Finally, the ferry is rounding the coast of the island of Unguja, more commonly know as Zanzibar or Spice Island. Watching as we approached land all I could see was lush greenery, lots of white stone buildings reflecting in the setting sun. As the ferry swung wide the first view of Stone Town came into view. I was definitely not disappointed. In fact, I was too mesmerized by the view to dig my camera out and take photos. Some moments are meant to be lived, savoured and enjoyed and this was one of them for me.
I know that I have said this before but it bears repeating. Stone Town was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000. It holds significant historical and architecture importance in East Africa. It is the former home of too many to list Sultans, it was the center of spice trade and the not so agreeable distinction of a center for slave trade as well. The architecture is a dizzying mix of Arab, Persian, Indian and European. The city is particularly know for its elaborately carved doors, perhaps you can see why
But I am getting ahead of myself! I knew I would – pole pole! please.
First I needed to disembark from the ferry, clear immigration and be whisked to the Maru Maru Hotel by my hired guide. I do have to admit that having a guide meet you and assist with what they call “transfers” from either ferry or plane is worth the expense. Without one you can wait in the crush of other tourists filling in arrival forms and having their passports and visas examined by the officials in a tiny office that you can barely get close to. As had been my luck so far in Tanzania, somehow I managed to make it to the front of the line and was able to quickly depart the ferry terminal and teeming chaos of mass arrivals.
Following my guide through a sea of other guides, taxi drivers and who know who else competing for your attention and business at the ferry terminal gates, I was quickly seated in in a van and on my way to the Maru Maru. Arriving there a scant two minutes later, I truly wondered why a taxi was necessary as navigating the close streets in a large vehicle had added to the arrival time. Yes, I am serious. Granted it would have taken me 10 minutes to walk hauling my suitcase and probably another 20 minutes to actually find the right street in the labyrinth of tiny meandering streets. Driving up to close to the front door ( the street in front of the hotel was pedestrian traffic only) I was not disappointed with my hotel choice either, except for the presence of a christmas tree!
Greeted by the ever efficient, friendly and incredibly helpful porters I never had to lift a finger again until I left! The head porter, Frankie escorted me to my room, whisked me over the threshold as if I were a bride on my honeymoon ( it was a little disconcerting but flattering when a guy can actually pick you up when you are my size!). After be set down on solid ground he proceeded to give me a guided tour of the room – the lights, air conditioner, mini bar, the room safe and the bathroom – I was starting to get a little worried what that guided tour might entail. While he was completing his instructions the power went out leaving us in the dark. By now, I was use to this happening regularly in Tanzania and as Frankie explained to me, it was simply the power being shifted from one line to another. It happened every night at 6:30. However, unlike other areas that experienced power outages for more significant periods of time while the shift was occurring Stone Town because of it tourism focus was spared the outages except for the momentary outage that occurred as the lines switched.
Thinking that I would eat supper, have a short walk and then retire early as I had spent my last night at the South Beach Resort in Dar dancing poolside of course – how could I spend a weekend without dancing and a poolside party was way too hard to resist.
Dining on the rooftop of the Maru Maru was an incredible way to enjoy my first evening in Stone Town
The food was divine and by the time I had finished it was about 9:30 pm and I could hear music echoing across the night. It turns out that the old Fort located right at the corner of the hotel was having live concerts in honour of festive season. Cheryl + music = dancing until 1:30 am. Good job I had told my guide to not show up for me until noon the next day!
To be continued