okay, slowly but surely I am getting my Zanzibar posts caught up – thankfully I am living a quiet life now that I am back to work so I have my evenings free to write.
So as I explained in my last post, much of the morning and early afternoon of Christmas Day was spent on a tour of the Government Spice Plantation. Following my tour and the special performance of the coconut song, I was also treated to a tasters treat of every kind of exotic fruit grown in Zanzibar. I literally gorged myself on the smorgasbord of fruity delights such as Jack fruit and others to numerous to list.
With a full tummy and my arm load of presents I was dropped off back at the Maru Maru. After a quick shower and change of clothes – the heat and humidity of Zanzibar meant that I needed to shower at least three times a day and change into fresh non-sweat soaked clothes. After passing through the lobbying to do some further exploring I was told that there was a Christmas Buffet taking place on the rooftop dining area including a special musical performance. So I reversed direction and headed for the rooftop.
I am glad that I did as the choir that was performing was the only local Christian African Choir in Zanzibar and their performance was a really treat. And no, I didn’t have my camera with me so I do not have any pictures. Their performance included traditional Zanzibar choir pieces performed in Swahili and included musical accompaniment and dancing. I sat entranced for about an hour. Then it was time to avail myself of the Christmas buffet laid out which even included Turkey and dressing. Although my tummy was still somewhat full of the fruit that I had consumed hours before, I managed to eat a reasonable Christmas dinner that was a mix of traditional turkey along with Indian rice, curries, salads and traditional African dishes. It was certainly a feast to remember.
After all of that food I really needed to go for a walk. It was now getting close to 5:30 pm so I thought that I would walk down to the waterfront and watch the sunset on the ocean. Although there is a specular view of the sunset from the rooftop of the Maru Maru, I had already done that the day before and needed to be out and about. Quickly striding out of the hotel and off down the street I was approached at the corner of the Old Fort by one of the Kanga dealers. He had a display rack of Kangas set up on the corner which was basically the intersection of four different streets which meant that it got a lot of foot traffic.
Urging me to check out his Kangas – remember I have a self professed Kanga addiction – I stopped to browse. When I didn’t see any that particularly caught my eye, I told him so and was ready to move on. He urged me to look again and used the common ploy that he needed to make a sale as it was Christmas day and his mother needed the income. Explaining to him that I was not going to purchase another kanga unless it absolutely spoke to me and none of the ones that I could see did that. If he wanted to bring any of his other stock the next day I would be happy to look and buy if there was one that I loved. He then offered to run and get his other stock right then and there. I tried to explain that I was on the way to watch the sunset which was quickly looming and that I was staying in the Maru Maru right there so he would be sure to see me tomorrow.
He really was desperate to make a sale on behalf of his mother so he ended up convincing me to wait while he got the other stock. Unfortunately he did not have anything else that really appealed to me so I didn’t buy anything. However, I did give him the equivalent amount (about $6) for his mother and baby sister. Gratefully, receiving that he told me that he would take me to where they purchased their kangas from tomorrow and let me pick out one from the vast selection. And that effort cemented what was to become a great friendship with Saidi.
I totally missed the sunset that night as I ended up sitting on the street corner with Saidi and talking for three hours. We talked about some different subjects. After meeting his mother and totally adorable little sister, he explained how hard life can be in Zanzibar especially for women and young girls. We talked about politics, culture, the environment, life on Zanzibar, religion and love.
Yes, I discussed love. In fact over the next three days Saidi, my other new friends, MD and Maki along with others were very happy to give me the African male perspective on topics such as love, multiple concurrent partners, HIV & AIDS and other hot topics. I have to admit that it was fascinating to hear their honest perspectives and it certainly gave me a clearer understanding of how culture can place such an influential role in the spread of HIV and AIDS. I truly appreciated their honesty with me and I can’t remember the last time that I had such deep philosophical discussions. It has certainly been many years, although my friend Ian and I often did when we were younger.
I will write about the topics of our discussions when I have some time to capture them accurately, I promise!
But my evening wasn’t finished there. After perching on the wall for three or more hours having a wonderful discussion I still hadn’t had my walk. So of course there was someone eager to escort me down to the waterfront now that it was dark. This young gentleman thought it would be nice to roam around the food market and sit on the sea wall to watch the cruise ship that was in dock for the day leave. The park was teaming with activity as all of the locals were on holiday thanks to Christmas (ironic that a Muslim culture would be on holiday for a Christian holiday but it was explained to me that on Zanzibar culture is culture and all are respected, which is certainly true from what I experienced). The noise and crowds made it an easy choice to sit on the steps of the sea wall and quietly watch the cruise ship glide out of the harbour. It almost felt like I was back on the Charlottetown waterfront watching a ship leave from 140 King street.
The peacefulness didn’t last long as first several guys passed by us on the steps to go down to the water to relieve themselves. What is with some men, they simply have to whip it out where ever they can???? That interlude was soon followed by an array of young teens who had decided to use the roof of a derelict building on a pier next to us to jump into the water. Drawn to their courageous feats, a large crowd soon gathered and we quickly left to actually go for a walk.
After a nice hour stroll through Stone Town it was finally time to return to Maru Maru and call it a day! Do you think that I could have crammed anything else into it? I am actually very proud of myself as there was music yet again in the Old Fort but I resisted the urge as I knew that I would be walking through a forest in the morning so I needed to be ready for that. Stay tuned for that report.