Untold Goes Island Hopping.
Since most people visiting beautiful Tanzania often end their trip with a stay on Zanzibar, we thought it would be fitting to end our explorations for the book here too. So, after a short stay in Arusha we flew to the archipelago, first stop Stonetown.
Stonetown, the old historic center of Zanzibar City and named after the coral stone most of its structures is made off, might be small but it packs a whole lot of history. Throughout the ages Zanzibar was conquered and ruled by Persian, Indian, Arab and European forces. All of them wanting to control the flourishing spice trade and sadly enough the then still thriving slave trade. In short, this tug of war between empires lead to different periods of Arab Sultanates and British Protectorates which ended with the shortest war in history (a little over half an hour, one canon shot fired!). When Tanganyika and Zanzibar fused to form Tanzania, the latter was given a semi-autonomous state.
Wandering through the narrow streets you will notice the different cultural influences these rulers brought with them. This kaleidoscope of cultural elements lead to Stonetown being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Whether it be the beautifully carved wooden doors adorned with scriptures from the Quran or Indian Lotus flowers or the remnants of the slave trade like the Slave Market and the Old Fort, or St Joseph’s Cathedral, every ruling force left its mark. In more ways than one.
Our walk through the labyrinth of small streets took us to the fishing harbour. The deep duh-duh-duh-duh-duh of the diesel motors, the saline sea breeze, the catch of the day glistening in the morning sun, a tidal wave of people flooding the stands, their constant shouting only punctuated by the cleavers hitting the chopping blocks, …this is a must see/hear/feel/smell experience. Our friend and local chef Ali Cherati (Hyatt Regency) bought his ingredients to make an excellent octopus salad and the most famous soup of the island: Urojo. This is the ultimate street food here, with many variations and by far the favourite fast food of Zanzibaris.
As the sun sets down and dhows glide on the glistening sea in the distance you can reflect on this small but cosy town with all its European, Indian, Persian, Arab and Moorish elements. And should you feel a bit moreish yourself you’ve found the perfect place, since in the evenings the harbour is lined with countless little food stands for you to try many different local delicacies.
We will of course elaborate on all of this in our upcoming book, slowly walking through the centuries and discussing the different rulers and their full Arabic names and titles but one famous name we will already drop here, Farrokh Bulsara. Enough already? Stop with the history lesson, you say? Oh really… But what if we told you this little boy born on Zanzibar later became Freddy Mercury? Exactly. Freddy motherflipping Mercury. The second most famous queen of England. And the jury is still out about this second place.