After chasing a robust circuit around southern Ethiopia, Dad and I decided to change the pace and spend a week on the mystic isle of Zanzibar.
Editor’s note: excuse the weird image formatting. Wifi continuity in Africa is frowned upon, so my post quality (the formatting, not the writing obviously) is shit. As you were!
Known for a rich trading history including spices, raffia, and slaves 🙁 , Zanzibar is a multi-faceted, unique island that blurs the past and present. In 1964 Zanzibar formed a republic with Tanzania and fast-forward to 2015 during our visit there was (surprise!) a federal election. No wonder the tourist hotspots were quiet and locals spent hours huddled around televisions listening to local news. Tensions were running high as the incumbent party assumed power. Tourism ground to a halt with the political instability.
It’s funny now that we’re gone, right Mom? HI!
Back to the cool stuff though. Zanzibar is a 90km-long island situated 50km off the northeast coast of Dar es Salaam, lush with forest and filled with fabulous fruit trees. Agriculture was less developed than Ethiopia and we didn’t experience any roadkill hood ornaments as there were less animals pretending to be cars on the roads. I support this.
My only gripe with Zanzibar is that it doesn’t have its rainy season dates sorted out. We dodged the seasonal tropical storms by a month (except not even a little bit.) The airport welcomed us with an hour-long Niagara Falls dump and streets knee-deep in plastic-bag-and-feces-laced water. Basically your average Cancun beach vacation start.
Zanzibar has an intense method of transit called DollaDolla. It’s a public bus that locals brag is never full. Given that we’re all open-minded-totally-local-adventurer-types, we tried out a local limousine to Nungwi, the northern tip of the island that’s known for its beaches and marine biodiversity. Instant regret. Basically the transportation equivalent of the nipple circle and slap Ethiopian massage. Dad’s sweet, excited 5-year-old sparkly ‘love exploring the world!’ look faded as soon as the female Tanzanian equivalent of Chris Farley copped a one-hour squat in his lap. Sometimes you don’t need to try something to know it’s not a good idea.
As I’m not one to make the same mistake twice, I took our hotel’s owner up on his offer to hitch a private ride into town to visit an ATM. I exchanged leg castration for kidnapping. Instead of a ride to the ATM, we went to a furniture shop to argue the cost of a bill, to two fruit stands to source food for the hotel, and to the mechanic to see what was wrong with the car (clue: it was made when Jesus was walking the earth and navigates dirt roads that put moon craters to shame daily.) At least I wasn’t the only kidnapee. While giving the mechanic a ride around the block to test the car, the hotel owner decided to take a third grocery stop leaving the mechanic and awkwardly squished in silence in the back seat. Maybe I need to loosen up.
Growing spices is a thing
To prove this theory, we visited a spice farm! I’ve been really enjoying cooking over the past couple of years including experimenting with different ethnicities, flavors and techniques. The biggest learning curve has been growing my spice knowledge base enough to work different flavors into new recipes. Biggest ah-ha moment in Zanzibar? Spices don’t grow in pre-dried, pre-ground 3oz glass containers. They are plants! Green plants! Mind blown.
Where seafood comes from
The food revolution continues. People often say that the beaches in Zanzibar are the best in the world and I can tell you that they certainly didn’t disappoint. The white sand beaches and shallow, rolling waves were fantastic to watch over a Kilimanjaro beer, or four. We were blown away by how the sailing and fishing infrastructure has changed little over time and how the fish market looks the same today and it has for decades.
Stonetown is the majestic, eerie, colonial heart of Zanzibar’s old town that was awarded the honor of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. We got lost in the winding streets and were mesmerized by the ornate, haunting doors. Arab, Indian, Persian and European influences intermingle to create one hell of a spectacular place.
Shit my Dad does finale (like it’s ever actually over)
I’m getting misty thinking about Dad boarding his flight home tomorrow! In honor of a memorable month adventuring together, a final edition of Shit my Dad does is warranted.
- Dad packed light for his international journey and left his flip-flops at home. It became clear after two hiking boots full of water on our inaugural beach walk that sandals were necessary for Zanzibar. So, being the doting daughter I am, I bought him a pair! He went for a walk on the beach and came back to the hotel 15 minutes later barefoot. Apparently he lost the first one in a sinkhole and lost the second one trying to get the first one out. This is why Dad can’t have nice things.
- We befriended some fantastic women at our hotel – one from the Netherlands and three from Austria – who didn’t seem too fond of each other. While I was hanging out at the beach Dad independently agreed to dinner with all four, and played ‘Oops Drunk Dad’ when we ran into them and put him on the spot for dinner plans! I had to politically navigate his commitment as he zigzagged around ignoring the awkwardness. Thanks Dad.
Jokes aside, it’s been one of my life’s greatest joys to spend this precious time with Dad. We’ve laughed, deeply connected and have created a lot of wonderful memories. Until next time, Papa!
Going forward I have some critters to visit and a mountain to climb!
BRB just doing stuff for a bit k?
Also, I’m writing this from an internet cafe and have a little PSA. Western kids, count your adolescent blessings. While you’re squirreled away in your bedrooms ‘doing homework on the internet’, your African counterparts ‘do their homework’ at internet cafes. Except homework is porn, and doing is frantically rubbing their pants. I have called two horny little jerkwads out in the thirty minutes it took to post this. Thank Jesus I bring my own laptop because you couldn’t pay me to touch the sticky 90s keyboards I’m surrounded by. Gross.