the old slave market, wrote the dictionary.

Things To See

While walking tours are nice and can be arranged with a guide, getting lost in Stone Town is fun and harmless. Because the town is small and all roads eventually lead to either the waterfront or large, car-traffic roads, tourists can wander and explore while they take in the sights; eventually, they will arrive at a building or landmark visible on a map.

Local people, both adult and child, are very helpful in aiding visitors to find their way, and there are no dangers as long as you're getting lost during the day. While in town it is polite (and much appreciated) to observe local custom by keeping your knees and shoulders covered; this applies to men and women. Be sure to ask for permission before taking pictures of Stone Town residents. This is especially important when the subject of your picture is a woman.

Arab Port

Built in 1780 by the Omanis (not by the Portuguese, as is commonly thought), the large stone structure next to the House of Wonders (Beit-el-Ajaib) was used to protect people from at least one attack from the mainland. It was later used as a prison and a barracks. Within its walls are leftover structures from a Portuguese church and a previous fortification built by the Omanis in the beginning of the same century.

The modern-day fort is a great place to stop for lunch and at night there are often Taarab, Ngoma (local styles of music and dance) or movie nights. Also inside the Fort are shops and a beauty salon that does henna painting.

Kelele Square

Quickly becoming a posh neighborhood with the opening of the Zanzibar Serena Inn and a new full service beauty salon, Dia Beauty Centre, Kelele Square was once the site of a slave market. The square was presumably named during the time of the slave trade and it must have been a source of considerable noise as its name suggests: 'kelele' is the Swahili word for noise.

High Court

Zanzibar's High Court of Justice building is a combination of Arabic design and Portuguese influence and was designed by J. H .Sinclair, an architect and former British resident. It is on Kaunda Road near Victoria Gardens and the President's House.

Hamamni Persian Baths

The Hamamni Persian Baths were commissioned by Sultan Barghash bin Said (son of Said the Great) and were built for public use. Hamamni translates into "place of the baths" and is now the name of the neighborhood where these baths once were. (The tubs are still there, but the water is gone).

The baths are an interesting place to visit, but depending on how much time you have, how well you deal with heat, and how interested you are in history, you may want to skip the guide and have a look on your own. There's a nominal fee for entering and it's payable in US or local currency. The front rooms were used for changing, barbering, paying dues and socializing. The long hall leads to the warm room that was heated by underground hot-water aqueducts.

Remaining rooms include hot baths, cold baths, toilets and private shaving areas. The original building was larger and featured an arcade and restaurant but that part has since been turned into private residences. Although they were public, the baths were frequented by the wealthy classes only; the poorer classes could in no way afford such a luxury.

The entrance fee to the Hamamni Baths was about ten cents and was therefore only for the upper classes. Although the baths were open to both men and women, they had separate hours of admittance, open to women in the mornings and men in the afternoons. It was (and still is) customary for married Muslim men and women to rid themselves of all body hair; shaving vestibules were provided within the bathhouse.

Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ

The Anglican Church is located on Mkunazini Road and can be reached by car. The church was started in 1873 and it is said that the altar stands on the exact location of the whipping post from the island's largest slave market.

There is a small museum just before the church where tourists can crawl into a space that was allegedly used to hold slaves before they were sold (the space was originally built by missionaries who created it for cold storage). It's a horrifyingly small space and gives the visitor a glimpse into the terror of the trade even if it wasn't actually used to store slaves.

Visitors pay a fee to enter the museum and this usually includes a guide for the museum and the Church. The Church has a history written inside, in the event that a guide is unavailable.

St. Joseph's Catholic Catheral

Built between 1893 and 1897 by French missionaries, St. Joseph's Cathedral was designed by the same architect who designed the cathedral at Marseilles, France. Its spires can be seen from any elevated point in town and it serves as a handy landmark for those in search of Chit Chat restaurant although the spires are hard to see from the narrow streets of Stone Town.

The Old Dispensary

The recently restored Old Dispensary, also known as the Aga Khan Cultural Centre is worth a visit for the small museum on the upper level that describes and depicts the restoration process. Old photos of the waterfront are also on display. The first stone of the Old Dispensary was laid in 1887 and the building was finished in 1894. It was built by Tharia Topan, one of Zanzibar's richest men, in order to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

Shakti Temple

The Shakti Temple had a sizable congregation before the revolution, but after a large number of Hindus departed from Zanzibar in 1964, this temple is now rarely full. It is almost always open and welcomes visitors, and will provide a tour but it is almost impossible to find without a guide. Its chimes and bells, rung every day around sunrise and just before sunset, can be heard from the rooftop restaurant of Emerson's & Green, just across the street (as the crow flies).

Aga Khan Mosque

Another place of worship that was built for a larger congregation than it now services is the Aga Khan Mosque. It is a large and beautifully detailed building with an airy courtyard in the front. The façade shows European influence in its gothic windows.

Malindi Mosque

One of Stone Town's oldest mosques, the Malindi Mosque was built by the Sunni sect in a typical simple style. This mosque is unusual because its minaret is conical, one of only three in East Africa. Another unusual trait is that the minaret sits on a square platform instead of starting from the ground as most minarets do.

To see the minaret you'll need to stand on a baraza (stone or cement benches on the outside of Swahili style buildings) of a neighboring building that is down an alley and across the road from the mosque itself. You may need a guide to find the best view of the minaret and the door. Across from the mosque entrance is an old mausoleum, one of the few left in Stone Town.

Palace Museum

The Palace Museum has a room dedicated to the life of Princess Salme of Zanzibar, daughter of Sultan Said. It contains family photographs and excerpts from her book titled, "Memoirs of an Arabian Princess," as well as a sample of her typical wardrobe.

The Palace also has other rooms on display showing a mix of various types of furniture acquired by the sultans over the years. The rooms are in various states of disrepair but provide a good idea about the quality of life for the sultan's family toward the end of their reign. They also show proof of a typical lack of funds for historical preservation. Standing on one of the balconies and looking out toward the harbour, one might get a similar view to what the Sultans saw from the same spot.

Memoirs of an Arabian Princess, by Princess Salme, is an account of her life in the royal court of Zanzibar in the 1800's. It is considered to be a very important work because it is the only one of its kind. Women in the royal court of Oman and Zanzibar were not taught to read or write (outside of basic Koran lessons) and therefore there are no written legacies that describe what life was like for them, except for Salme's. The book is available at some shops in town and it is highly recommended reading for those visiting Zanzibar.

The Peace Memorial Museum

Located on Creek Road near the intersection of Kuanda Road and designed by the same architect who designed the High Court, J. H. Sinclair, the National Museum is home to many of Zanzibar's memorabilia including, most notably, Livingstone's medical chest.

Also on display are a piece of Zanzibar's (and East Africa's first) railroad, and an old, palm oil-powered bicycle lamp. For history buffs it's a great place to read up on Zanzibar's history as it relates to everything from slavery, the royal families, coins, stamps, local crafts, trade and the many and varied colonial years. Next door to the museum is a small Natural History museum that includes some stuffed and jarred specimens along with a few bones, including those of a dodo.

The only live specimens are the large land tortoises that live outside in a large cage. If your trip doesn't allow you to get to Prison Island – make sure you swing by the Peace Memorial Museum to check out the big tortoises – they're the only ones in town!

Belt - El - Ajaib (House of Wonders)

Sultan Barghash built Beit-el-Ajaib (Arabic for 'House of Wonders') in 1883 on the site of former Zanzibar Queen Fatuma's residence of the 16th century. It got its name by being the first house in Stone Town with electric lights. It was also the first building in East Africa to have an electric elevator

It is easily found because it's the largest building on the island; it's white, has a clock tower, and faces the ocean and fronts on Mizingani Road. In 1896 the building was slightly damaged during the Shortest War in History. Right after the turn of the century the British used the building for their local offices until the revolution of 1964. In 1977 the CCM (Chapa Cha Mapinduzi, Swahili for 'the Party of the Revolution') made the House of Wonders their party school and museum. There are still CCM signs up around the ground-floor veranda and some larger signs closer to the clock tower.

Since the CCM moved their museum in the early part of the 1990's, the building has been used for little else other than dust collecting. Some of President Karume's old cars, including a Zephyr and an Austin are inside, covered in dust. Aside from a small craft consortium that has been granted permission to make a small bazaar of the front ground- level porch and foyer, there is nothing, despite plans to make a museum, planned for the building. Apparently, plans had been made for the restoration and development of the building into a museum but after the much-disputed election of 1995, many aid organizations put their generosity on hold.

Darajani Bazaar & Dala-Dala Station

Zanzibar's 'mall' is across Creek Road near the main market on Darajani Road. Also known as Darajani Bazaar, this shopping strip is a fun walk and a must to avoid the 'in-town' prices across the street. However, the things available in the Darajani bazaar are mostly Chinese and Iranian imports such as sheets, synthetic fabrics, metal pans, plastic shoes, radios and other products of the modern world.

For people planning a long stay in Zanzibar, Darajani is a great place to stock up on items like portable mosquito nets, thermoses and flip-flops. It's also a good place to pick up fabric to take to a local tailor to have some clothes made. Keep in mind that the only natural fabrics you will find are cottons in the form of West African prints, locally-worn kangas (printed in India) and imported plain cotton in different colors. Silks can be found in town but it's a time-consuming search. For people looking for kangas, there are usually kanga sellers behind the dala-dalas on the left toward Darajani Road. They don't have stalls; they lay the kangas on tarps on the ground.

Right next to the beginning of the Darajani Bazaar is the main terminal for Zanzibar's short -haul public transportation system. Dala-dalas crowd the parking lot waiting for passengers. The fare is low, but if you don't have exact change, the fare goes up so try to have an assortment of coins when you climb aboard.

They go in four major directions and have letters above their cabs indicating which route they travel. B stands for Bububu and this dala-dala will travel from Stone Town to the center of Bububu village just north of Stone Town. U stands for Uwanja wa Ndege (airport in Swahili) and travels from the town center directly to the airport. (Allow plenty of time in case the driver pokes along hoping for more fares.) A stands for Amani and travels up the hill to Amani stadium, passing the main Post Office and Telephone office (TTCL). M Stands for Magomani and J stands for Janjgombe. These two dala-dalas travel to other villages near Stone Town, but their access routes are the same as traveled by some of the other dala -dalas.

Matwani or Basi, the giant wooden-sided trucks, are the long-haul public transport vehicles. They stop on the Stone Town side of Creek Road near the market. They travel to village destinations beyond the reach of the dala-dalas but they travel slowly and usually there is only one trip to a village per day.

A Dala-dala is a small pickup truck whose bed has had benches installed around the edges and a roof placed on top. The tailgate has been removed and in its place steps have been installed making the dala-dalas easy to board. Passengers sit on the benches in the trunk-bed as well as whatever available seats are in the cab. Plastic tarps are rolled down from the roof on the outside when it's raining. The roof has a rack where parcels are placed.

Dala-dalas got their name from the Swahili pronunciation of 'dollar'; the original fare was a five-shilling coin the size of a silver dollar.

David Livingstone

David Livingstone was born on March 19, 1813 in Scotland. He first went to Africa in 1841 as a missionary doctor. His travels led him to East Africa where he landed on Zanzibar and then went into the interior on various expeditions. In 1871, after Livingstone had not been heard from for some years, he met up with Welsh-born American Henry Morton Stanley who had been dispatched by his newspaper to find the famous explorer. After some months of exploring together, Stanley went back to Zanzibar and would never see Livingstone again. Livingstone died in the bush, in search of the source of the Nile, in 1872 in present-day Zambia.

Hendry Morton Stanley

Dispatched from New York by his employers at a newspaper there, Stanley reached Zanzibar on January 6, 1871 from where he would begin his search for David Livingstone. After meeting with the Sultan and receiving letters of recommendation that would help him in the interior of the mainland, he set off on his search.

Almost a year later on November 10, 1871 he found Livingstone in Ujiji. Stanley's recollection of the meeting includes the words, "Doctor Livingstone, I presume." At the time of their meeting, Livingstone was in a bad state suffering from foot problems and dysentery. The two stayed together for about two weeks while Livingstone's health improved after which they embarked on an expedition. They explored the northern territory of Lake Tanganyika until Stanley returned to Zanzibar in May, 1872 without Livingstone, who was still exploring, and on his way to the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Shopping in Zanzibar

Whether you're in the market for T- shirts, spices, kangas, furniture or hand sewn pillow covers, Zanzibar is one of the last places left for fun shopping and bargain hunts. You will find the inevitable ashtray carved out of a coconut shell, but there are enough Tinga-tinga paintings, woodcarvings and woven goods to keep almost everyone in the market for a tasteful souvenir.

Gizenga Street, off Kenyatta Road by the Post Office is an excellent street for finding all the things mentioned above plus postcards, stamps, skin-covered drums, spices, and antiques. Sasik, a store representing a women's cooperative, is highly recommended for locally sewn pillow covers in traditional Arabic and Persian patterns. Some of the fabrics are even dyed on the island from local plant dyes. Throughout town there are several shops (called dukas) that sell everything from groceries to fuel.

There are also some antique stores that, although they may have more of a junk store appearance, have some interesting pieces that may bear historical importance and almost all of them sell the ceramic bowls leftover from the colonial era (50 to 60 years old). Look for stamps, coins, currency bills, furniture, ceramic bowls, wooden frames, metal signboards advertising Simba Chai (Lion Tea), antique wall clocks and copper and brass bowls, pans and tea kettles. Coconut massage oil with lemongrass, bitter orange soap and other locally-made products are affordable and unavailable at home so consider stocking up. Spice baskets are available all over town, they travel well, make easy souvenirs for friends and they'll clear customs in no time.

Kangas, the local cloth worn by women over their dresses and covering their heads, are available next to Darajani and in town near the majestic cinema, by the market. Kangas are sold in a pair and most often you'll have to cut the fabric yourself but sometimes they are already separated. They are about three feet by five feet and are available in every possible color and print ranging from humorous to somber.

For designs, pictures some kangas have ears of corn, others may have ships or cars and still others will be traditional local patterns of rosettes, paisley, and polka dots. All kangas, without exception, have a message written in Swahili. Sometimes the Swahili is written phonetically in Arabic script, but it is a Swahili proverb not an Arab one. The kanga sellers generally don't have the English capacity to translate the proverbs so ask someone from your hotel to translate for you but be aware that there can be many interpretations of one proverb.

Kangas are named after the guinea fowl whose dark feathers with white spots reminded people of the busy patterns of the local cloth. They are thought to have originally come from Portuguese handkerchiefs sewn six-together in a rectangular pattern and then developed over the years to become the single most popular cultural garment for women on the east coast of Africa. All Kangas have a message or proverb on it and the kangas are sometimes used for non- confrontational communication. The different patterns and colors on the kangas also have meaning.

Kangas have significance in every major event in a Swahili woman's life from childhood to marriage to motherhood and more. It's a good idea to know what your kanga says because the messages can be strong, for instance one message says, "I may be ugly, but I'm not for sale."

And don't forget stamps! Maybe you thought that the only items people were still collecting as a hobby were old lapel pins and loppy disks but there are still enough philatelic maniacs in the world to keep the Tanzanian Post Office very busy. What could be a better novelty item than a Bruce Lee postage stamp issued in Tanzania and available for only TSh 75 (about US 13 cents)? You like bats? Collect the whole set of Tanzanian bat stamps. A person doesn't have to be dead to get a stamp here; Whitney Houston, Joan Armatrading and Tina Turner all have their own.

A pride of Tanzania, the stamps here are widely varied and a kick to look through ranging from beautiful to kitsch. Don't forget to take a peek and pick up some souvenirs for the folks back home but try the gift shops first – they have better stamp selections and better hours than the Post Office, and they give you more time to browse.

 

Feedback From Clients

Chuck Roosvelt & Job Harris Chuck Roosvelt & Job Harris


Davies, My husband and I want to thank Kivulini Safaris Staff and Wilderness Safaris for arranging our 'safari' in South Africa. We were very pleased with Thornybush Game Reserve and Chupungu Camp in general. The managers, Kerry and Nick, were very gracious hosts. Norman, our tracker, was so prompt at the 5AM-wakeup knock. All the staff was terrific. The meals were great as well as the South African wine!! Our tent was lovely!! The days we spent with Nick and Norman were great. Each time We were so surprised that we could get to see the animals so up close. Kerry, Nick, Norman and the rest of the staff made it so personal. Thornybush Game Reserve was so nice! All of the arrangements went smoothly - the meet-and-greet at the airport, h...

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