Some time last year,I got stranded (long story) in Dar-es-Salaam and I took advantage of a sad situation to cross over to Zanzibar.
Now, this trip was the most dramatic of my life. A friend encouraged me to include my ‘crazy’ experiences on the blog, which I prefer to leave out as they are not the core business-to encourage travel for Kenyans/Africans within Africa. Let’s just say, I got bursted for some cost-cutting mischief by customs TWICE, I met a guy on the ship on my way there who ‘fell in love’ with me and ended up causing me so much trouble and I slept in a hotel where the receptionist was the chair of team mafisi, Zanzibar chapter. Seriously though, anybody looking for husband (insert Nigerian accent)….
I visited during Maulidi (the observance of the birthday of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, usually celebrated in a carnival manner). The best time to visit a Muslim town, as I have learnt through my travels is when they have celebrations. These times present so much life, culture and food that it almost feels like a dream. Forodhani gardens, located along the main seawalk of Stone Town, was bustling with activity, especially in the evenings. Hundreds of people would gather, sit on the ground with family and friends and feast on the different cuisine offered by street vendors.
Darajani market is another must-visit. It’s an ancient market that sells everything from toys to vegetables to fish. The vendors are very friendly, a little aggressive sometimes, especially towards white people. The best time to visit is early in the mornings when unique sea food is auctioned; sharks and other interesting-looking creatures from the sea.
This scene is quite common in Dar-es-Salaam. Octopus pieces that you buy and grab with a toothpick. Some vendors also had octopus soup. (Ujanja ni…kunywa mchuzi wa pweza 🙂
Having visited Lamu twice before my Zanzibar trip, I was actually quite surprised by the size of the island. I stayed in the main town but took a 1-hour bus ride to see visit some beaches. If you’ve been to Lamu, you know that there’s only one road along the sea and 3 or 4 vehicles (for public service) on the entire island.
My beach experience was very nice until some ladies working in the beach hotels spotted me. I was walking along the beach alone in a bikini and that really upset them. Now, I know to respect the culture of a place but this was a tourist beach, there was many whites in more revealing attire and yet I got so much negative attention (and Swahili insults here and there that I pretended not to understand, if only to show them that I was a tourist). I however lost that battle and went back to my dera. I think the experience might have been different if I was sleeping at one of the hotels, or if I had travelled with a group of people. A couple of my girlfriends visited about a month after I came back to Nairobi and they didn’t experience any discrimination.
I cannot remember how much the entire trip cost. I slept in old town at a hotel where I was paying 15 USD for bed/breakfast. The ship ride cost about 40 USD per trip. I came back to Nairobi by bus, from Dar and that cost me 35 USD
Overall, Zanzibar was an amazing experience. This one time in my life however, I will say that it is not exactly the best tourist destination for a sole black female tourist. It’s just one of those places that would be better enjoyed with company, if you’re a black girl. Still doesn’t take away the fact that it’s a must visit so go on!