I found out on my safari that you could fly to the reserve from Dar es Salaam rather than drive. On reflection I would have definitely chosen to fly! On Sunday I left at 7am and had a 6 hour drive to Dar es Salaam to catch the ferry to Zanzinar at 4.30pm. So had a lot of waiting around and travelling. The ferry ports were insane with everyone jossling and pushing. There were metal dectector and security scanners like in airports, but very much seemed to be for show as everyone just ran through them at the same time! Luckily the porters saw me as an easy way to make money so grabbed my big rucksack and led me through the whole process (including immigration) which I was really grateful for and also a little bit poorer for!
At 7pm I made it into Stone Town and spent a night at the Safari Lodge there. My guide and I went to Forodhani Gardens which was a massive food market and you could literally have anything you wanted and the most popular was seafood as well as Arabic and local cuisine. I had Urojo Soup and to this day I am not really sure what it was! It apparently was a mix of bhajias, chunks of beef kebab and a fried ball of something a bit like polenta mashed together with coconut chutney, lemongrass, potato shavings and to top it all off a boiled egg was thrown it! It was tasty but my taste buds were really quite confused.
The following day I went on a guided tour of Stone Town to delve into the history and culture of Zanzibar. It was really interesting and the guide and I had a long talk about history and education in Zanzibar. He loved History as much as I do and we ended up talking about world history over the last few centuries. I have to be honest that I had no idea the island had been part of the Omani Sultanate - however this did explain why there is a strong Arabic influence here and also why most people are Muslim. The streets are so narrow that you do genuinely feel like you have stepped back to medieval times. What was mad was motorbikes and bicycles were also using these tiny streets along with pedestrians but I could see why it was such a big centre of trade. I also popped into their big food market where there was obviously an area dedicated to chickens, both dead and alive, as well as selling anything you could ever want food and spice wise.
In the afternoon we headed to a spice farm and I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea how we got the spices we use today. It completely opened my eyes! The most interesting bits to me was that cinnamon came from the bark of the tree and that pineapples will only grow once in one spot, so they have to be replanted elsewhere to get the next pineapple. It was also interesting to learn how spices are used for medicine and that ginger is used here as a remedy for colds as well!
Everyone continues to be extremely friendly. Whilst visiting the old fort an older drunk guy approached me and asked whether Queen Elizabeth would provide the red carpet for him and also a house for him. He found this hilarious and kept saying Karibu (welcome) to me!
What I learnt in Stone Town:
* Hakuna Matata (no worries) is the only way of life in Zanzibar and things will happen when they happen.
* The government is very protective of the spice trade and most farms are controlled by the state.
* Some of the houses front doors are Indian and they have spiked k*** - the idea is to keep out wild animals (there are no dangerous wild animals in Zanzibar though)!
* Stone Town is a mix of Persian, Arabic and European influences in buildings, culture and food.
* Zanzibar and Tanzania are part of a united kingdom but Zanzibar is an autonomous region.
* Zanzibar was part of several Empires and it had an Arabic Sultan whilst being a British Protectorate before independence. In 1964, although it had been granted independence in 1963, the governing forces were mainly Arabic who were a minority on the Island. The Revolution disposed this ruling elite and as a result many Iranians, Indians and Arabs fled from the Island due to the violence.