This will be my last post from Zanzibar. I hope you have enjoyed your vicarious visit as much as my wife and I enjoyed the actual experience. Before I left, people asked “Why Zanzibar?” My response was “because it starts with a Z.” After a week there I can give many more reasons for visiting this beautiful island off the east coast of Africa. So grab a glass of Baobob juice and read on.
A very common site while you are in Zanzibar. The ocean is a myriad of blues. The island is almost totally surrounded by coral reefs, which keep the waves to a minimum. The breezes are almost always perfect for the Dhow traffic. This local seafaring craft has been continuous since man discovered wind and that wood floats.
Where should I start?
The weather? Zanzibar has an almost perfect climate. Just enough rain to keep it green. Trade winds that come from either the north or the south, depending on the time of year, keep it just the right temperature.
History? Well, those trade winds enabled early trading vessels to arrive and depart easily. They left behind a richly mixed culture. I had a taxi driver who gave me local’s view of the contemporary history of Zanzibar. It was fascinating.
Zanzibar for all the history it has weathered, has never had an earthquake, a Tsunami or a typhoon. The longest war it ever fought (they lost) was 45 minutes long.
English is the official second language, taught in schools, which makes tourism easy.
Mary Ann and I took a self guided tour of Stone Town and paid for an “official” tour from our hotel. I covered those in my two previous posts.
Of course my wife was on a well deserved vacation. I am always on vacation. She wanted a spa visit. I wanted to see more of the island.
This trip I was using a guide book on my Ipad called The Rough Guide to Zanzibar. These Rough Guides are available for many countries. I recommend them because they are irreverent. While being informative, they are edgy. Just right. Just my style.
In my rough guide I found a reference to a another type of spa. The Kidichi Persian Baths. When I hired a taxi driver for the day, and told him I wanted to go to Kidichi, he was amused, thrilled and surprised. No one much goes there. Indeed for the long leisurely hour I spent meandering around the baths (with a local young man from the village who seemed to know a lot, I tipped him well) I was the only person there.
Kidichi is a Persian bath house built in 1850. Although it can be classified as a ruin today, it is actually in very good condition. The baths were built for Sultan Said. He owned land in this part of the island, and he and his second wife, Binte Irich Mirza (also called Schesade, more often written Sherazade), would come here for hunting or to oversee the work being done on their plantations. The bath-house was constructed so that they could refresh themselves after the journey from town. Schesade was a granddaughter of the Shah of Persia, so the baths were built in the Persian style, with decorative stucco work. An underground furnace kept the water warm. I inspected all of the facility and I declare that with very little work it could be reopened and made a very unique experience for travelers “Come bathe where Sharazade bathed”
This is the ceiling inside the bath house main room. It is typically Persian.
The walls are adorned with Persian style carvings, much like a Persian rug. This is a very small detail of one wall depicting the tree of life. In their time, they were brightly painted. Now they get whitewashed to keep the mildew down. This is right over the massage bench.
Another place I went, “off the tourist trail” was The Ngonga Cave.
This cave has a very long history as a place where spirits live. It is also one of the coastal caves where people hid out in the 1964 revolution. We descended a wooden ladder to get down into the cave. We only saw a small portion of it. Apparently it is connected to many other caves along the coast.
Inside the cave there were a couple of these. This might be called a stalagmite, but it really is not. It is a very rare type of stone. The locals believe it can make you healthy and young. Therefor I wrapped my arms around it, I guess not long enough.
A kilometer or so down the beach from our hotel was a small village with the name of Cairo.
Cairo was on the beach and located between two resorts, so of course it had some souvenir stands. Here is my wife learning how to play aboard game. The wood is ebony, and the pieces are seeds. It is a fairly complex game. The vendor let my wife win, although she had no idea why she won. Anyway he made a sale. I know about ebony, ok?
In Cairo we ran into a group of young Australians working for an NGO. They were building a water pipeline into the town.
Zanzibar is known as The Spice Island. There are numerous spice plantations you can visit. Spices were introduced here by the Omanis from places like India, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles because the soil and weather are perfect for them, and because the trade winds made it easy to transport. Indeed, today, cloves are the biggest export item of Zanzibar,we saw container ships being loaded with tons of it. After our tour, our guide crowned us king and queen and even made me a tie.
How can a guy with a blog named The Other Side of the Coconut, pass up a coconut. If you have never had fresh coconut juice, do not pass it up when you get a chance.
And now, for the Baobob tree.These trees are very important to the cultures in areas where they are found. The trunks are mostly hollow and they retain water for drinking in a drought. I could go on for a long time about this amazing species but I suggest you take a minute and learn more here.
This is my guide, the “history teacher” holding up a Baobob fruit for me. He told me that homesteading is still possible in Zanzibar, and one of the first things they plant are mangoes and Baobobs. Doesn’t he look like Eddy Murphy?
If you educated yourself by reading the link above you learned that the fruit is highly prized. I ate some of this fruit and was pleasantly surprised.
Time to say goodbye, with a full moon over Zanzibar. Sounds like a song title.
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Tags: Baobob, Baobob tree, Kidichi, Kidichi Persian baths, Ngonga cave, Spice Island, Zanzibar