Zanzibar Journals

Zanzibar Spices

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A July 2004 trip to Zanzibar by Safiri

Mbewni Ruins Photo, Zanzibar, Tanzania More Photos
Quote: A place made up of equal parts Arab and African culture and surrounded by bright turquoise waters. I liked breathing the scent of fresh spices.

Zanzibar Spices

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Overview

Quote:
Every moment on Zanzibar can be remarkable, but these are some of the things which made an impression: the plane flight from the mainland over the perfect turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea; the ferry ride back again (we saw a whale); being met at the door of our hotel with glasses of brilliant, zingy passion fruit juice; snorkeling over antlered coral; hand-feeding spinach to giant tortoises on Changu Island; eating fresh-caught seafood while shopping for Tingatinga paintings in an open-air market; Africa's first elevator, located in the House of Wonders; Stone Town's fusion of African, Arab, and Indian architecture; a fragrant tour of a spice plantation, where you can see nutmeg picked off the tree...Read More

Mbewni Ruins

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Hotel

Mbewni Ruins Photo, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Quote:
When you wake up in the Mbweni Ruins Hotel, the first thing you're aware of is the low, repeating crash of the waves, punctuated now and then by a bird call. It's a lovely sound, and you can lie listening to it for a long time. But eventually you realize that it will be even nicer to see those waves as well as hear them, so you brush aside the romantic mosquito netting around your carved Zanzibari four-poster bed and walk out to your balcony...and then down the 30 feet or so to the beach, where you can watch the water ripple gently up the combed sand. There may be a white heron in the mangroves if the tide is low, and, if you're up early, a flock of orange-headed swallows will be dipping themselves br...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 16, 2004

Mbewni Ruins
P.O. Box 2542
Zanzibar, Tanzania
255 24 2235478

Mercury's

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Restaurant

Quote:
"Mercury's?" I hear you ask. "Why is an African seafood restaurant called Mercury's?" and the answer is improbable: Because the lead singer of Queen, Freddy Mercury (original name Farouk Balsara), was born on Zanzibar into a Parsi family, and the restaurant is named after him. This wonderful conglomeration of Eastern and Western (Farouk becomes the wonderfully familiar and commonplace "Freddy," and the last name, "Mercury," invokes the Roman god responsible for leading the souls of the dead to the underworld) sums up much of what is richest about Zanzibar: as Freddy Mercury knew, Zanzibari culture is built out of crossing borders. ...but you want to know about the restaurant. Mercury'...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 28, 2004

Mercury's
Mizingani Road
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Forodhani Gardens

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Restaurant

Forodhani Gardens Photo, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Quote:
Every night, as the sun goes down, the food stalls in the Forodhani Gardens (also known as the night market) start to fire up the grills to cook the day's catch. Tentacles of octopus, skewered pieces of swordfish and flounder, and long kebabs of whiskered shrimp sit waiting on the tables next to big piles of chips (French fries), waiting for passing customers to point at them and ask to have them grilled. Before eating anything at the Forodhani Gardens, the first thing to do is walk the length of the food stalls and get a sense of the evening's offerings. Walk past the friendly, hollering guys running the stalls, and inspect what they've got. Are you in the mood for shrimp or calamari? Whose chi...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 28, 2004

Forodhani Gardens
Zanzibar
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Old Fort Buffet Dinner

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Restaurant

Quote:
The buffet dinner and dancing at the Old Fort is a ghastly experience. Don't do it. The Old Fort advertises displays of African music and dancing, accompanied by a buffet dinner, for 10,000 Tsh (about $10), beginning weekend evenings at about 7pm. This sounds like a great idea. The setting has potential, since it's a wide paved area surrounded by walls, about 100 yards from the sea. There's a row of shops along one wall selling wooden carvings and Tingatinga paintings. Patrons are seated at picnic tables, and as they wait for the show to start, a waiter serves the usual array of Tanzanian beer (about $1.50 each, not included in the buffet price). Unfortunately, the standards for the da...Read More

Member Rating 1 out of 5 on September 21, 2004

Old Fort Buffet Dinner
Old Fort
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Changu Island

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Attraction

Changu Island Photo, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Quote:
The main reason to go to Changu Island (also known as Prison Island) is the system of fairly healthy coral reefs surrounding it. Coral shaped like brains, antlers, trees, or boulders grows all around the island. The dead coral is a chalky white, but live coral comes in as many colors as it does shapes: brilliant yellow, deep red-orange, rich browns, and a forest of pinks. The fish in the coral can be gorgeous: giant starfish covered with markings like copper circuits, beaked parrot fish, and shoals of tiny, shimmering, brilliant blue fish glistening like sequins in the sunlit water. (This did vary, depending on where we swam; our first stopping point by the island had spectacular coral growths but few...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 1, 2004

Changu Island
off Stone Town
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Taking a Spice Tour

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Story/Tip

Nutmeg Photo, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Quote:
Zanzibar is the world's main supplier of cloves, a little nail-shaped spice that gets embedded into hams, or stuck into oranges to be hung on Christmas trees. Cloves are grown for export on Zanzibar, but the spice plantations also grow a vast selection of other spices -- cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, vanilla, turmeric, and chilies, among others -- for local use, and as a tourist attraction. Tours of the spice plantations can be arranged almost on every street corner in Stone Town. We booked ours through our hotel (Mbweni Ruins -- see my review) with the agency run by the charming Mohammed Ali the Second. The daytrip for six cost about $10/person. The price included hiring a van, a driver, an...Read More