As promised, I am going to do my best to capture some of the fun and excitement that I experienced in Zanzibar over the Christmas holidays. I will be heading back to work tomorrow so I will write and post as I am able to. It was a full five days with lots that needs to be captured so it will take time but it will be worth it!
My adventure to Zanzibar began with my drop off at the AZAM Ferry Terminal in downtown Dar Es Salaam. Prior to leaving home (Gabs) I had secured a reservation for the 1:30 ferry to Zanzibar. When my driver attempted to pull into the area it was a mass of chaotic confusion of cars, people, hawkers and materials being shipped on the ferry. To travel an incredibly short distance from the security gate which was simply a swinging arm operated by security who first tried to get you to buy a ticket on the cheaper and far more likely to capsize private ferries to the doorway of the A
AZAM Ferries took about 15 minutes. It was a grand total of about a 750 feet distance…now do you understand what chaos must have been present!
After stopping while we were still a good 500 feet from the terminal, I bailed from the vehicle. Athomasanu, my Muslim driver would not let me face the crowd on my own so he simply put the van in park and followed me. I asked him to grab my suitcase and I headed quickly to the terminal as I was worried about actually purchasing my ticket in time to make the ferry. You see, we had taken over an hour and half to come from South Beach on the ferry directly across the bay from which the Zanzibar ferry leaves. Really, all things considered I could have swam from one ferry dock to the other in less than 10 minutes. My only difficulty would have been towing my suitcase along through the water 🙂
Finally, I enter the terminal and a quick look around showed mass confusion, many queues and lots of noise. Seeing a sign for foreigner ticket purchase just inside the door, I thanked Athomasanu for his diligent care of me, wished him well and sent him on his way. Never a sentimentalist, I wanted a quick goodbye and I had business to attend to. Like a few other African men I have met, he was threatening a sentimental soulful parting and I wanted no part of it. Call me cold hearted if you want but I was ready to move on to greener pastures. Unlike Tabuche, he had not gained my loyalty or friendship although he deserved profuse thanks for taking me around Dar and keeping me safe.
Establishing myself into the Foreigner Ticket queue I was getting a little anxious about the time. There was only an hour and half left before the ferry I had a reserved seat on was scheduled to leave the dock. The queues were long and appeared not to be moving. As I focussed on the line ahead of me I had my first unpleasant encounter of the day. First, you must understand that queues in Africa are a special entity. In fact, they would be worth a blog posting all on their own. Might I remind you of my experiences in line for my visa and the post office. Should you have forgotten, feel free to earlier blog postings for a reminder.
All that I will say here is that first of all, queues in African are not straight orderly lines; they are fluid and people come and go in a very organic manner. There are always those who come out of left field and smoothly blend into the line ahead of you just as it is moving forward so they seamlessly end up at the counter in a matter of moments. It is a true art and one that I hope to learn from observing. Having said all of this, there is absolutely no point in getting upset, angry or belligerent when this happens as it makes no difference other than to stress yourself needlessly.
Back to my encounter. The line was really just a huddle of many white people with loads of luggage and no real line formation right next to open front door. There was no way to tell who was in line or simply milling around waiting for someone in the actual lineup so I blended in where I thought that there was an end to one of the line ups. Well, within seconds a white woman with an accent ( I think it was British) was stridently informing me that the back of the line up was behind her and her husband. I smiled and got in line behind them. I wish that I had moved to a completely different line up. What ensued was listening to a never ending soliloquy by her informing everyone who came along what was the front of the line up and what was the back. She was one of the most irritating people that I think that I ever encountered.
I couldn’t find my huge smile when an African man promptly inserted himself in front of her and her husband. That set off a good five minute tirade. She informed all of us that she was a very seasoned traveller and knew what was what. I reckoned that she couldn’t have spent any amount of time in Africa if she was so ignorant on the liberal queuing system. I learned it twenty five years ago and have never forgotten it. When in Africa do what the locals do or at least shut up and let it be.
Seeing my smile, the couple next to me exchanged muffled giggles with me. She was from Burundi and her husband was from France. We ended up bonding over the whole tirade. After exchanging greetings, Ms Irritating wanted in on the friendliness being shared. Her most recent exclamations of ‘fronto’ and ‘backo’ having fallen on deaf ears, she obviously wanted a friend. Unfortunately she didn’t find it in us. Her attempt at small talk was too tell me that I needed to cover up my shoulders. I was wearing a sun dress (in a Muslin country, God Forbid) and she insisted that as she was such a seasoned traveller she knew that I violating laws by not covering up. I simply looked at her, turned away and struck up a conversation with my new friends. If she was really such a seasoned traveller she would know that the only times that non-Muslim women are required to cover up their shoulders is if they are meeting professionally with Muslims or entering a sacred place such as a mosque or temple. I had just spent three days with bra straps showing and not one Muslim man told me to cover up. Having an irritating white woman do it made me feel very sorry for her husband having to not only travel with her but to be married to her as well.
When I made it to the ticket counter with my new friends just beside me, we found out that our reservations for the ferry had been automatically cancelled as we were not there a full two hours in advance to purchase our tickets. Fortunately there was another sailing in less than two hours that we could be on. Having learned one lesson at least I purchased my return ticket as well so that I was ensured to be on the ferry that I wanted to return on. With tickets firmly in hand we settled down to wait for our pre-departure boarding. I happened to spy four leather comfy chairs on the opposite side of the room and made a dash for them. For someone with a gimpy ankle and a heavy suitcase I can certainly move when I want to. Within seconds I was firmly ensconced in a chair with my purse/backpack and suitcase on two others. It is called staking territory and when you travel a lot you learn how to do it well! Right Mom????
So the next hour and half passed quickly and pleasantly in the company of my new friends including the addition of a lovely young woman from Dar who joined our group. They even fed us so it was not a tiresome wait. Soon it was time to do the pre-boarding. Let me remind you of the concept of queuing…or not. I would have happily skipped this part. I was just thankful that Ms. Irritating was no where to be seen or endured..it would have made it unbearable. I will also admit to the fact of rolling my suitcase over several feet during the course of boarding. I figure that if you are going to plant yourself in front of me and hold the line for someone else I am not above going over or through you as necessary. See, the Dalziel Clan in renown in Scotland as mercenaries. I am very much a Dalziel!!!!
I had splurged and bought a First Class ticket which was a grand total of $5.00 more than the Economy class. It was a good choice as it gave me a seat inside on the second deck in air-conditioned comfort. I was even able to find a willing man to carry my suitcase up and down the stairs for me.