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Spicing it Up in Stone Town, Zanzibar

August 7, 2019

Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar City, the main city in Zanzibar, Tanzania. It is located on the main island of Tanzania. It has a long and complicated history including being the center of the spice and slave trade in the 19th century. Zanzibar is known as one of the “Spice Islands.”

l loved this UNESCO World Heritage city for its diverse 19th century architecture with a mix of African, Arabian, Persian, Indian, and European elements.

It has a cool beach vibe like laid back Key West, but has the mystery and bustle of Morocco’s souks, with the fantastic eclectic dining of New Orleans. There is a lot to love.

Stone Town is a tourist haven consisting of a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with residences, shops, bazars, mosques, and churches. 

The town is made for walking, but because the streets are narrow and shared with bikes and the occasional motorcycle. 

Checking into our luxurious hotel was a bit of a splurge. It was our wedding anniversary and we wanted a little bit of luxury before we each headed off on our own adventures when we got to the mainland.

We loved visiting the spice plantation on our way into town. I am an avid gardener and to see so many things grow in such a small radius was really incredible. 

Our spice guide, made me jewelry out of ginger leaves and a small purse for the spices. He decorated me with hibiscus and made Ol a hat and a tie. Someone wasn’t as excited about his new outfit adornments as I was.

Since we travel light, I had only two outfits that could take the heat of Zanzibar. For the past two weeks I lived in my swimsuits and locally purchased sarongs. I was happy to be bedazzled in hibiscus.

I enjoyed smelling, seeing, and tasting every type of spice, flower and food. The list was endless: from cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, black and white pepper, paprika, coffee, cocoa, many types of fruit including mangos and three types of banana. My purse was running over! I still can’t remember everything we saw and tasted. 

I passed on the natural cosmetics, but loaded up on some essential oils and some wonderful jasmine lotions.

After our spice tour we visited the slave market. I didn’t think it was possible to travel from heaven to hell, but that is what we did. 

We followed the same steps the slaves did through the streets of Stone Town into the small cellar where slaves were held. We were told their stories in the hot, dark confines of the prison. I wept. We barely had room to sit up and the three of us filled the room. I can only imagine 45 unwashed bodies, laying down, chained to one another with the tide sweeping in on the floor below. The stones radiated the sorrow, suffering, torture, and heartbreak of these people. 

The only thing that got me through the tour was learning of the brave Episcopal priest who lobbied to end the slave trade and who later built an altar and beautiful cathedral over the area where the slaves were chained and sold.

We have been to other such sites, but for me this one was so much darker. 

The next few days were much better, we visited Freddie Mercury’s home (Queen) and took part in what Zanzibar is known for, relaxation! After two weeks on this tropical island in the Indian Ocean, with its quiet white sandy beaches, its breath-taking colored waters, stunning nature and rich spice culture, we were ready for our next adventure! Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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